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← ‘Rendering unto God that which is Caesar’s’: the fatal flaw at the heart of the Vatican

Paula Kirby's Avatar Jump to comment 30 by Paula Kirby

Thanks to everyone for the generous responses.

Mixmastergaz - no, my article definitely isn't a substitute for reading the book. The book is full of detail, examples, and closely reasoned argument that deserve to be read and digested properly, and which simply don't lend themselves to a short summary. This applies especially to the sections dealing with the statehood issue and the various options for prosecution or civil suits that may be available: they deserve a close reading. So please do read the original! I had thought I was reasonably well up in this whole business, but I learned a huge amount from the book, and have emerged feeling even more outraged and scandalised than I did before. This despite the fact that Geoffrey Robertson bends over backwards to distance himself from out-and-out Catholic-bashing and to emphasize that the RCC does good charitable work too. But still, the facts as presented in the book speak for themselves.

Bernard Hurley - I love your comments: they underline the very thing I picked up from Robertson's book: that the RCC simply views such things through a different filter. As I was writing my article I suspected that people from a RCC background would find this insight less startling than I had! I and, I think, others had been viewing the whole saga through non-Catholic eyes - no wonder none of it made sense! Who was it who, after reading On the Origin of Species for the first time, said, 'Of COURSE! How very stupid of me not to have realised that before!', or words to that effect? That's how I felt on reading this part of Robertson's book!

Mark Jones - no, I really don't think it's hyperbole. The observation about the Vatican not being interested in crime doesn't, OF COURSE, apply to Catholics at large. It's a simple statement of fact about the law in force in the 'state' of the Holy See: that's canon law, and canon law is about sin and 'the drama of redemption', not about crime and its punishment. The Pope has, as recently as July of this year, underlined his insistence that this law alone must be applied to cases of priestly sex abuse.

Oromasdes - as I've understood it, I don't think the Lateran Treaty needs to be revoked: other countries just need to stop making the mistake of thinking it had the power to confer statehood on the Holy See. Robertson explains very thoroughly why the HS's claim to statehood is highly dubious. All that needs to happen is for a country whose law gives it international jurisdiction in cases of crimes against humanity to initiate an action against the Pope. The Vatican would immediately claim diplomatic immunity based on statehood, and a court would then have to adjudicate on the validity on that claim.

Thanks again to everyone who's commented so far. Please do read the book: it's a remarkable eye-opener in all kinds of ways. I include this extract as a taster:

In 2001, the Vatican actually congratulated Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux for refusing to inform police about a paedophile priest and for giving him parish work despite his confession of guilt. “I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration”, wrote Cardinal Castrillon Hojos, with the personal approval of John Paul II and other senior Cardinals, including the Head of the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger. This came to light after the priest had been sentenced to 18 years for repeated rapes and assaults on 10 boys, and the bishop received a 3-month suspended sentence for not reporting the abuse, contrary to French law. The Papal commendation had been copied to all Bishops, to serve as an encouragement to them to defy such laws. There could be no clearer example of the Holy See deciding that its own law should trump the criminal law of another nation, or at least requiring its spiritual adherents - nationals of that other nation – to breach the law of their land. Castrillon Hojos, then the Vatican Cardinal responsible for the priesthood, was applauded by senior churchmen – in March 2010 – when he said at a conference that “after consulting the Pope... I wrote a letter to the bishop congratulating him as a model Father who does not hand over his own sons... the Holy Father authorised me to send this letter to all Bishops...”

Thu, 09 Sep 2010 10:45:21 UTC | #514513