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Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Time for Italy to Repudiate the Lateran Treaty

Through 2011, scandal continued to afflict the Roman Catholic Church. In Ireland, the Netherlands and other countries, government commissions and court proceedings continued to demonstrate the inability of the Roman Catholic Church to adopt any approach to child abuse scandals other than that of covering up the crimes of its employees.

The heart of the problem is the Holy See, the head office of the Roman Catholic Church, currently housed in the Vatican City State and, as a result, enjoying immunity from anyone's civil and criminal laws.

The Vatican City State is a recent creation, dating only from 1929, the result of a dodgy deal between Mussolini and the Church. The Lateran Treaty of 1929 gave the Church a sovereign territory which removed its high officials from anyone else's jurisdiction. The corrupt use of this immunity has continued ever since. The Holy See is a corrupt organisation, up there with Mafias and News International, concerned only to protect its own wealth and power and unwilling to accept any accountability for the actions of its officials and employees.

The obvious way forward is for Italy to repudiate the Lateran Treaty, to reclaim the Vatican's territory, and to make clear that the Pope and his henchmen are subject to Italian criminal and civil law. There should be nowhere for them to hide. That means that Italy also needs to reclaim jurisdiction over the score of Church properties on Italian soil which have been granted extra-territorial status (rather like foreign embassies) and which can thus be used to hide fugitives from justice. For details on the bizarre arrangements in place, go to

The Holy See has used Vatican City's sovereignty to secure privileges in international organisations, such as observer status at the UN. No other religious organisation enjoys such extensive secular privileges as the Roman Catholic church and there is no reason why they should be allowed to continue. A church is not a state and it is for states to regulate the activities of religious organisations operating on their territory. It is the duty of states to protect religious liberty and, at the same time, protect their citizens from harm, whether the harm is perpetrated by everyday con-men or by priests.

I am sure Enda Kenny would agree with most of that.

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