Cate Mackenzie

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Missing in the Holy See

Staircase at the Vatican, courtesy rbhamjee/flickr

When it comes to the Vatican, all eyes recently have been on Pope Benedict XVI’s tour to Mexico and Cuba, and the adulation that followed. In his Easter vigil mass he noted that “Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible…With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify.” Some would task that the Vatican itself has also lost sight of good.

In this regard, what has not made such a splash in the news is the Vatican’s sad record when it comes to gender apartheid — though an article by HdG, Amb. Maria St Catherine De Grâce Sharpe will certainly give you a taste. Ambassador Sharpe’s article really caught my eye as it covers a situation that seems on the one hand, blatantly obvious – does anyone really expect the Catholic Church to practice gender equality? – while also being shocking and leading me to think, “let me check my calendar…oh yes, we are in the 21st century…”

She takes aim at the Catholic Church’s hypocrisy in espousing anti-discriminatory rhetoric while simultaneously denying women the possibility of becoming paid, diplomatic-rank professional Holy See representatives. Ambassador Sharpe notes that the “Holy See is a sovereign moral authority at the UN promoting itself as a “friend of humanity”” but does not see fit to allow women the right to represent the Vatican in a professional capacity. Her use of the term ‘apartheid’ may seem inflammatory and intended to provoke – this may indeed be the case.

It could also be argued that such an approach is necessary to draw attention to this issue and get it the same level of coverage as Saudi princess’ Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdulaziz’s piece last week for the BBC garnered.

In her article, Ambassador Sharpe also makes some quite radical proposals which she believes are necessary for the current situation to improve; by radical I mean declaring that the Holy See should have its membership of the UN as a Permanent Observer revoked. This would be a drastic step and one without precedent (I believe) but then again, actions speak louder than words.


Originally published here by the Foreign Policy Association.

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This entry was posted on April 15, 2012 by in Posts and tagged , , .

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