A good friend of mine recently told me that “separation of church and state” is a misnomer, especially in a democracy. Why? Pretty simple; he explained that whenever there is a group of people coming together, they will want their interests protected. That desire is politics. Whenever a group of religious people congregate, they will want to impose their views or desires on the rest of society.
What are we to make of the Vatican then? It is obviously both a religious and political entity. It wants power over citizens on this planet. It wants to protect its interests. In dealing with the child molestation scandals in the U.S., here is a snippet from a CNN article earlier this year describing the Vatican’s legal strategies in the U.S.:
Responding to a Louisville, Kentucky, lawsuit that seeks to depose top Vatican officials — including Pope Benedict XVI — the Holy See plans to file a motion Monday denying that the church issued a document mandating secrecy in the face of abuse allegations, as many victims allege, according to a Vatican attorney.
The Vatican’s motion also will argue that bishops are not employees of the Holy See, exempting the Vatican from legal culpability in cases of alleged abuse in the U.S., said Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican’s U.S.-based attorney.
Some of you astute readers will immediately ask, what about repent? What about taking responsibility? If the Vatican wants more followers around the world, shouldn’t it take responsibility for their members conducts? That is a very simple logic, no?
This leads me to the recent criticism by Pope Benedict XVI (as reported by the Straits Times) of China:
‘May the birth of the Saviour strengthen the spirit of faith, patience and courage of the faithful of the Church in mainland China, that they may not lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience but, persevering in fidelity to Christ and his Church, may keep alive the flame of hope,’ he said.
Pope Benedict XVI accused China of violating religious freedom, on the heels of the December 7th through 9th elections of the heads and other senior members of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) without official approval by Vatican. China Daily’s article, “China rejects Vatican’s criticism as very imprudent,” explains below:
The spokesperson said the congress, which is held every five years to amend the CCPA’s and BCCCC’s constitutions, elect a new leadership and set future agenda, does not deal with Catholic doctrines or violate the fundamental Catholic faith, and “there is no question of getting recognition by any foreign organization or state.”
The spokesperson said China’s religious freedom was protected by the Chinese Constitution, and it was a misinterpretation by the Vatican to declare the incompatibility of Catholic doctrine and the Chinese Catholic church’s principle of independent self-governance.
China’s Constitution grants Chinese citizens freedom of religious beliefs, but requires independence of religious organizations and affairs in China from foreign influence.
The fundamental question is who’s priority should take precedence? China’s constitution or the Vatican’s will?
Do you think Pope Benedict XVI is dishonest for not recognizing China’s constitution stipulating independence of religious organizations and affairs in China from foreign influence? Are Chinese believers of Christianity not “true” believers even though they elect their own religious leadership without Vatican influence?
How does Vatican selection of religious leaders in China make Chinese believers any truer? What “holier” criteria would the Vatican employ instead?
Some may misconstrue this post to mean China thinks everyone is against her. This is absolutely not that. The Vatican will want as many followers around the world as possible. The politics it employs around the world will be towards that end. Even the mighty powerful U.S. is not completely “free” from that.
Editors’s choice of supplementary comments: