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May 14, 2005

Pope Power

In the world of inflated egos and calculated demagogues, I was reminded yesterday that the most power-hungry political player in the world may not be Tom DeLay, but actually Pope Ratz Benedict.

What pushed my buttons was the following article:

Pope Benedict XVI sent a veiled message to China on Thursday, inviting countries that don't have diplomatic relations with the Vatican to establish ties soon in a move that could complicate the Holy See's relations with Taiwan.
The pope made the comments in a speech in the Apostolic Palace to diplomats of the 174 countries accredited to the Holy See.
"I'm thinking also about the nations with which the Holy See still hasn't entered into diplomatic relations," he told the ambassadors.
Premier Wen Jiabao said April 21 that China was willing to build relations with the Vatican if Pope Benedict XVI breaks ties with rival Taiwan
Beijing's communist government ordered Chinese Catholics to break ties with the Vatican in 1951. Roman Catholic churches in China are run by a government-sanctioned group that recognizes the pope as a spiritual leader but has no formal relations with the Vatican and appoints its own priests and bishops.

The Vatican is the only European government that has official relations with Taiwan.

“Pope’s Call for Diplomatic Ties is Regarded as an Overture to China” [Chicago Tribune]

My first response was who the hell cares if China has diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

But then I began to wonder: Ratz must have some pretty big balls to set himself upon the world stage within a month and to begin pontificating about who will and who won’t recognize his authority. Its like, “Look at me everyone! How dare you refuse to see God’s ordained power invested in me!”

I mean, what century are we living in? Why should any government have diplomatic ties with the Vatican? Who’s next? Perhaps the head of the Southern Baptist Convention should start sending subtle hints to world leaders intimating that they want to be recognized as a big power player on the global stage.

The fact is, the Pope’s not-so-subtle hints are a reminder that the Vatican has power because world leaders chose to give it power. And it is not just world leaders, but also the media. But why should any country – nay, any democracy – have diplomatic relations with an institution whose structure consists of a rigid, top-down bureaucratic patriarchal structure whose leader is decided in secret? (Oh wait, does that describe the electoral college?)

[X-posted at Freiheit und Wissen]


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"The grandness of the pageantry wears thin quickly when what remains are absolute secrecy and exclusion of women as the model for governance."

The crucial mistake here:

But why should any country – nay, any democracy – have diplomatic relations with an institution whose structure consists of a rigid, top-down bureaucratic patriarchal structure whose leader is decided in secret?

A democracy is, nessessarily interested in what constintuents have to say. So long as a largish minority of them are interested in the Pope, representatives will be interested in the Pope as well.

There are, of course, other issues. But this one struck me. When 1/6th of the world is Catholic, what do you expect? Try this the other way around: if 1/6th of the world declared itself members of a faith that decreed gay marriage, would that not be a massive victory, worthy of respect by democratically elected leaders?

Don't get me wrong; I'm an atheist, and think many teachings from the Catholics are wrongheaded (abortion, birth control, women's rights, chasity, etc.). But you can't dismiss them.

Very interesting. Thanks. Diplomatic relations with China matter a great deal, actually, for all the usual reasons: money-power expand the base of believers and influence.

Simplest explanation, I guess: beneDictator is going where the action is.

and to begin pontificating

He's the pontiff. It's practically the job description.

(Oh wait, does that describe the electoral college?)

I would really like to hear how you think the electoral college compares to the college of cardinals--other than the fact that they are both voting bodies. I am just an ordianry dumb-shit and not a brilliant young thinker like yourself and that particular analogy was lost on me.

Actually, for Chinese catholics, diplomatic relations with the Vatican would mean a great deal. As you are likely aware, chinese Catholics are required to worship in a pseudo-catholic church with is subordinate to the CCP and owes no aliegance to Rome. As this is antithecal to a religion rooted in apostalic succession, an underground Roman Catholic Church has developed in China with a few million worshippers (don't recall the estimated numbers offhand), believed to include at least one Cardinal.

I'm not a huge fan of Benedict, either, but the Catholic church could, potentially, play an important role in the development of Chinese civil society. In a similar fashion the separation between seats of supreme temporal and spiritual power ultimately served as one of the underlying roots of liberalism in the west, by undermining state absolutism (obviously an oversimplification, but without the Roman Catholic Church, I think the doctrine of separation between church and state would have been a much less likely development).

I didn't realize how powerful the C. church was untill the 24/7 coverage lasted more than two weeks. I mean, I knew they were the largest Real Estate holders on earth, but...

Over a Billion Catholics - silly
You twits - theirs over 65 million in this country..
Who wouldent want to establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

Our Diplomatic corp (made up od Jusuits mostly) is the oldest in the world..

When are you guys going to realize what real power (the 2000old kind) is.

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