Should the U.S. End Its “Special Relationship” With the Vatican?

With Donald Trump set to nominate Callista Gingrich to serve as the new ambassador to the Vatican, some are calling for the position to be abandoned entirely. The ambassadorship is “unconstitutional and inappropriate,” according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

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FFRF wrote in a letter to Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson:

On behalf of our 29,000 nonreligious members, our national state/church watchdog respectfully requests that you discontinue the unconstitutional and inappropriate ambassadorship to the “Holy See.” This state/church entanglement was unwisely created by the Reagan Administration in 1984, largely to partner against the Soviet Union, and should be severed.

FFRF said it objected to the “unprecedented entanglement” between the U.S. government and the Catholic Church at the formation of the ambassadorship, and that it’s renewing those concerns now. The organization also called into question the qualifications of Gingrich.

According to reports, you have nominated Callista Gingrich to be the next ambassador to the Holy See. That you would nominate someone with no diplomatic and minimal political experience to the post suggests little need for that diplomatic relationship. Indeed, Ms. Gingrich’s primary qualification seems to be that she is Catholic, and of course our Constitution precludes any religious test for public office.

What FFRF doesn’t mention is that Callista Gingrich began her affair with Newt Gingrich while he was married to his second wife, and that this type of behavior runs contrary to the doctrines of the Catholic Church (which opposes divorce and infidelity).

What FFRF and other groups (calling for the federal government to end its special relationship with the Vatican) are saying makes a lot of sense, and not just because of Gingrich’s lack of qualifications. It’s primarily because, as FFRF puts it:

Just as this government would not recognize the authority, jurisdiction, and sovereignty of the Church of Scientology or of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Mormon Church, it should never have recognized the political sovereignty of the Roman Catholic Church. There is no legitimate rationale to distinguish the Roman Catholic Church — by bestowing upon the Holy See the status of a sovereign state with international legal personality — from every other religion.

Most religions possess government bodies that exert their authority over millions of members around the globe and control untold wealth, in the form of real property, corporations (both for and nonprofit), artifacts, art and currency. The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society is a vast, international publishing and construction empire. The LDS Church is the same. Multinational corporations also have international legal personality and effect agreements with states. Should the federal government of the United States establish diplomatic relations with McDonalds? Or Facebook?

Just because the Church represents so many people doesn’t mean we need an ambassador to the Vatican. That’s not saying we should ignore Catholics, but that this sort of special privilege is unnecessary and unconstitutional.

Considering how the Church shelters abusers, treats women, and gets in the way of progress, I can understand why Republicans would be excited to form a special bond with them, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for the rest of our democracy.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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