Friday, 3 September 2010

The Catholic legal case

Dear reader, our blog has moved to a new address.

Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly):

Staying with the theme of the Papal Visit for a moment (I suspect even some Catholics will be "Poped out" by the time he goes home on 19 September), I thought I'd share this interesting link I picked up this morning from the Thomas More Legal Centre, which is a charity run by a selection of barristers, solicitors and other Catholic legal experts.

The article is intended to "deal with certain legal questions which are being regularly raised in connection with the visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict V1 [sic] to the UK." Of course the temptation here is to jump on the fact that they've managed to mistype the name of their own Pope, but what do a disservice to the actual piece, which is actually rather interesting. It's basically a response to many of the criticisms levelled against the Papacy and the State Visit by opponents, for instance at Wednesday's Protest the Pope debate, covering matters such as whether the Pope is immune from the law, whether he could be arrested and whether criminal priests are being sheltered.

Particularly interesting is the response to the charge that the Holy See is not a legitimate state. It's something I'm keen to read more about, as both sides have yet to convince me that they're right. At Wednesday's debate, AC Grayling suggested the circumstances of its creation – i.e. by Mussolini in 1929 – makes the argument for its statehood moot, but I suspect it's not as straightforward as that. Here's what the Thomas More Legal Centre has to say on the issue:
Q: But surely the Vatican is not a real State because

(I) it was created by Mussolini

A This is a rather simplistic view of a complicated history, the Holy See has had diplomatic relations with different countries for at least 1000 years and the Italian Government never occupied or ruled the territory of the Vatican State prior to the Lateran Pacts of 1929. In any event in legal terms it makes no difference how a State is formed. The USA for example was created when British Colonies in America declared their independence from Britain in 1776 whilst Canada by contrast was created by Act of the British Parliament in 1867, very different origins but both the USA and Canada are equally regarded as states in international law. Mussolini has been dead for 65 years and during those years the Italian Republic has always accepted the independence of the Vatican and the validity of the Lateran Treaties of 1929.

We're sure to be hearing more about these issues in the coming weeks, as next Wednesday sees the publication of The Case of the Pope by Geoffrey Robertson QC, who first suggested that Benedict XVI might have a legal case to answer back in April. In the book, Robertson sets out the legal arguments concerning the Pontiff and the Vatican in relation to statehood, child abuse, immunity and human rights. More on that when it's published next week.
blog comments powered by Disqus