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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

News International and the Vatican: Compare and Contrast

There is no Wapping City State. As a result, the executives of Rupert Murdoch's business empire - and even Mr Murdoch himself - can be held to account for criminal wrongdoing. Of course, they can afford fancy lawyers and, more importantly, they can threaten politicians with eternal damnation in the pages of The Sun or The Times.

True, the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service are not the most robust and impartial police and prosecuting organisations in the world, but where there is a will there is a way. In the last week, in another case, the CPS has had to make a U-turn on a decision not to bring proceedings against a Metropolitan police officer recorded, at length, racially abusing a suspect

It is not just criminal activity which can be held to account. If those at the top turn a blind eye or show wilful ignorance, then they can be declared unfit to run large businessess - with all that entails for the likely success of take-over bids and so on.

In contrast, the Roman Catholic Church has got the Vatican City State. Thanks to Mussolini, who created it in 1929 in a dodgy deal with the Church, the Church's top officials are outside the reach of the ordinary civil and criminal law of any country. They have got a territory, a bunker, where they can hide.

The benefits have been fully exploited over the decades and account, in part, for the frustration of the Republic of Ireland's government in trying to hold the Church to account for decades of sexual and physical abuse of children. There is no co-operation from the Vatican and no way of getting at Vatican archives. We can get at James Murdoch's emails but not at the Pope's.

At this very moment, the Vatican is engaged in a cover-up of a series of scandals (including a murder) partly exposed in recent leaked documents (the Vatileaks scandal - see my previous Blog). Whistleblowers are being exiled, documents shredded and goodness knows what else. No one can stop this happening.

The solution is simple. No one would grant Mr Murdoch a Wapping City State and no right-thinking person would have granted the Roman Catholic Church a state of its own. Mussolini's deal must be undone. Italy should re-incorporate the territory of the Vatican City State and make clear that the Church's headquarters officials are subject to Italian criminal and civil law.

Since there is an awful lot of work to be done to clear the Augean stables of the Vatican - opening the archives to researchers and investigators, going through the records of the Vatican Bank, interrogating those known to have been involved in criminal activity and in covering it up ... the list is very long - then in those circumstances Italy should be able to call for assistance from other member states of the European Union.

Meanwhile, it should park its tanks in St Peter's Square.

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