November 30, 2022

Vatican Concordats

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Vatican Concordats

Notice that the Concordat is with Britain. None With the United States, Or the United States of America.. That is because they own own Britain and Britain owns the United States and the United States of America.. Two separate companies.. Corporations.. They own the Hudson Bay Company, The British Eat Indies Company. And several others.. Like George Washington’s Virginia Land Company, and his Vandalia Company..Massachusetts Bay Company Ohio Company of Virginia Mississippi Company Potomac Company Dutch East India Company Virginia Company.. They own a lot of companies. The United Nations Company..


These church-state accords often give the Catholic Church massive state subsidies and other privileges. They can also permit Church employees to be hounded about their private lives. Yet as “international treaties”, concordats bypass the democratic process, making parliaments powerless to modify, let alone revoke them. They are traditionally concluded under various names with the Vatican, but can also be made with the Order of Malta.

“International treaties”

International law has been called “war by other means”. [1] Among the most effective of these “other means” are the papal documents called concordats. A concordat is an agreement between the Vatican and a foreign state. Since the Vatican claims to be a country [2], these accords are supposed to be as binding as international treaties ? yet also to exist on a higher plane and possess a “spiritual” dimension: “A concordat refers to a cordial agreement, a union of wills, the successful meeting of hearts and minds in Christian harmony.” [3] Concordats are thus treaties but, in view of the strategems used to get concordats past democratic legislatures, it could be argued that in some respects they resemble the treaties of the colonial era whose “primary aim was less the creation of legally binding commitments and more the economic and political infiltration”. [4]  The Roman Catholic Church tries to make concordats with any state wherever and whenever this becomes politically possible. This strategy has proven so successful that now other powerful churches (even ones that don’t claim to be countries) are clamouring for equivalent “church-state treaties”. These include the Lutheran Church in Germany and the Orthodox Church in Belarus, Armenia and Georgia. In fact, if a future concordat is signed between the Vatican and the Czech Republic, even the Seventh Day Adventists have said that they want one, too. [5] As a recent study by a Catholic theologian concludes, “the Catholic Church has opened the way for all religious communities to enjoy the same rights. [6] By sharing the spoils, this delivers a fundamental blow to separation of church and state.

Set in stone

Concordats differ in detail from state to state, as they codify the already existing church privileges ? and try to slip in as many more as the local political climate will allow. This is erosion of church-state separation is dangerous because it is a one-way street. For in a democratic country there is always the possibility of any privilege being revoked if circumstances change. [7]

But the main point of a concordat is to remove Church privileges from democratic control. It does this by means of a contract which cannot be altered except by mutual consent. All other laws are under parliamentary control and can be amended by it. However in a concordat, because one of the parties is the Church, it is hardly going to be willing to give up any of its privileges. A cardinal frankly admits that the advantage of concordats resides precisely in this independence from democratic control:

[Other agreements] are subject to local law and therefore will always be fragile, insofar as they are dependent upon the hazards posed by the political regimes or parliamentary majorities of the future. [8]

By the back door
Originally concordats were agreements between two monarchs: the pope who ruled the Papal States and the ruler of the other country. John Paul II was able to make such an agreement with King Hassan II of Morocco in 1983-1984. In such cases there is no parliament to complicate matters. Today, however, with both absolute monarchs and dictators hard to come by, concluding a concordat is not so easy: the pope is the only remaining absolute ruler in Europe. This has obliged the Vatican to develop many ways of getting concordats approved by sceptical parliamentarians.
Sometimes the text of the concordat may be kept secret until it has been signed which prevents any discussion of its terms by parliament or the public. By the time the legislators and the public find out what the concordat says, it can no longer be altered, only approved or rejected as a whole. And sometimes parliament is even expected to vote on this complex ? and permanent ? legal document too quickly for any real scrutiny. If that doesn’t work a concordat may sit unratified for years until some opportunity presents itself to get it cast in stone. In addition to the hundreds are already in force worldwide, others, like the Slovak “Conscience Concordat”, are drawn up and waiting for the right political climate to be ratified. For more on this, see Sixteen tricks to get a concordat through.
Tithes without worshippers
By hook or by crook the Church tries to get itself concordats. This convenient document allows the Church to extend its privileges, including massive state subsidies, even as, in some of the wealthier countries, its membership is decreasing ? and it also locks these payments in. This is why the Slovakian government wants to introduce a “church tax” (a fixed percentage of the income tax paid by church members), whereas the Church wants to maintain the status quo, (an annual donation according to present needs). [9] If the Church succeeds in getting “present need” funding enshrined in the upcoming concordat on finances, there will be no realistic possibility of reducing the state contribution ? ever.

A concordat does three things.
  • First, it installs a ratchet. The concordat itself cements previously-granted privileges and adds new ones. And the ratchet effect doesn’t end there, for a “general concordat” may be used to sets up the framework for more detailed ones to come. The general concordat acts as the thin edge of the wedge: its terms are vague enough to make it easy to get through parliament [10], but if the parliamentarians later balk at the more detailed concordats, they are told that they have already agreed to them in principle. And if the general concordat has included an “aim” to conclude them within a certain time, this can be used to apply more pressure, by presenting it to the media as a “promise”. [10] A framework concordat is like a Russian doll containing more.
  • Second, and even more ominously, because a concordat claims the status of international law, it prevents Church privileges, including massive state subsidies, from ever again being brought under democratic control.
  • And third, a concordat stipulates that “Church institutions” are governed by Canon Law (the law of the Catholic Church). However, since the Church is permitted to run various social services ? with state support, of course ? the laws which govern these Church institutions also affect those who work and those who are served by them. This legal manoeuvre means that a concordat can set up a theological fiefdom where certain Human Rights do not apply ? and where they can never be reintroduced without the consent of the Church.
By means of concordats Vatican diplomats and lawyers are mounting an attack on many of the freedoms that we have won since then ? rights that we had come to think were unassailable. The Vatican’s concordats pose an increasing threat to both democracy and Human Rights.

1. John Fonte quoted in Scott Malcolmson, “Lawfare”, New York Times, 12 December 2004. Muriel Fraser, The Vatican’s triple crown: church, government and country”.3. The History of Ideas, Vol 6: Treaty – Linguistic Issues, Science Encyclopedia.
The concordat is supposed to pass its provisions spiritually, requires no diplomatic “handling,” and its conclusion is avoided by the Holy See if it foresees complications in the ratification process from the other side. It is a euphemism through which papal treaty practice is rendered sui generis, supposed always to operate in concord, thus rhetorically separating itself from the worldly bargaining and crude pursuit of national interest associated with conventional treaty-making.

4. The History of Ideas Vol 6: Treaty – Jurisprudence, Science Encyclopedia.

5. “Czech Republic: Adventists continue to seek own agreement with state”, Adventist News Network, 4 November 2003.

6. Roland Minnerath, “The Experience of the Catholic Church in Structuring its Relationship with States in the XX Century”, 2000. [The author is Professor at the Catholic Theological Faculty of Marc Bloch University, Strasbourg.]

7. For example, the Vatican tried, by way of a “conscience concordat” in Slovakia, to ensure that patients could be denied treatment or even health information if this was in conflict with the religious scruples of the health providers (or the Catholic institution that employed them). If ratified, enshrining it in a concordat would have made it irreversible. By contrast, the similar “conscience clause” which was passed by executive order in the final days of the Bush regime is being reversed by his successor. See “Abortion foes, supporters, clash over new rule”, AP, 18 February 2009.

8. Jean-Louis Pierre Cardinal Tauran, speech before a French bishops’ conference in Lourdes, 5 November 2003. Translated excerpts available at “Vatican Foreign Ministers on concordats: Tauran (1990-2003)”.

9. Frans Hoppenbrouwers, “Nationalistic tendencies in the Slovak Roman Catholic Church”, Religion in Eastern Europe, Volume XVIII, Number 6, December 1998. [The author is a Roman Catholic Church historian and secretary of studies of the Dutch Roman Catholic relief organization, Communicantes.]

10. See the Introduction to the [Slovak] Basic Concordat (2000)

11. “US Lawmaker prods Israel on pact with Vatican”,  Catholic World News, 20 June 2006.

Concordats promote authoritarianism

Authoritarianism concentrates power in one man or group.  This pattern of subordination tends to replicate itself to create a hierarchy. Blind obedience comes to be seen as the necessary glue for keeping society together, and it is applauded by the mini-dictators throughout such a society. However, as recent research shows, a lack of power is deeply damaging to the individual.

A concordat helps to promote authoritarian structures throughout society. It fosters a system of state-funded religious schools which instil a culture of obedience. It also isolates children from contact with non-Catholics, so that their own religious microcosm is all they know. It mandates state-funded, Church-run hospitals which deny women reproductive choice and burden them with unplanned children which locks them into dependence. It sets up a network of state-funded “faith-based social services” which force an anxious appearance of piety on employees, job-seekers and even their families. And some concordats deny those married in a Catholic church the chance to escape from abuse and have a new life by getting a divorce. Respect for authority has long been instilled by the Church in Latin America and this is the society from which political scientist Howard J. Wiarda draws his examples.

First, authoritarianism is a form of dictatorship, of absolutism, of tyranny. It implies concentrated power in the hands of one man, a clique, an elite group, military officers, or a party, as distinct from the dispersed, competitive, pluralistic power found in a democracy.

Second, authoritarianism, when present, is not usually just limited to the top of the political pyramid but is often apparent throughout society, at local, social and familial, and regional levels as well as national ones. Husbands may exercise authoritarian control over their wives, fathers over their children, landowners over peasants, elites over masses, and local godfathers, caudillos (men on horseback), or mayors over their people. […]
Authoritarianism at the top usually reflects a society that is also authoritarian at other and lower levels. I recall how one politician in the Dominican Republic put it during a campaign speech while waving a cattle prod in the air: “I need authority for my cattle and I will need authority for my people!” The audience of peasants and cane cutters cheered. In other words, authoritarianism is often society-wide and a cultural phenomenon, not just limited to one man, the dictator, or the political structure. [1]

In fact, in an authoritarian society, the nature of democracy can be completely misunderstood:

The simple principle that democracy, besides power of majority, means protection of rights of minority, is completely alien […]. Politicians elected by majority who then deprive minority of access to media sincerely think that they are democrats; moreover, their electorate is in complete agreement with them. [2]

Authoritarianism empowers a few — once they have finally managed to scramble to the top of the ladder — but it makes most people powerless. And new research shows how damaging this can be: it can cloud their minds in ways that keep them from getting ahead. A lack of power impairs people’s ability to keep track of new information, to figure out what’s relevant, and to successfully plan ahead to achieve their goals. This is how hierarchies perpetuate themselves. The powerless passively accept their lot. They “are guided by situational constraints and circumstances, rather than by their own goals and values, and view themselves as the means for other people’s goals”. [3]

 Ordination 15 May 2005
 Obey your leaders and submit to them”
John Paul II, quoting Hebrews 13:17 to justify “obedience”,
Redemptionis Donum, 13.
“I have to obey the pope. The pope told me that it is my
biggest religious obligation not to have my own opinions.”
Cardinal Ratzinger to Max Seckler, former dean of the Catholic
Theological Faculty at Tübingen University, about 1995.

* But how were sheep led without expensive chutes? Alex notes how it was done in Russia:

When I was a child, I was told that at a local meat-packing plant sheep were led to slaughter by specially trained goats (at the last moment, they were removed from the chute via a side door and given a lump of sugar as a reward). There was even a special term: goat-betrayer.

[1] Howard J. Wiarda, “Introduction“, Authoritarianism and Corporatism in Latin America—Revisited, University Press of Florida, 2004, pp. 7-8.
[2] Alex, private communication.
[3] Pamela K. Smith, Nils B. Jostmann, Adam D. Galinsky, Wilco W. van Dijk (2008) “Lacking Power Impairs Executive Functions”, Psychological Science 19 (5), 441–447. Access requires payment, but a synopsis is available online free of charge: Association for Psychological Science, Press Release, “Having less power impairs the mind and ability to get ahead, study shows”, 15 May 2008.

Pope’s claim to temporal power based on 8th-c forgery

This “most remarkable of forgeries for its practical effect on world-history” was used to justify the pope owning his own kingdom. In fact, this forged “Donation of Constantine” even let the pope claim to be the overlord of emperors and kings, the supreme ruler in former Western Roman Empire. The book that finally exposed the document as fraudulent was banned by the Vatican.

It’s been called the “most remarkable of forgeries for its practical effect on world-history” [1] and it was used to justify the pope owning his own kingdom, the predecessor of the State of the Vatican City. This document was called the “Donation of Constantine” because it purported to be a grant by Emperor Constantine in favour of Pope Sylvester I. Actually, there is no evidence that Constantine, the first Christian emperor, ever attended a church service and, in fact, he was baptised only on his deathbed in 337. It has been claimed that, like Napoleon, Constantine saw Christianity as a tool to unify his empire and let him exercise social control through the bishops. [2] However, one thing is certain: he did not follow the script of the most famous forgery in history”, the Donation of Constantine, as it was written more than 300 years after his death. [3]
This document announces that the Emperor is withdrawing to a new capital at Constantinople in order to give the pope “the city of Rome and all the provinces, districts and cities of Italy or of the western regions”. Constantine also purportedly decrees that the papal reign in Italy and the Western Roman Empire was to continue “until the end of the world”.
This forgery was used to justify the pope’s direct rule over much of Italy for more than 1000 years as king of the Papal States, the forerunner of his present State of the Vatican City.

This document also grants the pope jurisdiction even over territories that he did not rule directly. Constantine supposedly concedes to the pope power over kings and emperors or, as he puts it, “a supremacy greater than the earthly clemency of our imperial serenity”. This enabled the pope to claim temporal authority over European kings. In accordance with this doctrine of papal supremacy, Gregory VII tried to get William the Conqueror to swear fealty to him and hand over England .[4]  By the High Middle Ages some had begun to question the authenticity of the Donation of Constantine, but it was dangerous to express this openly. In 1229-1230 a couple of doubters were burned alive at Strasbourg. [5] It wasn’t until 1517 that this forgery was publicly proven to be a fake, (the same year that Martin Luther launched his own protest against papal power). The brilliant humanist Lorenzo Valla (who had the protection of a royal patron) argued that the document’s barbarous Latin meant that it could not possibly date from the time of Constantine. The Vatican responded by placing Vallo’s work on the Index of forbidden books. [6]
Of course, discrediting the basis for the pope’s temporal power was one thing, but ending it was another. Exposing the Donation of Constantine as a fake did nothing to help those living in his theocracy in the Papal States. [7] They were only freed by force of arms. In 1870 Pius IX refused to negotiate a peaceful surrender, and Italian troops were obliged to breach the walls.
In terms that echo the claims of the Donation of Constantine, Pius IX rejected the legitimacy of  his overthrow in the name of democracy. He had long maintained that the Church was a perfect society, entitled by Christ to exercise temporal power and to use force while doing so. [8] Even after he was deposed, Pius IX continued to insist that he was still King of Rome: “This corner of the earth is mine; I received it from Christ.” [9]
Theologian and Cardinal Yves Congar felt that this was a missed opportunity for Pius IX to reconcile himself with his loss of power and return the Church to its true role of preaching: “When the events of the time invited him to abandon the terrible lie of the Donation of Constantine… he did not respond…but plunged the Church into demands proper to a temporal power.” [10]

For 58 years after the loss of the papal kingdom, successive popes refused to leave their enclave, claiming pathetically to be “prisoners of the Vatican”. The papal boycott only ended when the dictator Mussolini signed the Lateran Pacts [11] which once again gave the pope an autonomous state. The pope’s original kingdom, based on a forged grant by the emperor Constantine, was replaced by a microstate based on a real grant by the dictator Mussolini. Superficially the restored kingdom is only a shadow of the Papal States that stretched all the way across central Italy. The present Vatican City State is the smallest microstate in the world and it has no lay inhabitants. Even so, as “Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City” [12] the pope still exercises temporal power indirectly. He adroitly uses his revived “state” to lobby in international bodies and to exert pressure through international “treaties”. [13] He no longer wields temporal power directly as he once did over his subjects in the Papal States, yet still manages to do so indirectly over millions of people worldwide. Though now historically discredited, the Donation of Constantine helped to lay the groundwork for the temporal power of the pope today.

? MF


* Matthias Schulz,  “Schwindel im Skriptorium”, Spiegel, 13 July 1998.
1. Philip Schaff et al, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume I/Constantine/Prolegomena/The Mythical Constantine, 1885, Wikisource.

2. Anthony Gottlieb, “When the Lights Went Out in Europe”, review of Charles Freeman, The Closing of the Western Mind, New York Times, 15 February 2004.
3. “Donation of Constantine”
4. “How the world’s first concordat came about (documents and commentary)”, Concordat Watch.
5. Philip Schaff et al, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume I/Constantine/Prolegomena/The Mythical Constantine, 1885, Wikisource.
6. Vatican Exhibit/The Vatican Library/A Library Takes Shape/Index of the library under Paul III (Sixteenth century).
7. “Canon Law in action: Were the Papal States a ‘perfect society’?” Concordat Watch.
8. Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors, #19 (1854), #24 (1851).
9. Maurice Paléologue, Ian F. Morrow, Muriel M. Morrow, Cavour, 1927, p. 283. Google reprint
10. Yves Congar, Mon Journal du Concile, Paris: Cerf, 2002, vol. 1, pp. 114-116.
11. “How the Lateran Treaty made the Catholic Church into a state”, Concordat Watch.
12. “Titles of some 19th-century divine-right monarchs”, Concordat Watch.
13. “The Vatican’s triple crown: church, government and state”, Concordat Watch.

The left gets a modus vivendi, the right a concordat

The Vatican makes concordats with rightwing governments, whether absolute monarchies or fascist dictatorships. However, it snubs equally authoritarian governments on the left. It only makes quiet working arrangements with communist countries, since their regimes compete with the Church ideologically, rather than complementing it.
Ordination of priests at St. Peter’s in Rome. Dictators
also want to keep people humble and rightwing ones have
traditionally allied themselves with the Church through concordats.

A dissident 17th-century French priest describes the pact between the Church and the King of France – but he could just as well have been talking about other authoritarian rulers like the Emperor Napoléon or the Nazi puppet, Marshal Pétain:

Religion supports political power […] and the government, in return, protects religion.[…] On the one side, the priests command on pain of curses and eternal damnation obedience to the magistrates, princes and kings, as established by God to govern the rest, and on the other side, the princes ensure that the priests are respected and granted good appointments and good revenues…. [1]

A pact with an authoritarian is ruler can be useful for getting concordats, as an eminent Vatican lawyer admits:

The Apostolic See, to avoid the risk of open mockery, usually enters into solemn undertakings only where a civil government is under no obligation to seek the consent of a representative body, or where there can be no reasonable doubt that such consent will be granted. [2]

This was the inside view from a famed canonist at the Gregorian University in Rome who became superior general of the Jesuits and a trusted adviser to Pope Pius X.
It’s much easier to sign a concordat with a dictator — then  there’s no worry that a democratic legislature might refuse to ratify it. This is why concordats are so often made with strongmen. Here on Concordat Watch you can find ones concluded with despots, large and small: Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Duvalier, TrujilloDollfuss, the Ivorian President-for-Life Houphouët-Boigny, the Argentine Generals Aramburu and Onganía and the Peruvian military junta under General Bermúdez two days before he had to step down. (The first five gentlemen even made it into the Killers of the 20th Century.)
These rightwing dictators generally got on well with the Vatican, despite occasional theoretical differences. For instance, their problem with the Jews: the Church was anti-Jewish, blaming the Jews for communism, democracy and “killing Christ”, whilst the Nazis were anti-Semitic, blaming them for ancestry that wasn’t German. When it came to the crunch, this subtle distinction about exactly what they should be accused of didn’t help most Jews very much. [3] In practice, it just meant that a few of the Jews who had converted to Catholicism were saved through Church intervention, while the rest were left to their fate under Hitler.
 This marriage between fascism and religions has been called clero-fascism or clerical fascism. More detail can be found at the site of the Clero-Fascist Studies Project.

While John Paul II draped his interventions in Poland and Eastern Europe in the garb of “liberty” and “independence,” the reactionary essence of his political orientation was revealed openly in South America. There he sided with the ruling elites and disciplined so-called “liberation theologians” who had lined up with the oppressed in their struggles against right-wing military dictatorships. [4]

However, any alliance with the Vatican remains a marriage of convenience, one which is promptly annulled when support for the dictator threatens to become a liability. Thus the standard sequence is for the Vatican to conclude a concordat with a dictator who is anxious for the legitimacy conferred by a concordat with the Holy See. Yet when his hold on power slips and it’s clear he’s soon going to be to be replaced by popular demand, the Church turns on him. To get more leverage with the impending new government and be seen as supporting the oppressed, the Church switches sides. It suddenly remembers the dictaor’s atrocities and issues grave warnings from pulpits across the land. This happened in their declining days to Spain’s Franco, Haiti’s Duvalier, the Dominican Republic’s Trujillo, Argentina’s Juan Peron, Venezuela’s Marcos Perez Jimenez and Colombia’s Gustavo Rojas Pinilla. [5] Of course, when the Vatican turns on its concordat partners it does not renounce the concordats, as well. Long after the rightwing dictators have been deposed, these remain.
 With leftwing dictatorships the relationship was less cosy. The Church opposed Socialism and Communism from very early on, long before the Soviets came to power and began abusing people. [6] This fact suggests that the Church objected to Marxism, not because it was against oppression, but because it wanted to check any competing ideology, especially one which was hostile to religion.
However, the Vatican still wanted to find out what was going on and exercise what influence it could and thus it arranged a modus vivendi — a working agreement — with the various Communist regimes of Eastern Europe. This was a kind of diplomatic note lacking the full force of an international treaty, (which is what a concordat purports to be). The modus vivendi acted to secure whatever could be got, it kept the lines of communication open and yet it withheld the diplomatic recognition conferred by a concordat. The modus vivendi was intended as a stopgap until a leftwing regime collapsed. Then the Vatican could offer a new and more compliant successor the prospect of international recognition and the stabilising support of the Church — at a price — the price of a concordat.

Note on the picture of boots: These seem a better symbol of modern Fascism than the traditional “fasces“. Springer boots, originally for paratroopers, have thick soles to absorb the shock of landing. Neo-Nazis use them to absorb the shock to their feet of treading on their victims.
1. Jean Meslier (1664-1729), Mémoire contre la religion. (The original title was: Mémoire des pensées et des sentiments de Jean Meslier, prêtre, curé d’Étrépigny et de Balaives, sur une partie des erreurs et des abus de la conduite et du gouvernement des hommes où l’on voit des démonstrations claires et évidentes de la vanité et de la fausseté de toutes les divinités et de toutes les religions du monde pour être adressé à ses paroissiens après sa mort, et pour leur servir de témoignage de vérité à eux, et à tous leurs semblables.)
2. Francis Xavier Wernz, SJ, Jus Decretalium I, 166, (Rome, 1905).
3. Muriel Fraser, “Vatican anti-Judaism versus Nazi anti-Semitism: a subtle theological distinction“, National Secular Society Newsline, 21 July 2006.
4. Marius Heuser and Peter Schwarz, “Pope John Paul II: a political obituary”, World Socialist Web Site, 6 April 2005. The article continues:

In the course of his first visit to Nicaragua in 1983, John Paul II publicly reprimanded the priest Ernesto Cardenal who, together with two other priests, held ministerial posts in the Sandinista government. In 1995, during another visit to Nicaragua, the pope condemned the Iglesia Popular (People’s Church) and what he called the mistaken ecumenism “of Christians engaged in the revolutionary process.” At the same time, he elevated the right-wing archbishop and bitter opponent of the Sandinistas, Miguel Obando y Bravo, to the post of cardinal.
Numerous liberation theologians were sacked from their posts by John Paul II and replaced by conservative bishops or priests. Writes François Houtard in Le Monde Diplomatique: “Grass roots church groups which had come into being in South America characterised by autonomy and the protection of the interests of the poor were isolated and even destroyed in some cases. Priests who sided with them were removed and forbidden access to community facilities, and occasionally new groups were set up under the same name…”
At the same time, supporters of right-wing dictatorships ascended to the highest offices of the Church. The papal nuncio to the Argentine military dictatorship, Pio Laghi, and the nuncio to the Chilean military dictatorship, Angelo Sodano, are today both cardinals.
Sodano had praised Pinochet’s despotic and murderous rule in Chile with the words: “Masterpieces can also have small errors. I would advise you not to dwell on the errors of the painting, but concentrate on the marvellous general impression.” When an arrest warrant for Pinochet was issued in 1998 while the former dictator was in London, the pope himself publicly supported the Chilean fascist general.

5. “Bishops’ Warning“, Time, 15 February 1960.
6. David Ranan, Double Cross: The Code of the Catholic Church, (Theo Press, 2000), p. 18.

Perspectives: The Second Coming of papal politics

Christoph Prantner of Der Standard offers this view from Austria, which has long experience of Church involvement in politics. The debate about Islam, he says, is also reviving political Catholicism. In Madrid, Paris and Rome the boundaries between church and state are becoming blurred, raising the danger of a return to theological politics.
Christoph Prantner
Perspektiven: Die Wiederkunft der Pfaffenpolitik
Der Standard  (Austria), 22 January 2008

It’s beginning to look as if we’ve gone back to the time of the political Reconquista: In Spain, France and Italy political Catholicism is being revived. Clerics are intervening unabashed in politics, politicians are cosying up to the True Faith – and doing it as a matter of course, in a way not seen for a long time in secular Europe. At the beginning of 2007, for instance, the bishops tangled with the ruling Socialists over their family politics. The Spanish Church showed ill-concealed sympathy with the opposition Partido Popular a few weeks before the parliamentary elections in March 2007. Cardinal Antonio Canizares, vice president of the Spanish Bishops Conference even accused the government of Zapatero in front of 160,000 archconservative demonstrators of “threatening democracy with their radical secularism”. [1]
Clouds of incense
Meanwhile on a visit to pope Benedict XVI and also in his New Year’s address Nicholas Sarkozy was so caught up in religious rapture that some French citizens began to fear that under their quasi-born-again President the secular state could disappear in a cloud of incense. He had said that only believers can have hope. And that every civilisation is based on something religious and that God is a bulwark against – of all things – arrogance and madness.
And finally, in Rome the Church is making it clear that nothing can be done against its will. When it comes down to it, the political agents of the Vatican don’t hesitate for a moment to have the government of the liberal Catholic stalwart Romano Prodi overturned. At one time ex-EU Minister Rocco Buttiglione boasted about having direct access to Carol Wojtyla at all times. Today ex-Justice Minister Clement Mastella bows eagerly before the papal throne.
“Mariazell Manifesto”
It was not until 1952, through the Mariazell Manifesto, that the Catholic Church [gave up its claim to being the national church and] brought to an end the ill-fated political Catholicism (For example, Prelate Ignaz Seipel as Chancellor.) [This was the “Roman Catholic priest, twice chancellor of Austria (1922–24 and 1926–29), whose use of the Fascist paramilitary Heimwehr in his struggle against Austria’s Social Democrats led to a strengthening of Fascism in his country.”] [2]
In the worldwide Catholic Church there is nothing else that explicit. It’s true that the Viennese theologian Paul Zulehner refers to the Second Vatican Council, according to which the Church is to be “political, but not politicised in the sense of party politics”. However, others interpret this as mainly an attempt on the part of John XXIII to limit the damage from the close relationship to the Nazis cultivated by his predecessor Pius XII.
Why is this new offensive, this “Second Coming” of papal politics, coming just now? One factor is the debate about Islam in the last few years. Those who want to argue against terrorists inspired by Islam — like President Nicholas Sarkozy in his most recent speeches — fall back, without thinking, on “Christian values”. That, of course, encourages the churchmen. […]
Whenever politics becomes a matter of religion — as it is with the Islamicists — the field of action is dramatically narrowed. This is because religious demands are non-negotiable.
This may not worry people with a terrorist’s view of politics. It should, however, concern the Catholic Church which is still committed to the rationalist tradition of Europe. Luckily, in addition to this there are still enlightened citizens — and not only in Spain, France and Italy — who after centuries under the power of the Church no longer wish to rely on the blessings of its wisdom.

[1] A later charge of Cardinal Canizares, reported on 14 January 2008, is that “The Government intends to transmit a radical secular vision of man which gives no importance to God”.
[2] “Ignaz Seipel”, Encyclopedia Britannica.