by Frank Schnittger
Tue Nov 8th, 2011 at 10:09:01 AM EST
I have a letter published in the main Irish daily, the Irish Independent, today (below the fold) where it is preceded by a letter making the argument that those holding my views are "liberals" and anti-catholic bigots.
Further follow on letters also published and added below the fold...
Vatican exit - Letters, Opinion - Independent.ie
*I am appalled that the Government is considering ending its diplomatic presence in the Vatican. Ireland has had an association with the Holy See since Pope Celestine I sent his first envoy to Ireland in the early fifth century.
Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore claims that this decision was taken due to a supposed nil economic return from maintaining an embassy in Rome, but I wonder is that sufficient justification?
Besides, when one peruses the Department of Foreign Affairs website, it appears that the State maintains a variety of diplomatic missions in many far-flung states. We maintain a consulate in Zimbabwe (at 2 Robert Mugabe road, Harare) and I wonder what 'economic return' do we derive from bilateral relations with that state?
I believe the proposed savings are trivial, comparatively speaking and I believe other cost-saving measures should be considered, such as the salaried remuneration of senior department civil servants. Finally, Mr Gilmore has an opportunity to upstage Taoiseach Enda Kenny and give Catholics a bloody nose. No doubt the Irish Independent will be deluged with approving missives from 'liberal' readers stoutly justifying this decision, but I believe their motivation is less to do with the state of our finances than simple, anti-Catholic bigotry.
Martan O Conghaile
Castlebrook, Dundrum, D14
Closing our embassy in the Vatican has occasioned much understandable controversy, with most commentators noting that the proximity of the decision to the publication of the Cloyne Report and its aftermath can hardly be coincidental.
However, few have noted that we are not actually cutting off diplomatic relations with the Vatican and that we already have a perfectly serviceable embassy in Rome.
It is not unusual for our embassies to be accredited to a number of neighbouring states and a cost-benefit analysis of all state services is unavoidable in these straitened times.
With so many Rome-appointed bishops in our midst, it is hardly likely that the Government will be unaware of Vatican thinking or vice versa. The confusion of church-state relations with inter-state diplomatic relations has not been helpful in the past and it is perhaps healthy that our relations with the Catholic Church should become more similar to that between the State and other religions.
The closure of our embassy with the Vatican is merely a reflection of the constitutional, political, economic and diplomatic realities of our time.
The LTE page editor left out my reference to the removal of the "Special Position" of the Catholic Church in the Irish constitution in 1973 but otherwise published my letter in full. Is this a case of Ireland simply becoming a secular republic or some dark conspiracy against the majority of its citizens who are still (at some level) practising Catholics?
A Follow up letter has been published in the Irish Independent in an abbreviated form and in full in the Irish Examiner:
Vatican exit - Letters, Opinion - Independent.ie
Much heat has been expended and very little light shed on the Government's decision to close one of our two embassies in Rome (neither of which are in the Vatican).
What is actually happening is that our embassy to Italy is being closed as a cost-saving measure and its operations are being transferred to the Villa Spada, our former embassy to the Vatican.
Nowhere else in the world do we have two embassies in one city, and the usual practice is for us to accredit our ambassador in one country to other neighbouring countries as a cost-saving measure. No small country can afford to maintain an embassy in each of the 200-plus states around the world.
The reason our ambassador to the Vatican will no longer be based in the Villa Spada is because the Vatican has a unilaterally imposed policy of not allowing ambassadors to Italy to be also accredited to the Holy See.
The Irish Examiner published the letter in full by including the final two paragraphs as follows:
Vatican policy behind reason to close embassy | Irish Examiner
As a direct consequence of this, many countries accredit their ambassador to some other European country to the Vatican.
If the Vatican had wished to retain an Irish ambassador based at the Villa Spada, all it had to do was to allow us to accredit our Irish ambassador to Italy to the Holy See, thus showing due respect to the straitened circumstances we now find ourselves in.
So far, there hasn't been any factual or emotional response to my letters, although I wouldn't be surprised if they stir up some controversy as they refer to facts which have been strikingly absent from the Editorials, Op ed pieces and other letters on the subject. No where else have I seen reference to it being the Irish Embassy to Italy which is actually being closed (a fact I verified with the Department of External Affairs directly); and that it is Vatican policy not to allow the accreditation of Ambassadors to Italy to the Holy See which prevents the Irish Ambassador to the Holy See from being based in the Villa Spada (if s/he is also accredited to Italy).
The Government has also made no effort to defend its decision on the lines I have set out - leading me to suspect they are quite happy to upset Vatican apologists and to allow their action to be seen as a rebuke to the Vatican.