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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Why do we have an ambassador to the Vatican?

The Government should explain why it maintains a diplomatic relationship with the Vatican and the associated expense on the taxpayer of a permanent ambassador, particularly when it is telling us how we need to cut back on expenses.

 The Vatican claims to be a sovereign state. This is open to debate. It was established by an agreement (the so-called Lateran Treaty) between Mussolini and the Pope in 1929, to further the interests of both parties. Mussolini wanted the support of the Catholic Church, the Pope  wanted to establish a means to encroach on nations around the world. See, for background to the Treaty http://www.concordatwatch.eu/showtopic.php?kb_header_id=841

Let's look at the Lateran Treaty. Firstly, is it legally a treaty? Treaties are agreements between two or more nations. This was an agreement between a government and an internal organization. It initially did not have any international bearing whatsoever. The idea of the Vatican as a sovereign state in international law is, by all accounts, a fiction. Only dealings by various nations with the Vatican have kept the fiction alive, for whatever reason (and it can't be for international trade, military alliance or citizenship matters as these are non-existent features of the Vatican). Geoffrey Robertson examined the legality of Vatican statehood in much depth in The Case of the Pope, Penguin, 2010, p. 76.
The Treaty limits the Vatican to religious activities only. Article 24 says:
In regard to the sovereignty appertaining to it also in international matters, the Holy See declares that it desires to take, and shall take, no part in any temporal rivalries between other States, nor in any international congresses called to settle such matters, save and except in the event of such parties making a mutual appeal to the pacific mission of the Holy See, the latter reserving in any event the right of exercising its moral and spiritual power.
The Vatican is in breach of the Treaty in interfering in temporal matters of national politics, both in Italy and elsewhere, which it often does. The Pope and his cohorts frequently seek to influence by pressure the policies and practices of other countries. The Vatican enters into agreement concordats with governments resulting in Catholic church predominance over local law and the enjoyment of grants and other temporal favours. The Vatican sits on UN bodies (although it is not a full member of the UN), seeking to influence UN policies and projects. The Pope involves himself very much with temporal matters.
This ties in with the very purpose of the Vatican as set out in the preamble of the Treaty: the furtherance of the Vatican's 'mission', which is to spread the church's religious influence around the globe. Geoffrey Robertson points out that furtherance of a vested interest has been established as a reason for refusing recognition of other bodies as states in international law (The Case of the Pope, p. 76).
The simple fact is that the Vatican is not a State in the normally recognised meaning of that term. The Vatican has no permanent citizens, no trade relationship with other countries, no army. There is no civil consultative government structure, as government revolves around the Pope and is based on religious dogma, not civil political principles. The diplomatic relationship will presumably not revolve around such civil matters as mutual trade or defense interests: it will be influenced largely by the church's 'mission'  its interest in morality. According to Robertson, most dealings with the Vatican are carried out at the Italian embassy, just down the road from the Vatican.
Indeed, the Vatican is not a civil state, it is the headquarters of a religious body. Formal relationship with the Vatican is a formal relationship with a religious institution. Its purpose is, says the Lateran Treaty Preamble, to ensure its ‘absolute independence for the fulfillment of its exalted mission in the world’. As Roberson says, ‘Would the world recognise Mecca as a state if Saudi Arabia negotiated a Lateran-style treaty with its religious leader in order to further an extreme Wahabi “mission to the world”?’ (The Case of the Pope, p. 76).
In appointing the first fulltime ambassador to the Vatican, then PM Kevin Rudd said the aim was to ‘enable Australia and the Holy See to be able to work together on the great challenges we face in the world’ (Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney), 22/7/2008, News 3).
The Vatican rejects many basic human rights and democracy within its walls through the theocratic and absolutist power of the Pope. Like many religions, Catholic teachings oppose establishing a Bill of Rights, and questions personal autonomy, women's rights, gender rights and childrens' rights in carrying out its 'exalted mission'. It stands accused of being less than conscientious in dealing with a horrendous amount of child abuse. It erodes freedom of Belief itself through its deals with governments (such as concordats) seeking to influence their policies and legislation throughout the world.
Since when did the Australian people vote to share government with the Holy See? This undermines the separation of church and state, which is the hallmark of a secular society, which we are supposed to enjoy in Australia.
Besides, even if this theocratic tendency could be justified, an embassy in Rome is an awful waste of money. The Australian Embassy to Italy is just down the road. We do not need to bankroll the expense of accommodating and otherwise funding a fulltime government representative, and associated resources, to a religious organisation. Apart from the fact that it involves discrimination (what about other religions?) it seems to involve little for a fulltime, live-in appointee to do. The position was not considered to require a fulltime appointment before. Why, when the number of believers is steadily decreasing do we need one now?
Finally, does the appointment require a religious test? One cannot imagine a Muslim or (god forbid) an atheist being appointed. If so, the Australian Government may be in breach of s. 116 of our Constitution, which proscribes the application of a religious test for public office. Perhaps a legal challenge is warranted.
Therefore one must ask, is it appropriate for Australia to continue diplomatic relations with, and appoint an ambassador to, the Vatican, with the associated taxpayer expense and government alliance with that religious organisation? Ireland has ceased its diplomatic relationship with the Vatican,
We need to tell our government that we object to being required to funding this entanglement of state and religion.

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