A question has been on my mind for some time, and it has come to the fore recently with the resignation of Pope Benedict and the protections he is afforded by hiding out within the Vatican. If the Vatican was granted sovereignty by the State of Italy, why, then, can’t the status simply be revoked? Surely, that which can be bestowed can be taken back just as easily.
Mussolini’s fascist government signed the Lateran Treaty with the Vatican in 1929, granting the latter sovereign statehood, in return for the Vatican’s agreement not to undermine or criticize the jack-booted thugs in government. But, what does this negotiated restraint say of the legitimacy of the Vatican? If they were willing to turn a blind eye to Mussolini’s faults and agreed not to criticize his regime in return for their own autonomy, can they really be taken seriously as a supposedly moral authority when their silence was so easily purchased?
So, if Italy could grant the Vatican sovereignty, why can they not take it back? According to the website, Concordat Watch, the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties provides that one party to an international treaty cannot unilaterally withdraw from that agreement, but requires consent from both sides.
Obviously, the Vatican will never willingly give up the power and benefits their sovereign status gives them on the international stage; especially as it affords them diplomatic immunity from prosecution for their criminal obstruction of justice. However, there is a little-used provision in the Vienna Convention, Article 62, which allows for treaties to be abrogated due to a “Fundamental Change of Circumstance.” In such cases, the legal doctrine, clausula rebus sic stantibus, or “things thus standing,” may be invoked. Specifically, in my non-legal opinion, I believe sub-paragraph B could apply: wherein the change of circumstances has had a radical effect on the obligations of the treaty.
The change in circumstances I envision, one having a radical effect, is the increasing secularization—that annoying phenomenon that scares the bejesus out of the Vatican Princes who constantly moan and wail against the waning of their power—of European and world society. Italy, being a heavily Catholic country, both when this treaty was signed in 1929 and now, is unlikely any time in the near future to rescind the Lateran Treaty and revoke the sovereignty of the Vatican; but, perhaps there is hope for the future as secularism gains ground there.
However, other secular countries that maintain diplomatic relations with Vatican City could simply refuse to continue recognizing the Vatican’s sovereignty. This game of recognition is a diplomatic grey area. Take for instance the status of the People’s Republic of China, which, until 1971, was not considered to be the legitimate government of China in the United Nations, as Taiwan was the officially recognized party. Ironically, the Vatican and the PRC do not recognize each other in this international game of petty politicking, given that the Vatican maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
World governments, their leaders and constituents, are no longer the brainwashed, religious automatons who let religious doctrine guide their every waking decision and signed these pacts with the Vatican in order to pretend playing at diplomacy with this archaic self-styled City State. Therefore, in my opinion, this highly increased secular world society constitutes a radical change in circumstances, grounds upon which to abrogate the existing treaties between other nations and the Vatican, effectively ending the diplomatic protection the Church hides behind while granting safe refuge to fugitive pedophiles and their complicit protectors.
In time, as the Vatican’s base of subservient adherents continues to dwindle, and along with it their monetary and temporal source of power, perhaps they will have their sovereign status revoked by a secular and non-Catholic Italy. And Flying Spaghetti Monster-speed that glorious day!