The Economist has a
gift for simplifying complex situations and complicating seemingly simple ones.
In its latest issue it offers an interesting angle on the argument that the
Holy See is not a sovereign state advanced by British barrister Geoffrey
Robertson and that therefore the Pope can be arrested for crimes against
humanity when he visits Britain later this year.
That he is responsible
for crimes against humanity is the really absurd contention. But The
Economist points out that what constitutes a sovereign state is far from clear
, so good luck to you, Mr Robertson. Take Somalia. It is clearly sovereign, as
it runs its own affairs, after a fashion, but is it a state? Take Haiti, which
is a state, but is it sovereign? Take Taiwan. It is an economic powerhouse and
yet only 23 countries recognise it – and most of them are small and impoverished
membership is not a good guide. Take Israel, a member of the UN. About a tenth
of UN member states do not recognise its right to exist, although it is
recognised as one. On the other hand, about a third of UN member states
recognise Kosovo’s right to exist, but it is not a member.
In reality, [says The Economist] UN
membership is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for functioning
statehood. Being outside the UN means that Kosovo is still waiting for its own
internet domain name, phone prefix and chance to play international football.
But Taiwan, recognised by even fewer countries, manages to have all three.
In the meantime, emboldened by the call to
arrest the Pope, one of his critics has spectacularly upped the ante. On the website of
the government-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC),writer and political commentator Bob Ellis wants the
international community to bomb the Vatican. (No, April Fool’s Day was two
weeks ago, so I did not make this up):
The Pope’s followers desolated, perhaps,
100,000 lives (or this is my guess) by sexual depravity in the past 80 years
and killed, perhaps, (this too is my guess, I ask for yours) no more than 5,000
smashed and embittered Catholic boys and girls they drove to suicide or drunken
oblivion and early death in those years.
The crimes are comparable pretty much and well-attested and well known from
enquiries here and in Germany, the US and Ireland. Why then do we not bomb the
Vatican and obliterate Italy for harbouring this criminal mastermind, this
known protector of evil predators? Why do we not pursue him through the sewers
of Europe and riddle his corpse with bullets?
How about obliterating
Italy, too? Is that really a good idea? Would it be possible to spare the
Uffici Gallery in Florence, please?