Less Catholic Each and Every Time

A good look at the WikiLeaks documents provides us the best and most precise documentation about power in the world during the first decade of the 21st century. Everything lies upon the U.S. State Department’s cables, which is the product of work done by excellent observers and analysts. The idea of weakness without forgiveness transmitting itself from Europe does not surprise us; neither do the horrors of corruption, kleptocracy and despotism that present themselves, barely without discontinuity, throughout the whole Arabic world, from Morocco to Iraq. Nor are we surprised by the image of the Vatican as an “empty, provincial and old-fashioned power” (in Rome’s correspondent Miguel Mora’s words), despite speaking of the world’s second diplomatic power, with legations in 177 countries, behind the United States with 188, according to one of the cable’s entrusted recordings.

U.S. diplomats seek to deal with the pious and useful matter concerning the problem with communication. According to their reports, the Vatican’s apparatus is ignorant of new technologies and public relations. It also doesn’t encourage political coordination and manages its worldly matters in the hands of an elderly group composed of practically all Italians, with little ability of expressing themselves in English, the globalized language. The reactions that arise in the Catholic world confirm the seriousness of the problem. Benedict XVI, different from previous popes, doesn’t recognize himself as a political and diplomatic power and claims only the spiritual influence of his authority, which is similarly underlined by the religious correspondent of La Vanguardia, Oriol Domingo, on Dec. 19: “This vision contains dictator Joseph Stalin’s burlesque question formulated in 1945 to Winston Churchill and Theodore [sic] Roosevelt about how many divisions the pope, who at that time was Pope Pius XII, had. American, Stalinist, and so many other powers coincide to carry out a political and economic analysis to indict the Church.”

However, the political and diplomatic agenda that the Holy See has in front of itself is vast and difficult, like the international power that was there but which is left to not continue. A third of its loyalty is found in one region, Latin America, which “feels marginalized by the Vatican.” The pope’s attention to Europe’s Christian races, the bond with Orthodox Christians and the focus on Islamic relations have placed Latin American Catholics on a second plane, according to these cables. In countries where they resist the more ancient Christian communities, Islamic fundamentalism breathes a fierce persecution, which frequently ends with a pogrom against Rome’s followers. In the immense China, Catholicism’s authority is prohibited, substituted by the bishops named by the communist regime.

The Vatican’s diplomatic action, and above all the network of its priests and religious people, focuses on other matters of greater doctrinal and moral substance, like contraception and abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research. The State Department’s cables reveal that the Church, and above all that which remains of its past brilliant diplomacy, emits awakenings of reflections and its traditional gloriousness with multilateralism concerning international politics and social reformism. Its stance upon disarmament, the conflict in the Middle East, the Iraq War, Iranian nuclear danger, poverty, the economic crisis or climate change is one of a similar traditional moderate social Christian or social democratic government.

On the other hand, the pope’s competitive stance is different concerning the Islamic world, which Washington describes as Eurocentric: “Ratzinger believes that Europe is the spiritual and historical land of the Church that is unwilling to give up its continent to secularism forces or to the Islamic world.” Contrast this combative stance with the Church’s weakened moral position in its present self, eroded by scandal that doesn’t stop with gay priests. Then also contrast this first with the successive rectifications of acknowledgment of the hierarchy complicities and second with the repression inside the Church itself.

The cables and the reactions tell us two things: The first institution that wanted to be global in history (the first Catholic institution) has troubles with continuing to do so. And, second, the current Vatican hierarchy barely knows how to react before this bitter and unstoppable decline.

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