Perhaps the strangest thing connected with the almost 24/7 coverage of John Paul II for the last number of weeks is the difference between the way the mainstream media approves its overwhelming coverage of this purely religious matter while at the same time degrading constantly other matters of religion, particularly that of evangelicals, in this country. The media, both documented-wise and plainly obvious, is highly if not ultra-liberal and therefore would seem to downplay the religious importance of the papacy just as it deplores consistently any hint of religion as it bears on American society; yet, the paper/network folks have gone out of their way to practically accord divinity to the Pope while damning wholeheartedly people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and James Dobson, who are no favorites in this corner, but who certainly should not be castigated if the pope is to be lionized and practically made into a religious icon of some sort. After all, the Pope, no matter who he is, is just a man.
There are those who insist that the Pope is more than “just a man” because he also heads a pseudo kind of nation (Vatican City) that occupies some 108.7 acres or so in Rome and presumably includes millions of adherents (citizens?) throughout the world. However, there are millions of Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians throughout the world, with their headquarters in the United States and other countries, but the leaders of these aggregations and their followers are not accounted as important enough to deserve diplomatic recognition and all the other adjuncts that go along with purely non-spiritual affairs. There’s something wrong with this; however, this is not to disparage the inspiration and pressure that can be brought by the Pope in the interest of doing good things. It is merely to point up the fact that the Pope operates from a strictly religious stance, and that, therefore, this nation, which operates on the basis of strict church-state separation, conducts itself strangely by actually condoning religion as state policy-maker-apparatus in Rome while denying that statecraft apparatus here, and constitutionally and justifiably so.
The Pope’s official title is Bishop of Rome, so he is not the president or monarch of any nation or state of any kind, though he is recognized as the Head of the Roman Catholic Church, just as Gordon B. Hinckley is recognized as the Head of the LDS (Mormon) Church in this country. Neither organization has a government, is accorded statehood, has an army, or is a member of the United Nations, yet the Vatican, ruled by the Pope, sends representatives (diplomats) to world governments and receives diplomats from the same, as if the Vatican is a nation itself. What would the media elites in this country scream if the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest non-Catholic Christian denomination in the U.S., insisted upon being recognized by other governments, especially the U.S. government, sending and receiving diplomats, holding parleys, entertaining visiting heads of state, and all the rest? Since the SBC has adherents (citizens) all over the world, wouldn’t this be a logical expectation? Well, no. And in strict observance of the principle of separation of church and state, neither should the Vatican receive this sort of attention from this country, i.e., nothing official, nothing having to do with government.
It is also passing strange that the Pope is recognized and lauded by the media for stands on matters such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and homosexual behavior, while those who agree completely with him in this country, evangelicals in the main, are castigated for even mentioning their disapproval of these things and accused of attempting to take the nation over in the name of Christianity. While the media recognizes the distant Pope’s right to make statements about how Americans, whether Catholic or not, should impinge upon their government according to their deep beliefs, it insists that neither citizens nor religious leaders in this country have that same right of accommodating their convictions in their civic activities. The dichotomy in this is thick enough to cut with a knife.
Though the queen is the temporal head of the Church of England (Anglican), the Archbishop of Canterbury is recognized as the actual head of that church. The vast majority of its members live in Africa. The vast majority of Roman Catholics live in Africa and Latin America. How would it be if the Archbishop of Canterbury had his own “Holy See,” sent out diplomats to all governments, received diplomats, etc.? Would the queen put up with that…or would the citizens of England, whether adherents or not, put up with that? If Muslim leaders could agree on a leader (probably through some sort of bloody attrition), would the governments of the world recognize him as some sort of secular force with whom to be reckoned? Of course not! These examples represent the wedding of church and state on an international scale, something that is not tolerated in this country on a mere national scale. Indeed, the mayhem that can be caused by religious zealots in control of governments is seen currently in the inhumane actions of Muslim groups of one bloody character or another all over the world – killing in the name of Allah…religion gone amok as a governmental force and impacting innocent victims throughout the world! Shameful!
This is in no way a denigration of the Pope or the Vatican or the Roman Catholic denomination. These entities are responsible for great, good works throughout the world. It is merely to indicate that this nation should not send a diplomat to the Vatican. To do so is to recognize Roman Catholicism as a secular nation, not a religious order, since the business of this government is conducted with other governments, not non-governmental entities, whether religious or operating under any other kind of auspices; however, the Vatican is a religious, not a secular, entity, so diplomatic connections are never in order. If under the U.S. Constitution there can be no official recognition of an establishment of religion in this country, there certainly can be no recognition of an establishment of religion by this government of any religious order anywhere else…plain, common sense.
Diplomatic recognition of any religious order by this nation is an overt act of hypocrisy with regard to its own Constitution, any claims by a hypocritical media to the contrary notwithstanding. The United States has an embassy in Italy, and any matter, church or otherwise, that the Vatican needs to bring to the attention of this nation can be handled through the U.S. ambassador to Italy…also plain, common sense. This is the avenue of access that would be required of any other religious leader in Italy, Rome, or anywhere else.