Circle-A in the Holy See


I've been known to joke that Vatican City is the only truly libertarian country, since it's all private. Now Carlo Lottieri has written a paper that seriously contends that the Vatican is not a state but "the outcome of free and spontaneous relationships, in absence of any kind of violence." I'm not persuaded, but it's certainly an interesting argument—and I suppose it might explain why their postal service is so efficient.

Next question: Are the Knights of Malta a state? What about UN headquarters?

NEXT: Fat and Happy

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  1. I found their postal service to be efficient only relative to the Italian postal service. That is, the postcards we sent took nearly two weeks to arrive in the US; they arrived on different days (two were sent to the same address, at the same time, from the same mailbox, and arrived three days apart); they were battered and scuffed; in at least one case, there was no postmark on the stamp after arrival.

    I *suppose* that could all be the USPS. Well, except the postmark thing.

  2. Does the Vatican PS actually have planes to fly around the outgoing mail?

  3. This must be some new definition of the words “free” and “spontaneous” that I wasn’t previously aware of. The principle hierarchy and dense support structure of a highly organized world wide church doesn’t just sprout into existence like a flash mob.
    As for the lack of violence, that’s just plain idiotic.

  4. Hmmm…I’m having a little difficulty accepting that Il Vaticano is in any way libertarian. It’s an absolute monarchy in which the monarch owns everything.

    I think I’ll pass.

  5. spontaneous is weird, but free of violence is willfully depraved.

  6. “the outcome of free and spontaneous relationships, in absence of any kind of violence.”

    Historically that is a load of bullshit. The Papacy for most of its history was an aggressive, land grabbing power. Just take a gander at say Paul IV’s disasterous (if short) career – he hated Spaniards so much that he ganged up with Henri II (of France) in an effort to taken down the Spanish Hapsburgs, who were the primary bulwark against the first and second reformations! Aggression and stupidity seem to go hand in hand with the policies of most popes.

  7. Does the Vatican PS actually have planes to fly around the outgoing mail?

    They Vatican post office is a branch of the Swiss postal service. From what I can tell, they don’t require the Swiss postmen to dress in frilly, striped garb like the Swiss Guard.

  8. keith,

    They hired the Swiss guard originally because the Swiss were the supreme mercs at the time; what better force for the Papal States to fight their wars with? 🙂 Non-violent my ass.

  9. I don’t know what the rules are now, but when I visited the Vatican five years ago, they had a ban on wearing shorts.

  10. Eric II,

    In 2000, when a gay rights march, etc. was scheduled to go through Rome (the march did happen), the Papacy freaked out and demanded that the city of Rome revoke the permit for the march. Sorry, not buying Carlo Lottieri’s absolute horseshit.

  11. Hak:

    Yeah, I was amused when recently reading “Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling” how often the Vatican would march off to war content that their Swiss employees were meeting them along the way, only to discover that Swiss mercenaries decided they had better things to do.

    For some reason — and I know just enough history to frequently get things wrong — it reminded me of how the Spartans were the supreme warriors of ancient Greece but frequently no-showed battles (or just sent 300 guys) in deference to one of their many religious holidays.

    I know there were other occasions when both the Spartans and the Swiss undoubtedly proved their mettle and earned their reps, but man, it sure did make the Pope mad when the Swiss skipped out AND Michelangelo threw scaffolding at him.

  12. Hmm. Now there’d be a fight – Spartans vs. Swiss Guard! But those Sig 75 9mm’s might be a bit of an advantage.

  13. keith,

    Well, mercs are inherently untrustworthy characters; being bought soldiers and all. Indeed, as it was common for states to bid for the services of the Swiss one could have one’s force significantly reduced by your higher bidding enemy. It did protect Switzerland for a long time (even during the Reformation), as no one wanted to really attack the source of such a potent fighting force.

  14. I don’t know what the rules are now, but when I visited the Vatican five years ago, they had a ban on wearing shorts.

    But was disobeying this “rule” a crime in itself, or was the only crime trespass for disobeying the proprietor’s rule? 1/2 🙂

  15. How good were the Swiss? Like I said, my interest in history is keen, but my knowledge is spotty. Which battles gave rise to the Swiss reputation? I know there must have been many, though I like to also think that the entire reputation of the Swiss “army” was fabricated by the Swiss to scare people. You know, sort of like they’d had a Karl Rove working for them or something.

    As for Vatican rules — I was there with my girlfriend last November. They do have very specific rules regarding the dress code, no shorts and tank tops being at the top of the list.

    Just think: all those poor German tourists in their tank tops, shorts, and sandals with black socks can’t even see their countryman be Pope!

  16. I dont know if anyone bothered to read the article or not, but it did not claim that the Catholic Church throughout its history was non-violent. It was just an article that claimed that the Vatican City formed in 1929 when it was freed from Italian sovereignty does not fit the modern definition of a state. It has no coercive power now. It exists as a voluntary object not a independent state. BTW this is entirely apart from the arguments about how the owner of the independent land decides to rule his land (ie. laws about pants)

  17. keith,

    Well, its complicated.

    Do you really want me to get into it? 🙂

    Some of the mercenary units were permanent, BTW; sort of like how the British maintained ghurka units. France, for example, had treaties with specific cantons to supply it with pikemen.

  18. So Vatican City in its present state was formed in 1929. Wasn’t this part of the Concordat between the Pope and Mussolini?
    Nice to know the Fascists were so concerned with “free and spontaneous relationships, in absence of any kind of violence.”

  19. Hak:

    I guess I’ll go open up a history book. Now if I can just find where I put the dang thing…

  20. Xboy,

    Well, the Papacy also had its dirty dealings with Hitler and has tried to sweep under the rug its involved with the Croatian fascist government’s efforts in WWII to exterminate Croatia’s Jewish, Roma, etc populations.

    You should read the Croatian constitution sometime; the preamble rambles on and on about Croatia was destined by God to exist, blah blah blah.

  21. keith,

    That’s probably for the best. How the Swiss mercenaries developed out of the Hundred Years’ War, etc. is very complicated.

  22. Even John Cornwell has taken back his hitler poe charges: This is from the Econmist and is easily found on the web

    “As he admits, Hitler’s Pope (1999), his biography of Pope Pius XII, lacked balance. ?I would now argue,? he says, ?in the light of the debates and evidence following Hitler’s Pope, that Pius XII had so little scope of action that it is impossible to judge the motives for his silence during the war, while Rome was under the heel of Mussolini and later occupied by the Germans.?

    I am sure some catholics particapted in the holocaust, particularly in Croatia but oddly enough this does not translate into the vatican’s official stance.

    Also, just because the vatican found a way to peacfully remove itself from italian sovereignty by dealing with violent fascists does not mean the late 1800 early 1900 catholic church was also violent or fascist.

  23. greg,

    The RCC has been reluctant to condemn what happened in Croatia and it also recently canonized one of the Catholic Church figures involved in the holocaust in Croatia.

  24. greg,

    The RCC also stole Jewish children after WWII.

    The Catholic Church is figuratively dripping with thousands and thousands of gallons of human blood from its historical atrocities. I see no reason to pay it any more merit than I do the USSR; none that is.

  25. And no, I am not attacking individual Catholics. I am attacking the Church as an institution and its ideology and methodologies. It is also not some specific attitude I have towards the RCC either. I hold out similar derision and contempt for the Churches that sprung from Calvinism for example.

  26. Like Greg, I’m eventually going to actually read the article to find out what Lottieri’s point is and how he argues it. Unfortunately, almost every written document issued from or pertaining to the Vatican makes my head hurt when I read it, so it may be a while.

  27. Stevo Darkly,

    Vatican-speak is fairly ugly stuff. I always get the impression that they are trying to hide their poor reasoning behind that crap.

  28. greg,

    BTW, I just want to know something. Are you suggesting that Pope Pius XII wasn’t a committed anti-semite?

  29. Has anybody checked up on Laissez Faire City down in San Jose, Costa Rica, lately?

  30. Hakluyt — Well, but I get the same headache from trying to understand the theory of relativity. So I’ll try to read it before I make up my mind.

  31. “Are you suggesting that Pope Pius XII wasn’t a committed anti-semite?”

    In the Nazi sense of the term, he very much wasn’t.

    “In 1939 and 1940, Pius acted as a secret intermediary between the German plotters against Hitler and the British. He would similarly risk warning the Allies about the impending German invasions of Holland, Belgium, and France.

    …The Germans’ understanding of Pius’s position, at least, was clear: Ribbentrop chastised the pope for siding with the Allies. Whereupon Pius began reading from a long list of German atrocities. “In the burning words he spoke to Herr Ribbentrop,” the New York Times reported on March 14, Pius “came to the defense of Jews in Germany and Poland.”

  32. matthew hogan,

    Are you suggesting that I take a Catholic apologist website seriously? 🙂

    Sorry, the provisions of the Reich Concordat undermine any notion that Pius XII was sort of bulwark against the Nazis. Further, during the entire war, he remained silent on the atrocities committed by the Nazis, despite the fact that as early as 1942 he had been apprised of what was going on.

    Essentially Pius XII wasn’t a Nazi, but he was neither any sort of great advocate against the Nazis either. This in a way makes him worse, because he was merely a coward.

  33. “Are you suggesting that I take a Catholic apologist website seriously? :)”

    No, the Orthodox rabbi who wrote the thing and his contemporary and Jewish sources. And Golda Meir and the chief Rabbi of Rome, the contemporary New York Times, Albert EInstein etc. etc.

    No one claimed he was a bulwark against the Nazis, don’t raise the bar; he was head of a largely impotent organization; but its the case simply that he wasn’t a committed anti-Semite, as stated and certainly not in the Nazi sense.

    He signed a concordat with Germany as a Vatican diplomat in about 1933, so what? The job was to preserve institutional privileges. He did not remain silent at certain periods, and later did remain silent, in part because statements tended to backfire.

    His record is debatable but it was not the collaborator of falsified, nor particularly cowardly. There must have been a reason that listening to Vatican Radio was punishable by death in Nazi areas, or that the Gestapo assessed his statements as “pro-Jewish” and a denunciation of what they stood for.

    The man tended to despise Hitler as an ideological racist.

    But the facts dont conform with the theory or prejudice so the facts must be disposed of.

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