Faithful should distinguish between Catholic faith and Vatican state
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was its head for a quarter of a century before he became pope in 2005. In its mode of operation the suspect gets very little information. There is no independent judge, prosecutor or jury. An unknown defender is appointed from within the system. The accused is denied access to all documents related to the charge. All who take part in the trial are bound to secrecy, and there is no right of appeal.
Recently, Pope Benedict on his visit to Cuba pleaded for freedom for the Catholic Church there, but freedom within the church is a different matter.
At the time of the unification of Italy in 1870 the papal states stretched from Rome across to the Adriatic Sea and north to the river Po. Jesus Christ might have said “my kingdom is not of this world”, but Pius 1X ordered a military defence of the papal states, shedding the blood of many, including Irish soldiers recruited by the Irish bishops, precisely because he could not function as vicar of Christ unless he had an earthly kingdom.
After unification, the new Italian parliament guaranteed the independence of the Holy See and offered compensation for lost territories, but Pius IX rejected the offer. In 1929 the Vatican state was set up by agreement between Mussolini and pope Pius XI, and Italy compensated it for the lost papal states.
The bishops of the second Vatican Council (1962-1965) proclaimed the church as the people of God, but failed to address the paradox inherited from Vatican I in 1870. At that time Pius IX persuaded the council to declare that “the pope has supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the church and he can always freely exercise this power” (canon 313 of the current code of canon law).
This contradicts the model of church in the Acts of the Apostles. So the ideals embodied in Vatican II have been essentially sidelined in the subsequent years because, as an English commentator recently noted, “the Vatican is the sole remaining absolute monarchy in Europe”.
Even the college of bishops is cut off because absolute power is vested in one office only, the papacy. Lord Acton said “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. A convert to Catholicism, he was writing about the papacy.
I understand there is a branch of Judaism that prays daily for the destruction of the Jewish state because it does not conform to the Old Testament model of Israel. Maybe the time has come for Catholics to pray for an end to the Vatican state for the exact same reason.
Fr John Mannion is a priest of the archdiocese of San Antonio in Texas who has retired to his native Co Galway.