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The Vatican – “A Rogue State”

(From an earlier post on StreetProphets.com)

The Vatican should be treated as “a rogue state” by the world until it deals properly with child sexual abuse by priests, wrote Geoffrey Robertson in his new book, The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse.  Robertson, a United Nations judge and veteran British human rights lawyer, stated, “I came to this fresh. But when I read the Ferns report, the Murphy report, I couldn’t believe it.  Words kept cropping up: widespread, endemic, systematic abuse. The words clung to me,” he told The Irish Times.     

 The article further notes:          

The Catholic Church must change, or risk losing its right under international law to be treated as a state – even if its claim to statehood was not fully accepted by the United Nations. If it does not change, Robertson believes, the church will wither, or risk losing the vestiges of statehood that it does possess and face charges before the International Criminal Court for human rights abuses of children. “There is a doctrine used in international criminal law of command responsibility, first introduced to deal with Japanese generals who didn’t do anything to punish those responsible ,” he declared….  

Describing the Holy See as “a palace with gardens” rather than a state, Robertson argues that it has hidden behind the immunity offered by such a status….Statehood has allowed the Vatican to “throw dust in the eyes” of governments. “Political leaders rush to the Vatican to kiss the pope’s ring to get blessed in the hope that it will play well with their electors,” Robertson said. “Even Tony Blair couldn’t wait. And the Vatican is using this power over politicians.”             

Several recent examples of the Vatican’s influence with political leaders bear this out. Pope Benedict XVI welcomed Israeli President Shimon Peres at Castel Gondolfo on September 2nd, the same day that negotiations began in Washington between Israel and the Palestinians. In addition to expressing encouragement for the peace talks, “Peres and the Pope discussed Iran’s plans to build a nuclear bomb and the enhancement of relations between Israel and the Vatican.”  Three days later, “the Vatican raised the possibility of using behind-the-scenes diplomacy to try to save the life of an Iranian widow sentenced to be stoned for adultery.”  After meetings were held in Rome and Havana between Vatican and government officials, Cuban President Raul Castro and Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega announced on July 8th that a deal had been reached for the release of 52 Cuban prisoners on condition the dissidents and their family members would be deported to Spain.  While everyone would applaud efforts to save a woman’s life, achieve peace in the Middle East and gain the release of political prisoners, the Iranian, Israeli and Cuban governments lend credence to the image of the Holy See as a benevolent, respected and moral arbiter of justice on the world stage. The most important government, however, which supports this unwarranted esteeem is the US. On two trips to Washington, Cardinal Ortega was greeted by Obama’s national security adviser, General Jim Jones, State Department officials and members of Congress as he lobbied for the relaxation of US trade and travel restrictions against the island to take advantage of the goodwill generated by the prisoner release.             

Perhaps it suits politicians and diplomats to go along with claims by the pope that he is sincerely sorry for the sexual assault and torture of tens of thousands of children around the world and is making an effort to better protect children in the future. But the hubris of the Vatican officials and prelates considering themselves above the law extends to other criminal activities now overlooked by the recent media attention focused sex abuse.  

Today’s news brought reports that Italian police seized 23 million euros ($30 million) from an account registered to the Vatican Bank, whose chairman is under investigation for alleged money- laundering.

The sources said that last Wednesday, on the eve of Pope Benedict’s departure for Britain, a unit of the Italian revenue guard alerted prosecutors to an anomaly in an account owned by the IOR at the Rome branch of Credito Artigiano, which has close historic ties to the Catholic church.

Of the €28m deposited, €23m was destined for transfer to JP Morgan in Frankfurt and another €3m to another Italian bank. But in neither case, it is alleged, had the Vatican’s bankers supplied details of the individual or corporation for whom they were acting, as required by a 2007 legislative decree.                

Four months ago, ten banks were being examined  for using special accounts to launder money through the Vatican Bank, the Italian newspaper, la Repubblica, reported. The bank is generally known by its initials in Italian – IOR – short for the Institute of Works of Religion. “The assumption is that the subjects of the investigation who are Italian residents have used or use the IOR as a ‘screen’ to conceal crimes of various kinds, from fraud to tax evasion.”    

“This corruption is continuing on a regular basis in the Vatican,” explained lawyer Janathan Levy in a related article. “There’s no reason for a religion to have a bank that does worldwide commercial activities, dealing in gold, dealing in insurance, dealing in property and then hiding behind the Roman Catholic Church.” The London Telegraph recently reported that the IOR is the eighth most popular destination for laundered money, ahead of the Bahamas, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.  
Earlier this month, it was reported that Cardinal Sepe was being investigated by Italian police for selling church-owned property below market value to a government minister while Sepe had been a member of the Vatican curia . The minister then used public funds to improve buildings owned by the Vatican. “The wider allegations include bribery and sexual favours involving businessmen, members of the Church hierarchy and public officials.” Now cardinal archbishop of Naples, Sepe’s predecessor was also investigated for corruption but was acquitted in 2000 on charges that he was involved in a money-laundering ring run by his brother. Although Sepe can return to the Vatican to be shielded from arrest and prosecution as others have done before him, for now the prelate said he will cooperate with the police. 
On June 29th, “Dan Rather Reports” on HD Net showed how US bishops, who claimed diocesan bankruptcy to avoid paying sex-abuse victims/claimants, had hidden millions of dollars of assets. “If you or I did what the Diocese of San Diego did in that bankruptcy, we’d be charged with bankruptcy fraud, and we’d probably be in prison,” said attorney John Manly, who has represented priest abuse victims in lawsuits countrywide. Also appearing on the video was Don McLean who was abused as a 10-year-old. “One of the comments that came from one of the bankruptcy attorneys is that, ‘These guys make Enron look like altar boys.’ Pardon the pun,” said McLean.    
When Mississippi insurance commissioner, George Dale, began his investigation of con man/financier, Martin Frankel, in 1999, it eventually led Dale and the insurance commissioners of four other states – Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Arkansas – to file a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act) suit against the Vatican in 2002. Frankel wanted to launder the money he embezzled from small life insurance companies through the Vatican Bank. Frankel would give the Vatican $50 million of which they could keep $5 million through a bogus charity called the St. Francis of Assisi Foundation. According to the RICO complaint, Frankel had little trouble finding two American attorneys and an Italian businessman with connections to the Church; two officials of the Vatican Bank; priests located in Spokane, Washington and Washington DC; two highly-placed monsignors, one bishop, two archbishops and two cardinals (Frankel gave  $100,000 to one of them) to help him hide his fraud.  The investigation led to 16 convictions, but only one of a cleric, a monsignor in a Mississippi court.     
On May 4, 1998, at 9 p.m., the commandant of the Swiss Guards, Alois Estermann, 23-year-old Vice Corporal Cedric Tornay and Estermann’s wife were all found shot to death in Estermann’s Vatican apartment. Within minutes, Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, had the apartment sealed and the bodies immediately taken away by ambulance to the Gemelli Hospital morgue. Italian police were barred from investigating on the basis of Vatican sovereign immunity. Around midnight and again early the next morning, Navarro-Valls stated there was no doubt that Tornay had murdered the Estermann’s and then turned the gun on himself after being denied a commendation.  Tornay’s mother refused to believe her son was capable of such acts and was forced to literally steal her son’s remains consigned to the Swiss Catholic Church for burial in order to obtain an independent post-mortem. She stated she had asked to see the Vatican’s case file six times without response and so was forced to hire attorneys to press her case that her son had been framed based on the forensic autopsy done in Switzerland contradicting Navarro-Vall’s reconstruction of the event. Tornay’s mother has said she believes Estermann’s death to be linked to an internal Vatican power struggle. The Vatican has so far refused to reopen the case.    

The history of political bribes being paid through the IOR well into the 1990s is the subject of a book, Vaticano S.p.A (Vatican Inc.) by jounalist Gianluigi Nuzzi published in 2009. Nuzzi’s reporting is based on more than 4,000 internal bank documents smuggled out of the Vatican by a disgruntled priest. One bank account, the Cardinal Francis Spellman Foundation, was used to funnel secret money to Italian Christian Democrats, the party allied with the Catholic Church. “Part of the massive Enimont bribe, paid to politicians to secure their approval for a reorganisation of the chemicals sector, was also bounced through the Spellman fund,” according to Nuzzi. During the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, a number of Catholic priests and nuns actively participated in the killings.        

 The horrifying vision of servants of God abandoning their vows and joining in wholesale slaughter is one of the most haunting memories of the genocide. The churches of Rwanda have been devastated by accusations that some pastors ultimately were more devoted to ethnicity than to Christianity. But 60 percent of the nation identifies itself as Catholic; Rwanda is the most Catholic of all African countries.  And the church was closely tied to the Hutu government, which had characterized minority Tutsis as “invaders” since Hutus seized power in 1959….”The Catholic Church has, therefore, a special responsibility to the victims of the genocide,” the director of African Rights, Rayiya Omaar, said in an open letter to the pope this year [1998]. “In our view, this has yet to be acknowledged.”     


John Paul II refused to apologize, saying the church could not be blamed for the actions of its individual members.       

While most know that one of the church’s largest financial scandals was brought to the world’s attention when Roberto Calvi – known as “God’s Banker” due to his closeness to the Vatican – was found hanging beneath London’s Blackfriars Bridge on June 18, 1982, it is rarely reported that at least seven other murders and a few near-misses were carried out against possible witnesses and government officials investigating the bank fraud. Through an agreement with international creditors who lost $1.3 billion in bad debts when Calvi’s Banco Ambrosiano failed, the IOR, which was its largest shareholder, was held partially responsible and the Vatican agreed to pay its creditors $244 million in settlement of all claims against it. [1]          

 Before the advent of electronic transfers, there was a combined effort between the New York City District Attorney’s office and the FBI to stop the flood of counterfeit securities printed by organized crime which threatened to destabilize world markets. Part of the Mafia’s plan in 1973 was to sell a little less than a billion dollars in face value of these phony papers to the IOR which needed to shore up its asset portfolio. According to an FBI wiretap:      
Weren’t the cardinal and the others, Ledl asked, at all concerned what might happen if it were discovered that the Vatican was dealing in counterfeit American securities?….[Cardinal Tisserant] was not at all concerned, he said, nor were any of those he had discussed this with. They all agreed that the American government would never accuse the Vatican of knowingly dealing in counterfeit stocks and bonds. In fact, if it was discovered that such paper existed in the Vatican, the United States would undoubtedly believe the church had been taken by some unscrupulous swindlers and so would secretly step in and make good the losses.” [2]   

Geoffrey Robertson is pressing the British government to end its recognition of the Catholic Church as a sovereign state. While it is unrealistic to expect the US government to do the same first, because there are much more pressing matters at hand, and second, such a move would be bitterly opposed by Republicans who have been backed by the church for over two decades. Even if bishops continue to lose their influence over voters, no religious organization in the US is required to file financial reports which show where their money comes from or where it goes. They are also totally free of the disclosure requirements and spending restrictions placed political parties, candidates, PACs and 527s including those affecting foreign donors. But can we at least ask our independent and Democratic members of the government to stop providing the Vatican and its agents with unwarranted prestige in international affairs?

1. David A. Yallop In God’s Name – An Investigation Into the Murder of Pope John Paul I (Carroll & Graf, New York, 1984)

2. Richard Hammer, The Vatican Connection: The Astonishing Account of a Billion-Dollar Counterfeit Stock Deal Between the Mafia and the Church (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1982 ) 197

38 Responses

  1. Betty,

    I think the answer to the last question is, “No.”.

    Do you remember that the American Congress voted overwhelmingly to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, and that these invasions have resulted in over 100,000 innocent lives and untold hardship in the last 9 years? Doesn’t this classify as a human rights abuse that is more worthy of Robertson’s attention? (If I recall correctly, John Paul II condemned the invasions in the strongest possible terms.)

    How many countries has the Vatican invaded in recent memory?

    Let’s also not forget that America achieved its prominent status by government officials, acting with their government’s official sanction, taking the land from its inhabitants, often by trickery, and when that failed, by force.

    The idea that the Vatican, as an independent state, should be held responsible for its non-citizens’ criminal actions that are not supported by the Vatican strikes me as an odd concept of “rogue state”. Do you have any evidence to suggest that the sexual abuse scandal was state-supported the way that the Iraq invasion was supported? What about all of the Democrats who voted for the invasion? If I recall correctly, more than 50% of the Democrats voted for the invasion.

    Yeah, there are people who call themselves Catholic who have done bad things, just like there are Americans who have done bad things. That only proves something if the government is sponsored them. Do you see anyone apologizing to any non-Catholic abuse victims? At least Benedict is taking some responsibility for the crisis. Did you see Bush, and do you see Obama apologizing for the harm that the American government has caused?

    • The Vatican appoints all bishops. These prelates supported Somoza, Pinochet, the Argentine junta, Franco, the Ustase butchers in Croatia, and the Hutu abuses leading up to the Rwanda genocide to name a few. Guilty Rwandan priests and nuns were able to find shelter in European parishes and convents with the approval of the local ordinaries.

      The US episcopate did everything possible to elect Bush.

      Pedophile priests have not only moved from parish to parish but country to country. Only the local ordinary appointed by the Vatican could provide these men with faculties.

      See Alperin v. Holy See and Dale et al v. Holy See as to the criminal behavior of the citizens of the Holy See as well as all the other charges.

      Does any secular official – school boards, Bush, Obama – claim to be the sole interpreter of the mind of God? Claim to have the right to decide your eternal salvation? Claim to have the only valid interpretation of the morality of every single thought word and action of every single human being? Should those who do be held to a different standard? Should we expect more from men who make their living supposedly preaching the Good News?

    • Betty,

      We can certainly can and should expect more of the Vatican officials and the holy men of the faith than we would from those who stake their claim of authority on the basis of force or even election. But, it isn’t the United Nation’s job, or the job of individual states to punish holy men for violating precepts of their faith.

      Furthermore, all that talk has nothing to do with statehood and being a “rogue state”. A rogue state is a nation whose actions, as a state, are inappropriate. Catholics are not citizens of the Vatican. And, the Vatican has no control over Catholics who violate the laws of their states, or violate the precepts of the Catholic faith (as interpreted by the Vatican).

      My guess is that Robertson is just trying to sell a book. More power to him. That is what capitalism is all about.

  2. Betty, thanks for this extremely valuable analysis of the role the Vatican plays as sovereign state. It couldn’t come at a more timely moment, with the new Vatican bank scandal. It’s as if the Spirit was urging you along the path of this article at the very moment we need to be reminded of the damage that our church leaders continue doing to our church by clinging to the sovereign state model.

    Ostensibly, this is to give the church protection from secular powers, we’re told. But, in fact, as the fate of last year’s lawsuit by Holocaust survivors from Croatia, the Ukraine, and Yugoslavia against the Vatican bank demonstrates, it’s not about protection from secular powers at all (see the latest posting by Colleen at her Enlightened Catholicism blog on this suit).

    It’s about unwarranted immunity that allows this sovereign state to function outside international law, while claiming religious immunity for its actions. Remember that lawsuit, and the verdict of a U.S. court that the Vatican bank is immune to such litigation under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which protects foreign countries from being sued in U.S. courts?

    In the light of such abundant evidence that the Vatican tries to play it both ways–we’re a religious institution; we’re a sovereign state–and, in the process, harms the church immeasurably, it’s astonishing to hear Catholics continue trying to argue that, somehow, the Vatican is a moral beacon that provides moral guidelines free of secular taint to the rest of the world!

    As Bl. John Henry Newman once said, anyone who wants to ride peacefully in the barque of Peter would do well not to look too closely at what goes on in the boiler room of the ship.

    • Bill,

      I am no expert in international law. But, from what I have read, and from the seminars that I have attended, there is no such thing as “international law”. “International law” is merely a convenient shorthand to describe the processes made up by the powers in control.

      The idea that the Vatican is a “rogue state” sounds more like a vendetta than serious charges when the claim of rogue state is matched against nations like the United States and the atrocities it has directly committed. There is simply no comparison between the acts of commissions of most countries to the acts of omissions, if any, by the Vatican in the sex abuse scandal.

      • But your comments miss the point of the discussion, David.

        The point is that it’s impossible for apologists for the sovereign state formulation of the Vatican to have it both ways. You can’t credibly argue, on the one hand, that this arrangement is designed to keep the Vatican free to be a beacon of light and moral teaching in a secular world where secular states always have mixed motives, and then, on the other hand, that the Vatican must be above the scrutiny provided for secular institutions when its state institutions behave just like those of any secular state.

        Either the Vatican is a sovereign state or it’s a moral beacon. It can’t be both, especially when our scriptures reflect on the death of the founder of our religion to emphasize that that here, we have no lasting city.

        There is nothing in our belief system as Catholics that requires us to defend the Vatican, to maintain that how the Vatican is organized or its designation as a sovereign state is necessary to our faith, or to ignore or lie about the moral shortcomings of our church leaders and of Vatican institutions. But there is much in our belief system that requires us to call our church leaders to accountability and to be honest about their shortcomings as pastoral leaders.

        I wish that organizations like the Knights of Columbus would start devoting themselves to the latter very crucial Catholic task, and stop funding organizations like the National Organization of Marriage, that are all about beating up on one’s gay brothers and sisters. With one in three American adults raised as Catholics leaving the church, something has to be wrong with how things are working now.

        Anyone with a concern for the future of the church or for catholicity or for the brothers and sisters absent from the table surely ought to be using all that money to figure out why people are no longer at the table, and how they can be invited back. That is, one surely should have such a concern and should be funding such concerns, if one truly cares about the future of our church.

      • David,

        I’m sorry you didn’t either take the time to read, or don’t have the capacity to digest and understand, the reasons Robertson wrote his book, the other tip-of-the-iceberg examples which I provided, nor my explanation of the different standards applied to men who claim to be the world’s sole arbiters of right and wrong and secular leaders.


        • Betty,

          You don’t have to be sorry. I don’t have the inclination nor the capacity to understand what motivates Robertson to write his book. But, people often write books to make money, and his premise is so weak, that I am going to assume, rightly or wrongly, that money, not the future of the Catholic Church, is at the heart of his book.

          I only know of him what you have set forth herein. If his premise is that the Vatican should be considered a rogue state for its involvement in the sex abuse scandals, and the other examples you presented, then I don’t have much interest in pursuing his theories.

          Given that you seem to have no inclination to address my questions regarding the United States being a rogue state under Mr. Robertson’s definition, I can only assume that you don’t have much of an interest in addressing the broader questions about what a rogue state is.

          P.S. I am not aware that the Vatican or the Catholic Church has ever claimed to be the world’s sole arbiters of right and wrong. From my catechism, I seem to recall that papal infallibility only extends to the Church itself, and then only in matters integral to the faith. I am not aware that either John Paul II or Benedict has ever alleged that any of their pronouncements come under the heading of ‘papal infallibility’. The closest that I can recall is that JPII said that he was powerless to change the issue of women ordination.

      • Bill,

        I disagree that the Vatican cannot have it both ways.

        The Vatican’s position as a state is not designed to keep it free from secular influence; it is designed to keep it from becoming dominated by other states.

        Ideally, Vatican would be a moral beacon for the secular world. However, the secular world does not require, and cannot require, the Vatican to live up to a standard which it refuses to live up to itself. How could the United States government announce that the Vatican is a rogue nation for the sex abuse scandal when it is actively engaged in a war that is killing thousands of innocent people?

        Robertson’s suggestion, if I am reading it correctly, is the international community should hold the Vatican accountable, in the SECULAR world, for actions caused by citizens of another country. Because Irish Catholic citizens committed acts of sexual abuse, Robertson wants to hold the COUNTRY of the Vatican accountable. Does he want to punish Israel when American Jews commit sex abuse? Where the logic to that?

        That said, Catholics have every right to demand secular and moral accountability from their religious leaders. And, the international community has the right to hold the country of the Vatican accountable when the country commits acts of violence. But, Robertson’s suggestions don’t fall under either “accountability” standard.

        I think he is just interested in selling books by feeding upon the underlying anti-Vatican (and anti-Catholic) sentiment running rampant in the Western world.

        • Having it both ways is defined as duplicity, I believe, David.

          Where our treasures are, there will our hearts be also. Jesus persistently preaches in the gospels about the need for singleness of heart, in a world that seeks to make our hearts duplicitous (etymologically, “doubled”).

          And your duplicity issues in an insupportable dualism: secular world, evil; Vatican, good.

          Unfortunately, the real world is far more complex. You’re simply wrong when you state that the secular world doesn’t live up to standards it expects the Vatican to adhere to. In many respects, the secular world moves ahead of communities of faith in ethical thinking and ethical analysis. At other times, communities of faith challenge the secular world to greater ethical awareness and practice.

          The relationship between communities of faith and the secular world is not dualistic but dialectical. And built into our theology are key religious themes that remind us of this–e.g., the reign of God, which will arrive at the end of history and already norms our behavior as Christians, which no church or no state will ever fully realize or has ever fully realized.

          Or there’s the theme of Vatican II (drawing on scripture and patristic theology): the church is the pilgrim people of God moving through history to the reign of God and listening for the voice of the Spirit anywhere the Spirit speaks in the world–not merely in the church, but anywhere in the world. As Augustine reminds us in his City of God, when the eschatological winnowing takes place, many who thought they were in the City of God during their lives will be disappointed, and many whom we who are confident we’re citizens of the City of God consigned to the City of Man will turn out to be citizens of the City of God.

          Your dualism–world, bad; Vatican, good–is ahistorical, not grounded in the best of our tradition and its theology, and not consonant with what we can see all around us, with the facts. It’s also, frankly, offensive. It gives mutable church institutions a sacred status that they don’t deserve to have. It toys with idolatry of the institution.

        • Bill,

          The Vatican can be recognized as a state by other nations without losing its place within the Catholic Church so long as it doesn’t place statehood above the Church. It is the same rationale that allow it to be an institution without losing its Christian principles, and for it to be Christian without losing its Gospel message.

          It is not the Vatican that is claiming a right to statehood. It is Robertson who is maintaining that he (and recently formed “international” organizations) have the right to deny the Vatican statehood because the Vatican claims to be the head of the Catholic Church.

          Robertson appears to be part of the lunatic fringe that believes that the Pope can or should be jailed for the crimes he committed. This fringe blames the Pope for such things as unwanted children, the AIDS epidemic, and causing priests to be sex abusers.

          One reviewer commented that Richardson claims that the Vatican can’t be a state because the Vatican’s land was “conquered” in 1870.

          • Still missing the point, David. You can claim all you wish that the designation of the Vatican as a sovereign state is necessary to assure the church’s freedom to proclaim the gospel.

            But if you make that proclamation, then basic honesty requires you to accept that, as a state, the Vatican and its institutions will be judged by standards applied to all states–secular standards.

            You can’t have it both ways without being duplicitous.

            And you can be a good and faithful Catholic and recognize that what we’ve ended up with in our governing center–a mix of church and state, of sacred and secular, of the gospels and Babylon–is a royal mess and needs to be reformed. All that money the Knights of Columbus are spending to attack their gay brothers and sisters might far better be spent contributing to the reform of the church.

            Will the Knights help fund the new initiative of the Minnesota bishops to attack gay citizens of that state, by the way?

          • Bill,

            Sovereignity isn’t necessary for the Vatican or the Church. But, there is no reason that it shouldn’t be recognized by the other nations as a sovereignity, especially given that it occupies land.

            And, if it is recognized as such, then it needs to be treated by the same standards. Specifically, the Vatican can be held accountable for the actions of the Vatican as a country, but it can’t be held accountable (by the nation-states) of actions of citizens of other countries when those citizens violate the law.

            Robertson is just spitting in the wind and telling us that it is raining because he is getting wet.

          • I’ll post my reply as a link, David. See paragraphs 142-145.

        • The Vatican should be held accountable because all bishops are appointed by the Vatican. We know the Vatican is capable of and does take action against prelates who disagree doctrinally. The pope(s) could have disciplined or removed bishops who aided, abetted and covered-up the rape and torture of children. (Trying to compare the relationship between the pope and his bishops with that of the State of Israel and Jewish Americans is why I think you don’t really comprehend the situation.)

          “The secular world does not require, and cannot require, the Vatican to live up to a standard which it refuses to live up to itself.” If every victim of a crime and their advocates had to be totally innocent of wrongdoing in order to prosecute the perpetrator of a crime, the law enforcement and judicial systems would collapse and chaos would reign. (Again, I don’t think you understand how law enforcement and the judicial system works. I can accuse someone of murder today even if I stole an automobile yesterday. My theft of an automobile has no bearing on the guilt of the murderer.)

          • Betty,

            There is no international law, besides the law of power that would justify holding the Vatican accountable for the sex abuse scandal. You and Robertson are asking nations that have directly ordered the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens to put the Vatican on trial when United States or British citizens commit acts of abuse against other Americans or Brits. How does that make sense?

  3. Thanks, Bill. One only has to read (I put a link to it on the word “suit”) the complaint filed by the insurance commissioners to see how the Vatican really operates or reread the conversation picked up by the FBI wiretap to understand the issue.

  4. David,

    Robertson’s book is about the Vatican, not about the US. If you want to discuss the US, the recipe for applesauce or the timing of the next full moon, write your own blog. That is just stupidity to insist that if I write an article critical of BP, it doesn’t really count unless I include every wrong done by every corportation.

    You wrote: “I am not aware that either John Paul II or Benedict has ever alleged that any of their pronouncements come under the heading of ‘papal infallibility’.” So you are stating that both popes have told everyone that they are free to come to their own conclusions about abortion, gay marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, women’s ordination, etc. You’re really out there, David.

    • Betty,

      You or Robertson can write all the critical articles you want without taking into consideration whether or not your criticism is justified. I’m just suggesting that before Robertson tries to remove the splinters in the Vatican’s eye, he ought to take the log out of others’ eyes.

      You and I are both free to come to any conclusion we want on abortion, gay marriage, etc. without considering the Vatican’s opinion. In fact, you don’t have to consider anyone else’s opinion at all. You don’t even have to consider the facts.

      Robertson appears to have written an entire book based largely upon this freedom.

      • David I agree with your point about the sexual abuse scandal. The hierarchy was able to keep this cover up in tact for so long because secular authorities colluded with them. There are any number of reasons for that, but the fact is the collusion occured.

        My issue is the Vatican Bank. It is in this realm that the Church has been free to conduct way too much shady business, on an international level, precisely because it is an independent state. It is a money laundering magnet and has been since the inception the bank.

        Collusion with criminal cartels has led to situations like that in Mexico where the Church’s influence in the drug wars is non existent. The Church has amost always supported the wealthy–no matter how that wealth was gained–at the expense of the rest of the country. Marcial Maciel is the poster child for how money talks and the church walks.

        In the US your own archbishop just gave us his own demonstration of this phenomenon. Gay marriage has absolutely no bearing on heterosexual divorce or the breakdown of traditional marriage. Why is the Church accepting funds from anonymous donors to continue this ugly war against gays, when the real issue is with in the straight community? How much additional money did Nienstedt get to lend his name this project and essentially sell the archdiocesan mailing list? Money talks and the Church walks.

      • Colleen,

        I don’t know anything about the Vatican Bank. However, to the extent the Vatican operates like a secular state, it creates serious dangers to the faith. The Vatican cannot serve both the faith and the world without being asked, at times, to compromise one or the other. That is the Church’s problem, not Robertson’s or Britian’s.

        It is my understanding that this pull between the two worlds is the primary reason for priestly celibacy. Priests were creating and passing wealth rather than offering themselves to the faith.

        I tend to agree with you about my archbishop and the DVD’s. I think that he is trying to offer comment on the secular institution of marriage, and specifically gay marriage. What I think that he should be doing is offering comment on the sacramental meaning of marriage within the faith. While the money helps get out the message, it also tends to corrupt the message towards it own bias. Hence, the message has tended to stress what the Church is against, rather than what it is for.

        Unfortunately, the issue of secular gay marriage has turned into an ugly war. Both sides bear some responsibility for this. I don’t know if you recall that there was a time in this archdiocese when gay advocates would show up for liturgy wearing rainbow sashes. There is a time and place for everything. Rainbow sashes at liturgy are inappropriate at best. Liturgy is a time to forget differences and mend fences, not a battleground for the latest social cause.

        Too often when money talked, the people of the Church walked. On the whole though, I think the Church has been less corrupted by money than secular institutions.

        • “Liturgy is a time to forget differences and mend fences, not a battleground for the latest social cause.”

          I agree. In fact I agree so much, that I walked out of Mass when Bishop Morlino started in on gays and I’ve not gone back.

          • Kudos, Colleen. I admire your courage. And your insight–re: how all church structures today, from liturgy outward, have been turned into ugly political machines by many bishops.

          • Colleen,

            Unfortunately, it has worked both ways. I would like to think that people (including clerics) make liturgy into a social protest out of ignorance, rather than malice. I would encourage you to go back if you want to help change the thinking.

  5. David,

    I can’t speak for Robertson, but I try to find topics to write about which aren’t already thoroughly covered. I think US war crimes as a topic is well covered and another book on the subject would add little new information.

    I didn’t say that we weren’t free to reach our own conclusions, what I wrote is the pope and bishops claim to be the sole and final arbiters of morality. They claim to speak for God.

    • Betty,

      I’m not aware that the Pope or the bishops claim to be speaking for God. They usually claim to speak for the Church, but it is only rarely do they claim to speak infallibly for the Church.

      Obviously there is or was something very seriously wrong with the Church in Ireland (and America, Belgium, etc.). It isn’t clear, from a moral standpoint, how much culpability can be attributed to the Vatican’s administration or moral proclamations.

      As a judge, Robertson should understand that the Vatican did not have jurisdiction over the acts of the clerics committing the abuse. For whatever reason, he has chosen to ignore the legal aspects of his claims, including the fact that there are far, far worse human rights abuses in the world than decades old charges of sexual abuse.

      That is not to minimize the problems that have resulted from the abuse committed by those who have gave their lives to the Church and should have done better. But, there is simply a limited amount that the Church can do at this time, especially in light of the Gospel.

      • OK David, this is my last response to you ever since you’re either too stupid to read or just a liar.

        You state that a UN judge and human rights lawyer who wrote: “There is a doctrine used in international criminal law of command responsibility, first introduced to deal with Japanese generals who didn’t do anything to punish those responsible” doesn’t understand jurisdiction better than you.

        You absolutely refuse to acknowledge the culpability of the bishops – not just in the countries you state – but around the globe.

        And you can’t make the mental leap required to deduce
        that when the Magisterium tells people their objective acts without any consideration for the individual’s own circumstances will bar them from eternal salvation that this is, in fact, claiming to speak for God.


        • Colleen,

          First, and foremost, the Magisterium does NOT tell people that their acts will bar them from eternal salvation, nor has the Magisterium ever advocated sexual abuse of minors.

          Robertson can invent all the theories that he wants to spread his own brand of hate for the Vatican. He would be better off sticking to real crimes against mankind, like the invasion of Iraq.

  6. David,

    My response above was not well-thought-out. Robertson says why he wrote his book. “Robertson, a United Nations judge and veteran British human rights lawyer, stated, ‘I came to this fresh. But when I read the Ferns report, the Murphy report, I couldn’t believe it. Words kept cropping up: widespread, endemic, systematic abuse. The words clung to me,’”

  7. Betty, there’s an excellent review of Robertson’s Penguin Special book on this issue at Irish Independent today. The review notes that Robertson is one of the most eminent human rights lawyers in Britain.

    It also notes that Ratzinger’s use of the rubric of “pontifical secrecy” makes the pope a candidate for investigation by an international court, particularly because of the “widespread and systematic nature” of child abuse within the Catholic church.

    The review notes that Robertson’s argument turns on showing that “[t]he Pope had a legal duty to ensure that perpetrators were punished and that duty was breached by imposing Canon Law secrecy and moving priests around.” Robertson also demonstrates that the level of abuse has been much higher than church figures have maintained, and since 1981, up to 100,000 children have been probably been molested by priests.

    The conclusion of the review: “He demolishes the legal basis for the Vatican’s claim to a form of statehood which puts its clergy above the civil law and he is scathing about the UN’s apparent acquiescence in this. He is also highly critical of the Pope’s response to abuse in Ireland and in particular the recent attempts by the Pope to address the situation.”

    My aside: it’s interesting that the Vatican bank scandal has come along (yet again) to demonstrate to us the fatuity of claims that, because the Vatican does good and provides moral leadership as a sovereign state, it ought to be above the laws that govern other nations or the international sphere. I’m afraid we can’t have it both ways: if the Vatican is going to function parallel to and in the same mode as a secular state, it’s going to have to be subject to the same scrutiny applied to other secular states.

    • Thanks for the information. I’ll be sure to read itl

    • Bill when one looks at how many western intelligence agencies have ties to the Vatican through front groups like OD and the Knight’s of Malta (not too mention Maciel claiming to be a CIA operative) I wonder how seriously some secular states want to clip the wings of the Vatican. The Vatican holds a very unique global position and has Catholic representation in virtually every place on Earth. There are ‘secular’ reasons to turn blind eyes.

      The only country that just might have enough connections to force change is Italy. I find it interesting that not only is Italy looking at the Vatican Bank, but their abuse survivors are finally finding their voices. Better late than never.

      • You bring up two good points, Colleen. One is the use of the diplomatic corp assigned to the Vatican as a “listening post” for obtaining information. I don’t see any reason for that to change. During the Cold War having spies and diplomats assigned to Moscow wasn’t a sign of respect for the government.

        The other is the respect and esteem nations give to the Vatican. I forget the particulars, but there was a time when the Vatican’s privileges at the UN were to be restricted and only the threat from the Republican US Congress to cut off UN funding halted it. Seeing as how Cuba at present needs more US agricultural exports at more favorable terms than it has received in the past and the US tourist dollars, Raul Castro released some prisoners through a deal with Cardinal Ortega. Given the historican enmity between Communists and the Church, it bothers me that Castro thought Ortega would have entree to the US government. (Previously, all the prisoner releases were arranged through Spanis diplomacy as a means to favorably influence the EU.)

        Italy is looking at the Vatican Bank. Nuzzi mentioned the Cardinal Spelling account and Frankel set up the St. Francis of Assisi Foundation. Can Italy actually look into the IOR accounts or just its external transactions?

      • Colleen, you’re absolutely right. One of the patterns that emerged from the 2002 coverage of the abuse situation in Boston was the connection between some bishops hiding predatory priests and the Knights of Malta. There were letters from Bernie Law of Boston in a number of files to bishops in whose dioceses he had placed known pedophile priests, in which Law told the bishops that they would hobnob at the next Knights of Malta meeting and discuss the issues.

        Point being, that wealthy, secretive society whose membership is full of European old-monied names and Vatican aristocrats exercises inordinate influence in the church. It provides one of many points of contact between the ultra-rich around the world and the Vatican. And an opportunity for bishops whose birth roots are plain and ordinary to rub shoulders with aristocrats, and pretend to be princes for a day.

        As does Opus Dei: news has just broken in England that the papal visit there, for which Opus Deil controlled insider-Catholic media coverage, relied on wealthy businessmen for funding–and these businessmen were then given a chance to meet and greet the pope, and glad-hand him, in private. British Catholics are saying they are disappointed in this revelation.


  8. And this is why we need independent and progessive Catholic news outlets. Thanks to you both for the important information.

  9. […] The Vatican – “A Rogue State” (opentabernacle.wordpress.com) […]

  10. […] The Vatican – “A Rogue State” (opentabernacle.wordpress.com) […]

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