The problem with reparations

Where to start?

A chara, – Dr Diarmuid Ó Gráda adds his voice to the movement calling for reparations for historical wrongs. In this case he calls on the Vatican to pay up (”Colonial states are agreeing reparations for past abuses. What about the Vatican?”, Rite & Reason, September 24th).

There is a large debate as to the completeness, logic and practicalities of historical reparations, but let us assume it is a good idea. In fairness therefore we should also call for reparations to be made to the Vatican for all the wrongs committed against Catholicism and there have been a lot over the years.

Where to start? The persecutions of the Roman Empire in the early centuries AD, or the later Viking slave raids and plunder of monasteries?

Maybe, for the sake of convenience, start at a later date, when it should be easier for monetary calculations and the necessary research to identify the descendants of those who suffered and those who profited. We can start with the 16th- to 18th-century Protestant reformations in Germany, England, and of course in Ireland. An interim reparation being the immediate return of all Catholic Church property that was “confiscated”.


The Vatican should also receive very substantial reparation for the killings and persecutions of millions of Catholics in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly in the French revolution.

It gets worse in the 20th century; the Vatican should be compensated for the pillage and killings of Catholics in revolutionary Mexico, Nazi Germany and Communist Russia.

Unfortunately, the persecutions are still ongoing today in the 21st century, of note in Nicaragua and China, but this should not be a reason not to give the Vatican an interim report and make an interim payment. – Yours, etc,