The new Pope has not disappointed thus far; his newly formed Congregation for Intermeddling in the Civil Affairs of Other Nations is rounding out nicely. Not that inartful interruptions in Other People’s Politics is new to the Vatican – indeed, they’ve been doing it for thousands of years – but Pope Benedict is signaling that he’s ready to take it to a new level.
The no restraint policy is demonstrated by a litter of easily found articles on Google News: Pope criticizes New Zealand’s civil union legislation and Vatican touts victory with failure of Italy fertility referendum stand out most notably. The latter story had the Pope beseeching Italians to *not vote* on a posted referendum that would have eliminated bans on egg and sperm donation, and frozen embryos. The Pope didn’t encourage the citizens to vote against, but rather simply not vote – the reason was that the referendum needed a 50% quorum. I’m guessing the Pope finds no hypocrisy in commanding native Italians to ignore their political process while simultaneously inserting himself into the same.
Two other noteworthy Vatican happenings deserve note while I’m here:
The Pope has suspended the planned beatification of a Rev. Leon Dehon, a French Priest circa 1900, whose writings exhibit anti-semetic leanings. The following is highly speculative, but it seems doubtful that the Pope – one of the best read, intellectually astute theologians the Vatican has ever witnessed – would have been taken by surprise by the fact that Dehon’s writings exhibited anti-semeticism. It seems more likely that the Vatican was caught off guard by the fact that someone was about to kick up dirt over Dehon, and the Pope took the politically astute and preemptive step of appearing pro-active. Again, pure speculation.
More charming diplomacy can be found in the recent Vatican overture towards China – the flip side of which requires the Vatican to end ties with Taiwan. The Vatican has stated that this will somehow result in “more religious freedom.” But the Chinese demanded that “the Vatican sever relations with Taiwan and refrain from ‘interfering’ in China’s internal affairs– for instance, agitating for religious freedom — before relations can be restored.” It’s not easy to reconcile these two statements, but more significant is the fact that the Vatican chose to drop Taiwan while it held no apparent deal with China – indeed, they hold diametrically opposing views on the matter of religious freedom. The Vatican put the negotiable cart before the negotiable horse. As a result of the Holy See’s crude cost-benefit-analysis, it decided to sell the souls of its faithful members for the mere possibility that more souls will be behind Window Two.