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Vatican: Can Democracy Thrive?

Posted February 28, 2005

Given the ill health of Pope John Paul II, there is much speculation of who might succeed him as Pontifex Maximus. An even better question might be: shouldn't the European Union and the United States focus on bringing democracy to Vatican City?

The impenetrable defenses of the Vatican

Currently, the Pope is selected by the college of cardinals. Who are these cardinals? They have all been appointed by either the current or a previous pope. That's akin to our president being chosen by Supreme Court justices, rather than a popular vote. To further concentrate power among themselves, only the cardinals are eligible to be elected pope. That rules out Father Bob in my neighborhood, even though he has all of the spiritual qualities necessary to take on the job. Why deny suffrage to the rest of the Vatican's citizens? Where does it say that the priests, bishops, and acolytes shouldn't have say in this crucial and very rare election?

It is also time that term limits constrict the reign of the pontiff. The current pope has ruled the Holy See with an iron fist for a quarter century. Long after John Paul II campaigned to eradicate totalitarianism behind the Iron Curtain, shouldn't he support the democratization of his own domain? This ancient theocracy is the despotic blight of Europe, and yet none of the European leadership has criticized this institution. Elections in Iraq and Afghanistan prove that dictatorships have no place in the twenty-first century.

America is no stranger to regime change. Our government could foment a coup d'etat within the elite Swiss Guard. Perhaps one of those halberd-toting warriors would be convinced to step of as interim pope, or at least prime minister until elections are held and a constitution written.

The time for action is now. The people of Vatican City deserve democracy, and our administration has every obligation to restore their freedom. If the papal leadership will not embrace democracy, sanctions, and even invasion, might be necessary.



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