Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 13, 1951

Clark -- Ambassador To What?

Herbert Fraser, Aurora, Colorado

The recent nomination of General Clark as ambassador to the Vatican is creating quite a flurry. Strong objections are being raised to the move, objections that have their origin in a keen desire to maintain separation of church and state in these United States. Those who defend the nomination reply that sending an ambassador to the Vatican would not endanger such separation, because Clark would not be sent to a church, but to a political state. Attempts to make a clear distinction between the religious and political natures of the Vatican are doomed to failure in the eyes of all who give the matter much thought. This will be dealt with somewhat in a later article. But, for the time being, we are perfectly willing to deal with the issue on the claim that the Vatican is a temporal power. Is the Vatican a political state? If so, what is its form of government, and who are the authorities in that government?

From the eighth century until 1870, with the exception of but a few years, there was a sizeable area under the temporal authority of the pope. At one time (1853) this amounted to over 17,000 square miles, with a population of over 3,000,000. These "Church States" were taken from the pope by Victor Emmanuel in 1870 and made a part of Italy. For nearly 60 years after this the pope was without temporal domains. Then, in 1929, by terms of the Lateran treaty with Italy, the pope was given dominion over an area totalling 108.7 acres. This area is called the Vatican. The inhabitants of the Vatican, from the pope on down, are not in any sense subject to the authority of the Italian government, but have a completely autonomous government. Plans are now being drawn to build a fleet of ocean going vessels, which will participate in an international convention. An air force is also being planned. Yes, we definitely agree with those who favor the Clark nomination that the Vatican is a political state. And it is this very truth that, when studied, can be made to prove very embarrassing to that political power and to others who endorse the Clark nomination.

Every political state has a political government. The civil authority of the Vatican is vested in the pope, who is an absolute monarch. Here is no limited monarchy, but one in which the one man exercises absolute, unlimited power over his domain. But two questions need to be studied regarding this potentate. How came he to be on the throne? And who are other key figures in the government of this sovereign power? There must be some recognized procedure by which a successor is to be chosen when a ruler dies. In some nations this is by natural inheritance—a son inherits the throne from his father. In other nations, however, the ruler is elected. This latter course is followed in the case of the ruler of the Vatican state. The ruler of the Vatican is an elected official but more important than this is the identity of the electors. The responsibility for electing the pope, the ruler of the Vatican state, falls solely to the college of Cardinals, a body of men never totaling more than 70 in number. And it should be noted that the pope becomes ruler of that political state altogether and solely because of having been selected as pope. The cardinals as surely elect a ruler of a political state as they elect a head of a religious movement! Further, all temporal rulers have advisers to assist them in conducting the affairs of state. These cardinals, the very ones who elect the ruler, serve as the chief advisers to that supreme pontiff. Their responsibility as advisers has to do with matters of a temporal nature as well as religious. These are facts that can be easily verified by consulting authoritative reference books, including the Catholic Encyclopedia. The cardinals are an integral part of the Vatican state!

Now, who are these cardinals? Several are permanent inhabitants of the Vatican, and are subject to no earthly power except the pontiff of the Vatican. Others are found in various countries of the world. There are three in these United States (Spellman, Mooney, and Stritch), all claiming American citizenship! If anything can link a person with a political state it will be that person's privilege in connection with the selection of a ruler, and his occupation of an office as one of the principal advisers to that ruler. American citizens have an official voice in the selection of the ruler of a foreign power, and serve as official advisers to that ruler! Some, in arguing for the nomination of Clark, have attempted to liken this to sending an ambassador to England. King George of England is also head of the established church of that nation. If it is all right to send an ambassador to England, whose ruler is also head of a church, why is it not all right to send an ambassador to the Vatican state, that ruler being also head of a church? The difference is clearly seen when one recognizes that no part of the government of England claim to be subjects of King George and also citizens of the United States. A distinction with reference to civil identity is always kept in view. No person claiming citizenship in the USA has any voice in the selection of the ruler of England or occupies any office as principal adviser to that ruler. There is only one country in the world in which a "citizen" of the USA can serve as an elector of, and as an official chief adviser to, the ruler of another country. The country is the Vatican, and a cardinal is the person. It would be rather amusing to hear someone explain how a man can legally be an American citizen and at the same time a high official in the government of a foreign political power.

If there should be a rupture in the relations of these two political states, the USA and the Vatican (ruptures have occurred many times between the papal government and other governments), to which would the cardinals claiming citizenship in this country be loyal? Remember, they are a part of the government of the Vatican, a political state! (Why should not these men be forced to register as agents of a foreign power?) And what right have they to be considered as both citizens of this country and high officials in the government of another country?