Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Papal diplomacy II

Here we looked at the article in The Economist that called on the Holy See to shed its sovereignty and become one large NGO (non-governmental organization) along the lines of the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders.

At the time, I really didn't feel like going through and talking about it, but I asked a couple of questions for readers to think about. They were:

But would that be the best method of getting across the Catholic message in an institutional way? Aside from the historical and traditional points surrounding the Papal States, Vatican City and the juridical status of the Holy See, diplomatic status does have its benefits for the Pope's nuncios.

Now, the secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Mamberti, has responded in the Italian bishops' newspaper Avvenire. His reply to The Economist's piece has been translated and quoted by Sandro Magister at www.chiesa for our edification.

The archbishop:

“This is certainly not an acceptable invitation! It may have arisen from an imprecise understanding of the Holy See’s position in the international community: a position that can be traced back to the beginning of the international community itself, and has been reinforced above all since the end of the nineteenth century.

“With the disappearance of the Papal States, it has, in fact, become increasingly more clear that the Holy See’s international juridical personality is independent of the criterion of territorial sovereignty. This situation is accepted tranquilly by the international community both on the bilateral level – I recall that there are almost 180 countries that maintain diplomatic relations with the Holy See – and on the multilateral level, as shown in particular by the UN general assembly resolution 58/314 of 2004, which expanded the range and prerogatives of the Holy See’s action as a permanent observer at the UN.

“Behind the invitation to reduce itself to a non-governmental organization, apart from a lack of understanding of the Holy See’s juridical status, there is probably also a reductionist vision of its mission, which is not sectarian or linked to special interests, but is universal and inclusive of all the dimensions of man and humanity.

“This is why the Holy See’s activity within the international community is often a ‘sign of contradiction’, because it does not cease to raise its voice in defense of the dignity of each person and of the sacredness of all human life, above all the most vulnerable, and in defense of the family founded upon marriage between one man and one woman. It does not cease to assert the fundamental right to religious freedom, and to promote relations among individuals and peoples founded upon justice and solidarity.

“In carrying out its international role, the Holy See is always at the service of the comprehensive salvation of man, according to Christ’s commandment. It comes as no surprise that there are some who seek to diminish the resonance of its voice!”

Magister goes on with various facts and figures and he makes the argument that this move is meant to silence the Holy See. It can be all for peace in Burundi, but on the topics of abortion or euthanasia, it ought to be silent and so on. Magister notes though that the Holy See has relations with almost two-hundred states and they in the form of the General Assembly of the UN have only strengthened the Holy See's position in that body.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Magister has profiles of two up and coming gentlemen in the Curia. The gist of the entire piece is that scholars in much the same mold of Benedict XVI are being appointed here and there to the 'cultural' positions of the Curia. If anyone knows of the scholarly credentials of those in such positions of power as the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for the Clergy or CDF, I'd be interested in knowing more...

Long-time blogger Amy has moved on from Open Book to a more personal blog. We wish her well in her new endeavor and hope that her time for writing valuable works expands as she hopes. Good luck and God bless.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Moving aside from personal thoughts to more worldly topics, Magister has a piece today on Grand Ayatollah Sistani, the religious leader of the Shi'ites of Iraq and a man we've mentioned at this blog a few different times.

The piece mentions how because of Sistani's moderate viewpoints, he has been the target of various assassination attempts and his co-workers have been killed one by one. Magister's quote of the words of the Chaldean patriarch after meeting Sistani are instructive:

“The grand ayatollah received us with a warm ’welcome,’ he spent an hour with us, and at the end he did not disguise his satisfaction. Our common desire is that of finding a way to bring peace and tranquility to the country. We both know that Iraq is sick, but we want to find together the medicines to heal it. We talked together like two brothers who love each other.”

Magister also notes the grand ayatollah's response to the Regensburg speech which sharply contrasted with much of the Muslim world:

In September of 2006, during the days of violent anti-papal protest that exploded in the Muslim world after Benedict XVI’s lecture in Regensburg, representatives from Sistani paid two visits to the secretary of the Vatican nunciature in Baghdad, Thomas Hlim Sbib, in order to express esteem and friendship toward Benedict XVI, and the desire for a meeting with him in Rome.

Magister rightly points to the /religious/ background of Sistani's moderation which is a traditional look at Shi'ism. Shi'ism looks to the twelfth imam who has left this world and will return again someday. While Khomeini's revolution in Iran was not only a political one, but also a religious one in redefining Shi'ism, Sistani holds to the old ways:

Amir Taheri, an Iranian intellectual exiled in the West, says: “For Sistani, power belongs to the twelfth imam. But since he is gone, it passes to the people. The final decision is to be made by the individual on the basis of reason, the greatest gift from God. Sistani’s vision is Aristotelian, a society of pious citizens.”

The grand ayatollah's website may be found at

Monday, August 06, 2007

A loss...

...of faith? Hardly. Despite my circumstances, my belief in the Divine remains steadfast.

Rather, I look back at the old question of the Divine plan for myself. As you all know, I explored the priesthood for a little bit. As I learned though, due to my physical infirmities, that was ruled out. That left marriage and a family as I did not really see myself following in the path of those worthy souls who have chosen the path of lifelong virginity.

Well, I had my surgery back in March and while thanks to my guardian angels and those saints up there who are looking out for me I survived, I am faced with the prospect that I will never eat again and will require a feeding pump eighteen hours a day from now until the day I die.

So where does that leave me? Trust in medical science to someday come up with something? A miracle? Or do I trust in the Lord and join Him on the way to Calvary?

There are other things I worry about as far as finding a job, being a husband, a father or just being single from here on out, but that's pretty much it. That's about it.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Communion question

Since my surgery, I've not be able to swallow solids. I have been able to swallow liquids, but only through a straw because my mouth doesn't work and then I usually cough up icky stuff from the back of my throat.

For you priests and informed laypersons, what's my best option for Communion?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The tyranny of the majority

Magister has a piece on the motu proprio that Benedict XVI released regarding the election of the Pope. As we recall, it changed John Paul II's constitution and did away with the absolute majority provision after thirty-four ballots.

In the piece, an essay written by a prominent 'progressive' is given. In that essay is an interesting thought experiment detailing how the second 1978 conclave might have gone had it been under the rules promulgated by its eventual winner and it offers insight into the history of the Church ruled by the tyranny of the majority.