Thus it was with girlish glee I fell upon the recently released batch of cables relating specifically to the Vatican, all of which rather wonderfully confirmed my preconceived notions of the Holy See’s Nation as a hierarchical, out of touch rabble of self-serving politicians. Thus it is we learn the Pope was uncomfortable with moves to allow the predominately Muslim Turkey join the EU as it would undermine his desire to build on the Christian foundations of Europe, while hoping the close ties between Poland and the Vatican would allow Poland to “serve as a counter-weight to Western European secularism as the nation makes itself more at home in an integrated Europe”.
We also receive a possible explanation for the fact the Vatican seems to have some of the most ludicrously terrible PR of any organisation in history. The problems of broadcasting a consistent and coherent message which face the Vatican are summarised as “the challenge of governing a hierarchical yet decentralized organization, leadership weaknesses at the top, and an undervaluing of (and ignorance about) 21st century communications” and that “Most of the top ranks of the Vatican – all men, generally in their seventies – do not understand modern media and new information technologies”. Truly a diplomatic way of describing the popes inner circle as a bunch of old men scared by technology who don’t realise the world has moved on. I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.
However, what I found most interesting (and depressing) was confirmation of the pathetic degree to which Ireland, even in the 21st century, still struggles under the fetid influence of the all-powerful Catholic Church. Understandably the Vatican was somewhat miffed when between 2006 and 2009 the Murphy Commission insisted on investigating all those pesky complaints of rampant child abuse within the Church in the diocese of Dublin. Side-stepping the diplomatic channels the Vatican was granted due to its status as a sovereign city state the commission contacted relevant Vatican departments directly for information. One can only assume that this was seen as such a breach of protocol by the Vatican that they were too shocked to get around to responding to the commission, although they did manage to express annoyance that the “Irish government failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the investigations”.
The cable goes on to make it clear that the church structure would allow the Vatican to keep a certain degree of distance from the abuse allegations, as “In keeping with the Catholic practice of making local bishops ultimately responsible for the management of their dioceses, we expect that the locus of the crisis and measures to address it will remain largely with the Catholic Church in Ireland”. And, most depressing of all, even within the Vatican the scale of the abuse is expected to be orders beyond what is already know- “Our contacts at the Vatican and in Ireland expect the crisis in the Irish Catholic Church to be protracted over several years, as only allegations from the Dublin Archdiocese have been investigated to date. Investigations of allegations from other Archdioceses will lead, officials in both states lament, to additional painful revelations.”
The Vatican, to their credit, has masterfully rebutted the issues raised by pointing out WikiLeaks sucks, and it’s all just opinion anyway. Indeed; but considering these are the unfiltered thoughts of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See they are what I’d class as ‘learned opinion’ and thus not so easily dismissed.
So, nothing new, we might whine. Indeed I suspect few would be surprised to know the leaders of the Catholic Church are more focused on maintaining their obscure political positioning to concern themselves with positive engagement with the world at large. And the fact that there are more horror stories to come of the abuse meted out by members of the Church in Ireland in the last few decades is a grim inevitability. All one can do is add these documents to the teetering pile of “reasons to despise the Vatican” in the vain hope that one day, maybe, the weight of evidence will eventually be enough to pull the rotten structure down, leaving in its wake something more akin to the teachings of love and respect I was always lead to believe the Christian faith was founded on in the first place.