The great Tom Lehrer:
The thoughtful (Catholic) David Lodge:
“Thus it came about that the first important test of the unity of the Catholic Church after Vatican II, of the relative power and influence of conservatives and progressives, laity and clergy, priests and bishops, national Churches and the Holy See, was a great debate about – not, say, the nature of Christ and the meaning of his teaching in the light of modern knowledge – but about the precise conditions under which a man was permitted to introduce his penis and ejaculate his semen into the vagina of his lawfully wedded wife, a question on which Jesus Christ himself had left no recorded opinion.
“This was not, however, quite such a daft development as it seems on first consideration, for the issue of contraception was in fact one which drew in its train a host of more profound questions and implications, especially about the pleasure principle and its place in the Christian scheme of salvation. It may seem bizarre that Catholics should have been solemnly debating whether it was right for married couplesw to use relaiable methods of contraception at a time when society at large was calling into question the value of monogamy itself – when schoolgirls still in gym-slips were being put on the Pill by their mothers, when young couples were living together in what used to be called sin as a matter of course, adultery was being institutionalised as a part game, and the arts and mass media were abandoning all restraints in the depiction and celebration of sexuality. But in fact there was a more than merely ironic connection between these developments inside and outside the Church. The availability of effective contaception was the thin edge of the wedge of modern hedonism that had already turned Protestantism into a parody of itself and was now challenging the Roman Catholic ethos. Conservatives in the Church who predicted that approval of contraception for married couples would inevitably lead sooner or later to a general relaxation of traditional moral standards and indirectly encourage promiscuity, marital infidelity, sexual experimentation and deviation of every kind, were essentially correct, and it was disingenuous of liberal Catholics to deny it. On the other hand, the conservatives had unknowingly conceded defeat long before by approving, however grudgingly, the use of the Rhythm or Safe Method” ( from ‘How Far Can You Go?‘, pub: 1981)
And, finally (for now) the forensic Geoffrey Robertson QC:
“It is now clear that tens of thousands – perhaps even approaching 100,000 – children, mainly boys, were sexually molested by priests over a period (1981-2005) coinciding with Cardinal Ratzinger’s responsibility as head “prefect” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the CDF, the Vatican body that oversees canon law proceedings against them). Judicial inquiries have described sexual abuse as “endemic” in Catholic boys’ homes in Ireland. The report of the understated John Jay College inquiry, published in 2004, found 10,667 victims in the US, where over $1.6bn is believed to have been paid in damages so far. A truth commission in Canada is uncovering huge abuse in Catholic-run residential homes. In Melbourne, Australia, the Church has had to compensate 300 victims of 60 molesting priests, only one of whom it has defrocked. Forty-five of Malta’s 850 priests are suspected paedophiles, with multiple victims. Similar incidents are emerging from the priesthood in Austria, Belgium and Germany. It is said that the scale of sex abuse in Latin America and Africa, to which many paedophile priests from America and Europe have been trafficked, will be even worse.
“Abuse happened on this scale – and was allowed to happen – in part because Joseph Ratzinger, both as head of the CDF and as Pope, has insisted for the past 30 years that all such cases be dealt with in secrecy under canon law. As late as July this year, when he promulgated new canon laws about sex abuse (finally making it as serious an offence as ordaining a woman), he deliberately and adamantly refused to direct his bishops to report confirmed or reasonably suspected cases of child rape to the police.
“How on earth do these statehood privileges, extending even to the power to use its own law to the exclusion of local criminal law, come to be vouchsafed to just one out of many religions and NGOs? To qualify as a state in international law, an entity must have territory and must have people – a permanent population.
“As any tourist in St Peter’s Square will recognise, Vatican City has neither. It is simply a palace with a large basilica and ample gardens, less than a quarter of a square mile in size, like so many golf courses. It has no “Vaticanians”, just a few hundred celibate Catholic bureaucrats and some daily workers who come over the road from Italy. It is a palace with museums but no nationals; all its basic services are provided from Italy.
“The Holy See lacks any stable human society. Its only “permanent” member is the pontiff, who prefers on many evenings to pope-copter off to his residence in Italy, Castel Gandolfo. He has no “people” to enter in the Olympics or to play in the World Cup or to serve on any international peacekeeping mission: even the papal guards are Swiss. In reality, Vaticanland is no more a state than Bophuthatswana, or indeed Disneyland – which is larger than the Vatican and has more denizens, dressed in even more colourful costumes.
“So, why does Britain recognise the Vatican as a state when it so obviously is not? I have recently asked this question through Freedom of Information requests, and have been told by the Foreign Office that it does so in reliance on the Lateran Treaty of 1929. The Holy See itself bases its claim to statehood squarely on this document. But the Lateran Treaty was a squalid deal to secure fascism in Italy, negotiated between Benito Mussolini and Pope Pius XI, who hailed the demagogue as “the man sent by providence” to put an end to liberal democracy. In truth, it was not a “treaty” – a written agreement between states – at all, but a deal between one state and its Church, as the Holy See had lost any claim to statehood after its territory (the papal states) was conquered by the army of the Risorgimento in 1870 (from the New Statesman, 6 Sept 2010).
H/t: Jeff Barnhart, for reminding me about the Tom Lehrer song