Rome and the Vatican

One of the most frustrating things as a freelancer is constantly trying to get editors to believe that what you say is not only correct, but also better than what their regular staff might be able to come up with. I have to deal with this struggle daily.

I have a number of regular strings, who more-or-less listen to what I say these days. But, since I left Sudan and moved to Italy, most of these regular strings have had to fall by the wayside. Those publications that are deeply interested in genocide within darkest Darfur are less moved when it comes to the vagaries of the Pope or the deepening insanity of the Italian Prime Minister. So I’m trying to build up a whole new set of strings, based on what people are not covering at the moment.

A new news service has recently popped up – since I have not insured this blog against libel and I have no big paper willing to bale me out, I will not say which one – and, interested by the project, I decided to try and get involved. At first, there was some interest, but when I started to pitch some ideas all interest seemed to die down and I heard nothing back. Whether this was due to a lack of money (since I never work for free, and others might be prepared to) or simply the mediocrity of my ideas, I guess I’ll never know.

Feeling a little irked by this this evening, I decided to pull out the ideas I had submitted, dust them down a little and see if they might be suitable for submission elsewhere. And, reading through, I was pleased to discover that they were as good as I remember. For me, they reflect what is really happening in Italy; the articles about Italy that the news service has so far decided to publish do not.

I pitched these ideas before Christmas. One of the ideas has really started to develop, which makes me feel even more put out since, had it been taken up when I suggested, the news service could have really appeared ahead of the game.

It concerns the relationship between the Vatican and Rome. The Vatican is an autonomous nation state, independent of Italy, and came in to being in 1929, when Benito Mussolini signed the Lateran Treaty. What this meant was that you the Vatican City could now issue its own coinage and visa permits, and reject any law that Rome passed which it deemed contrary to Catholic values. In practice, it rarely scrutinises statutes from Rome too closely. But, in January, there was a seisimic shift in Vatican thinking (which barely brought a sneeze to the world’s press).

The Vatican suggested that from now on it would be taking a keen look at all legislation to come out of Rome, and only approving laws that were in line with Catholic values.

What does that tell you about Vatican-Roman relations? That they are slightly rocky, perhaps. Certainly that the Vatican is worried about the amoral direction society is drifting in.

Tied in with this story is the tragic tale Eluana Englaro, a beautiful young lady who has been in a coma for 17 years. Her father has taken the state to court, arguing that life support should be switched off and she should be allowed to die. This has set off a whole debate on euthanasia – which the Vatican is firmly against – in Italy. The father won the court case, but the story is not yet over; no sooner had the highest of high courts said that the life support could be shut off, then the Italian welfare minister Maurizio Sacconi waded in and issued a decree that it was unconstitutional to take such action. Back to the legal debate.

(For a Little Englander looking in, it seems unthinkable that someone from government can wade in and start meddling with a ruling from the court, but, after all, this is Italy).

Then today, a headline in La Republica: “Stop this murder!” (words reportedly said by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, the Vatican’s Health Minister). So clearly the Vatican is not pleased about all of this – just one clear example of the divisions emerging between Rome and the Vatican, and how Catholic values may be being phased out.

This would have been such an interesting story to write. But, since I never got the chance to, I decided to include a small excerpt from it here. The story with Englaro is almost over, I understand. In three days time, doctors say her feeding tubes will be removed.

(Which to me, whatever you might think of euthanasia, just seems cruel. Don’t let her starve. Why not inject her with something to speed up her death? Because, of course, Italian law doesn’t allow that kind of killing. Now that is warped.)

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