at the same time stirling newberry has something of a point:
He [Ratzinger] is also part of the apparatus which meddles in the politics of other nations. And yet, his defenders demand that those who are not Catholic say nothing. I would be happy to stay out of the politics of the Church of Rome, if only it would stay out of my politics.here's the thing that makes the pope so unusual. he's both the head of state and the head of a religion. if he were just the head of a religion, it's harder to criticize the faithful's decision of who they think should lead them.
but because the pope is also the leader of a country, things are a little different. the vatican is really just a technical country rather than a real nation--they've managed to bamboozle the world into giving them a seat at the UN, diplomatic immunity, etc. even though they have no real territory or real citizenship. as others have complained "No other religion is granted this elevated status."
but this cuts both ways. unlike religious leaders, leaders of a country are always open to criticism by outsiders. that's simply part of politics. if the vatican gets to use it's diplomatic immunity to hide damaging evidence in abuse cases because they are a "country," it's fair game to criticize the vatican's political leadership. they can't hide behind the veil of ecumenicalism at the same time they muck around at international summits.
if the vatican wants to be treated like just another religion, it should stop claiming to be a country and give up its diplomatic perks. years ago, there was a campaign to get the vatican booted out of the UN, but it didn't really get anywhere. part of the problem may have been john paul the second's larger-than-life popularity. perhaps the new pope, who seems rigidly out of step with most of the catholic laity, not to mention the larger world, will not be as successful at keeping the church's unique status.
(thanks to the liberal avenger for the newberry quote)