Friday, March 21, 2014

What is it about Vatican diplomacy which is non-negotiable?

This last Monday's MondayVatican got me thinking about the fine art of diplomacy in the light of the world crisis whose "ground zero" just can't be all that far from my front door. Whenever issues related to diplomacy come up in discussions about Vatican reform, I start thinking about my job and my experience in general of diplomacy and how it works over the years which for me will soon count thirty. My colleagues from the European Union here in Kyiv have been working long hours since well before the start of the Maidan crisis here in Kyiv. For the rest of us, we have spent lots of time not involved but observing and informing the authorities which sent us here to Ukraine. As such, that is at it should be. I suppose crisis diplomacy must somehow beg the question concerning how diplomacy should be carried out under normal circumstances and for me whether the Holy See has a part to play in this world, often romanticized and highly touted for whatever reason. Why is it or is it really that nobody in the world seems to want to examine or question the world's diplomatic establishment?

It is not that I question Andrea Gagliarducci's motives, but in his weekly column his zeal for other reform issues puzzles me, as does his mention of Vatican diplomacy for the umpteenth week running claiming that the Holy Father has no intention either to retool, modify, reform or overhaul the Holy See's diplomatic apparatus. That leads me to suspect that Andrea thinks that indeed the Holy Father should look more closely, that what some refer to as "the world's first diplomacy" should indeed be on the negotiating table or the chopping block, depending on your preferred imagery.

Far be it from me to force Gagliarducci's own words or in the midst of what he sees as a flurry of activity to reform everywhere else in the Roman Curia but  in matters of diplomacy, but I can't help but think he'd like some answers as to why the Holy See's diplomatic sector might be non-negotiable in terms of the matters in which the cardinals demanded change before proceeding to the election of Pope Francis a year ago. Let me say very clearly that the right kind of reform of the Vatican's diplomacy might actually be a very good thing not only for the Church but for the secular world as well.

Way back last summer an ambassador friend I knew well from Trinidad, now stationed in a neighboring country, came to lunch with his dear wife and his colleague stationed here in Kyiv, whom I also esteem very highly. At some point the conversation turned to shop talk and my friends explained that one of them practices hard diplomacy and the other soft. Not being into the jargon, I asked an explanation, which I have never checked in Wikipedia but believe to be accurate and representative of the general approach to diplomacy in our world today on the part of developed countries. An ambassador who practices hard diplomacy on his country's behalf is most certainly involved in matters of trade and the balance of trade between the sending and receiving countries. Soft diplomacy most often centers around cultural exchanges: you bring in a dance troupe, an orchestra, maybe just a virtuoso or a traveling photography exhibit; you spend time promoting your country's language abroad. Neither one seems classic to me; in fact, both seem inappropriate of a country's representative extraordinary and plenipotentiary. Why not stop with commercial and cultural attache's or open a cultural center? This is one of the reasons why some countries are closing embassies and opening consulates headed by honorary consuls, who pay their own way for their own purposes, usually having to do with commerce and trade.

What kind of diplomacy do I practice, hard or soft? Neither, you might say, and as such I am the odd man out all around. The Holy See practices a classic diplomacy as old as the institution of permanent embassies itself and not many countries are interested in practicing back. The only real exception, in terms of active and demanding bilateral relationships would have to be Germany, because of something they call Staatskirchenrecht, a highly developed law branch regulating the place of religious bodies in society and foreseeing the Holy See as a negotiating partner in developing this law as it regards Catholics through the elaboration and regular amendment of concordats and lesser accords on specific issues like universities and theological faculties. Apart from Germany, it would be fair to say that Apostolic Nuncios have little to do when it comes to "high level" diplomacy. I am not complaining; I am stating a fact.

Andrea might well ask what then is the point? Over the course of the Holy See's diplomatic activity, even more recently in negotiations between Argentina and Chile, the Holy See has been a mediator and a peacemaker, but not everyone in our service is qualified for such a task nor can we keep nearly 150 Nuncios covering 180 countries, with supporting staff, out there in the field on a wing and a prayer. If reforming moves toward more subsidiarity in the Church are implemented and our key role in the process of selecting bishops is entrusted to others, what then?

Personally, I firmly believe that Nuncios have a profound role to play in the exercise of the Petrine ministry, the Pope's mandate from Christ Himself as successor of St. Peter, "to strengthen the brethren". I don't doubt for a minute that the group of eight Cardinals has not already discussed every aspect of the Holy Father's ministry which is willed to bind us all together in charity. It could very well be that there have not been any leaks on the topic and that Andrea and others will be pleasantly surprised when the diplomacy reform sees the light of day.

Perhaps all I want to say to Andrea and others who follow efforts to respond to the pre-conclave demands of the world's cardinals is that while faith and morals, the Creed and the Commandments, are non-negotiable, it is hard to fathom why Vatican diplomacy shouldn't be on the table.


1 comment:

  1. Dearest,

    thanks for reading my post and for commentary, which I find very reasonable and which I share. I drop my reply in your facebook mailbox, but please let me know if there is a way I can directly refer to Mr. Gullikson.

    I see that my point has not been understood, and it is obviously my fault, since I am not an English mother tongue and it is quite difficult to render several nuances I would like to explain.

    My last mondayvatican post was a sort of “epythomize” of the first Pope Francis’ year of Pontificate. I wanted to point out that Pope Francis has seemingly not the will to handle the Vatican diplomacy, and that a reform in that sense is far away. Which is not good.

    Pope Francis uses the prayer as a diplomatic tool, but I wanted to clearly assess in the piece that in fact all the prayer initiatives for peace did not achieved any diplomatic success, while the Holy See diplomatic initiatives did. Holy See still acts as a mediator, and this is obviously good. His weight in the international scenario is always less, and I don’t find this good.

    This weakening in my view comes out from a lack of vision and the skill itself of the Holy See diplomats, that are often prisoner of a post-Westphalian epysthemolog.

    There just a few prophetic nuncio, and their work is often undermined by the Secretariat of State, a Secretariat of State that keeps on working as if it would be working under the Pius XII era.

    Then, there theological matters. What I see, what I have been told by Vatican officials, is that Pope Francis is thinking to reform the Secretariat of State by dividing the two sections. The first section (general affairs) will be a “coordinating office”, while the diplomacy will be put on a par with other “umbrella” Secretariats. From a theological point of view, this would entail that the Pope is not the Holy See, while the Pope IS the Holy See. Speaking with an official of the Secretariat of State, this would also weaken the weight of the Pope’s diplomats, since their strenght also came from a sort of “Papal moral authority” over them, while in this case their weight might be undermined. I still have to study how this can happen, and why, but I found the question reasonable.

    The network of nuncios must be reformed, the way the Holy See acts in the international scenario rethought, but at the same time the Church must preserve its mission, its theological roots, its values that come from the Gospel.

    In fact, the reform must be nuanced, and what I see is that Pope Francis is not even thinking about it. He seemingly does not even understand why the Holy See has a diplomatic network, while the group of cardinals is mostly focusing on management reforms, and even in that case their discussion does not seem to be as nuanced as they may be.

    I am worried about the progressive weaking of the Vatican diplomacy. I am worried of a sort of “appeasement” the Holy See had on Italian matters, leaving often apart the international scenario. I was happy when Benedict XVI switched the focus to the international matters, with wide range speeches, trying to reform the mentality before than reforming the structure. I am thoughtful about the way Pope Francis is handling this reform. The reform include the diplomacy only because it includes the Vatican Secretariat of State. If this latter would not be involved in the reform, no outcomes about the Vatican diplomacy might have been expected.

    This is obviously my personal view. I would like the Holy See to have a wider vision, even to change the way the Vatican diplomats are educated in the Ecclesiastical Academy, and I would like the officials of the Secretariat of State get rid of the post-Westphalian epysthemology (do you remember what happened when the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace issued a document about a global authority with universal competences?). And I tried to point the state of the art of the issues at stake out. I am glad that this opened a discussion, an enriching one, I would say.
    I hope we will keep in touch!

    Andrea Gagliarducci


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