How Dangerous Is The Vatican?

In 2003 novelist Dan Brown released The Da Vinci Code, which focused on the supposed efforts of the Catholic Church to suppress and distort human history to maintain their power While largely fiction, the book renewed interest in the dealings of the Catholic Church, in particular their independent seat of power, The Vatican City

Despite having no official military aside from the Papal Swiss Guard, edicts from The Vatican can still influence the lives of 12 billion Catholics around the world And many Italians suspect their relationship with the state-within-a-state is too weighted in its favour Which begs the question, how dangerous is The Vatican? After the rise of Christianity and the fall of the Roman Empire, the Pope emerged as the dominant force in a ravaged Italian peninsula, starting over a millennium of Papal diplomacy and warfare in the region The Papal States cover 110 acres of land and have a population of 842 people

Italy unified in 1870, but in 1929 The Vatican City was recognised as a sovereign state Yet The Vatican still maintains a high degree of influence over Italian politics and society, thanks in part to its dominance over the official religion and its vast wealth The state is notoriously secretive about its banking operations For the most part it is impossible to make an accurate appraisal of its wealth It has a vast amount of material wealth, such as gold crucifixes or artistic treasures, which would never be valued, counted or sold

However, what is recorded, is that as of 2015 the Vatican Bank has assets worth $8 billion This money stems from tithes in parish churches and foreign investments, including $20 million in gold with the US Federal Reserve Naturally, with money comes power According to Italian comedienne Sabina Guzzanti, prominent Italian politicians will block legislation that counters Catholic doctrine Guzzanti was even threatened with prosecution for defamation after criticising Pope Benedict XVI, in public

The charges were only dropped after Benedict publicly forgave Sabina, indicating his clear influence in Italian courts Moderate, secular divorce laws were only pushed through after extreme pressure, and previous attempts to tax Church property have failed because of Vatican influence And Italy is far from the only country overtly influenced by The Vatican In 2008, the Vatican officially opposed a measure brought before the UN to decriminalise homosexuality Journalist Barbara Ellen says The Vatican's stance on contraception has done little to halt the spread of disease in Catholic countries

The Vatican Bank also has close ties with the Mafia, which was exposed in a series of financial scandals in the seventies and eighties As recently as 2012, Father Ninni Treppiedi was suspended after a questionable €1 million went through church accounts And journalist Lucio Musolino alleges that, on a local level, priests co-operate with the Mafia – even to the point of ordering journalists to be beaten up by Mafia thugs to avoid unwanted press In June 2014, Pope Francis excommunicated the Mafia, apparently severing all ties to the criminal organization But according to Don Marcello Cozzi, president of the Italian anti-Mafia association Libera, “True mobsters don’t pay attention to what Francis said”

This is far from the only scandal that has embroiled The Vatican The Crimen Sollicitationis is an official Vatican document published in 1962 It explicitly states that in cases of sexual abuse within the Church, both the abuser and the victim “are to be restrained to perpetual silence… under the penalty of excommunication” This moral blackmail prevented criticism of the Church over its handling of historic child abuse until 2001 Pope Benedict personally enforced this tactic

The Vatican is now accused of, at best, ignorance, and at worst actively moving priests accused of sexual abuse to new dioceses, where parishioners are unaware of their past The Vatican has attempted to begin righting the wrongs of the past It has spent over 33 billion dollars on compensation for the victims of sexual abuse While the Vatican does not represent a military threat to the world, the sheer wealth owned by the world’s smallest state also makes it the wealthiest in terms of GDP

This in turn can be said to further the Catholic Church’s influence around the world This influence is for the most part benign, like bringing alms and education to the needy, as espoused by the current pontiff In 2010, the Church donated an estimated 47 billion dollars to charitable organisations in the US

alone Nevertheless, the Vatican Bank is notoriously secretive with its funds And the Vatican’s influence over the moral – and therefore political – values of 12 billion followers should not be underestimated With this in mind, it could be concluded that while the Vatican may not pose a danger to nation states, their moral authority and monetary resources could pose a danger in other, more subtle ways

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