lördag 27 november 2010

The Holy See – the Catholic church as state

The Holy See, which is defined as the Pope and the curia, has managed to acquire the international status of a national state. As such it is, inter alia, accepted as a non-member state of the United Nations and as a regular member state of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

This internationally recognised statehood gives the Catholic church several advantages not given to other religious or belief organisations that can only act in their roles as non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Thus, in relation to these, the Catholic church has acquired excellent platforms to propagate its religious message and politico-ethical values.

This inequitable situation has been severely criticised by the British Queen’s Counsel and human rights lawyer and judge Geoffrey Robertson. In his recently published book “The Case of the Pope” he delivers a sharp analysis of the way in which the Catholic church has - through its own secretly applied legal system based on the so called Canon Law – protected criminal members of their staff from legal prosecution through the secular law enforcement systems of their respective countries.

This Canon Law system, which is promoted and defended by the Pope himself, has been instrumental in concealing large numbers of cases of sexual abuse of minors committed by Catholic priests and other servants of that church. Robertson reveals with great precision how this obsolete and non-transparent system has been used to conceal a widespread sexual eploitation and oppression of minors. He demonstrates that a lacking regard for their integrity and rehabilitation needs and an astonishing lack of accountability prevail at all levels of the entire hierarchy of the Catholic church.

Nobody should be above the law and no state should be allowed to interfere with the legal system of any other state. The Catholic church, however, still insists on applying their own Canon Law, even in cases where their staff are suspected of serious crimes and in doing so the church is deliberately acting to circumvent the rule of law of several countries.

Why is this disregard for the national sovereignty of other states and interference with their law enforcement systems tolerated by these states?

It is also unclear why a state that has neither a permanent population nor a territory of its own, why a state that shows little respect for the rule of law of other states, why a state that is not a democracy and which is, in fact, not even a state but a religion or a church, why such an entity should be a non-member state of the United Nations and a regular member of the OSCE.

Why is the Catholic church not simply treated as an NGO amongst others and accepted as such – no more, no less?

PS. Mr. Robertson’s book “The Case of the Pope” can be found at

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