The self-inflicted wounds of Vatican diplomacy

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Dec 16, 2003

When he made these comments, Cardinal Martino was supposed to be introducing the Pope's message for the World Day of Peace. Instead, reporters got him talking about Saddam Hussein.

What he said was objectively loopy. It's one thing to oppose the death penalty; it's quite another to say that you're treating someone "like a beast" when you give him a physical examination. If the individual in question is a notorious war criminal, this excess of compassion is even more striking. And by any normal standard, Saddam Hussein is living under more humane conditions now, in US custody, than when he was when he spent his time in a burrow-- on his own volition!

The net effect? In all likelihood, he convinced most observers that Vatican officials are hopelessly out of touch with reality. Based on that perception, people probably won't pay attention to the Pope's message. And of course the message itself was lost in the welter of coverage for Cardinal Martino's outburst, so thousands of people won't even hear about the Pope's message.

(And maybe that's just as well. Frankly, I am at a loss to explain the Pope's enthusiasm for expanding the authority of the UN. But that's another story. )

Cardinal Martino has been the Vatican's most outspoken critic of US policy in this conflict with Iraq. But at this point, his intemperate criticism of the US hurts the Vatican much more than it hurts the White House.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Reles - Dec. 20, 2003 2:16 PM ET USA

    Look at the attention Cardinal Martino is getting, maybe he needs it. I personally think Saddam Hussien should be put on an island all by himself and let him think about all he has done. He's as evil a man as Hitler and Stalin was. Stein

  • Posted by: - Dec. 18, 2003 8:13 PM ET USA

    Deek: It appears that Cardinal Martino maybe guilty of the same sin as Lucifer.-Pride!

  • Posted by: - Dec. 17, 2003 8:48 PM ET USA

    Did someone once say, "by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.?'' If we are real disciples, real followers of Jesus, shouldn't we want to spare all human life, even those guilty of the most heinous crimes? This is almost 2004 and our current Holy Father has wisely said that we should not have capitol punishment except in thhe rarest of cases. God for Cardinal Martino for encouraging us to really follow Chirst.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 17, 2003 10:16 AM ET USA

    My suspicion is that many Vatican curia are privately delighted that Cardinal Martino has bent his own elbow into his own ear on this one. I believe that he is now in the frying pan on simmer and saute (a French word) and someone is currently going through the spice rack to enhance the aroma.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 17, 2003 12:58 AM ET USA

    Doesn't this seem to indicate that many [most ?] at the Vatican are truly and inded "hopelessly out of touch with reality"? Again, AGAIN ! Fewer and fewer pay any attention to our leadership. [Leadership ???] Whose fault is that ?

  • Posted by: - Dec. 16, 2003 7:55 PM ET USA

    A quote from "Moral Guidance" Loyola University press Chicago IL 1942 . "The state may take the life of duly condemned criminals if the maximum penalty is deemed necessary for the common peace and for the security of life and property. The reason is that the purpose of the existence of the state is to maintain social order and to protect the rights of its citizens." this book has the Imprimatur of Samual Cardinal Strtich,D.D. Archbishop of Chicago. 1942 that paragraph has never been more right.

  • Posted by: shrink - Dec. 16, 2003 2:33 PM ET USA

    In 1945, Mussolini was captured and summarily executed by Italian partisans. His body was then hung upside down for public display in Milan. I don't believe the Vatican protested these activities, due possibly to the little fact the Muss. murdered some of 300,000 countrymen. For the sake of consistency, shouldn't the good Cardinal apologize to the world both for this Italian intemperance and Vatican timidity at the time?......

  • Posted by: Charles 275 - Dec. 16, 2003 1:31 PM ET USA

    It just confirms the fact that many in the Vatican are so soaked in European-ism that they can't distinguish it from Catholic teaching.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 16, 2003 1:21 PM ET USA

    I take it Cardinal Martino believes Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas are behaving in a morally unacceptable manner against the Orcs and Urak-Hai. And, further, I assume that he wishes some type of brokered peace with Saruman to avoid any needless bloodshed. Newsflash your Eminence: This type of pandering won't prevent terrorist attacks in Italy. There was a time when Cardinals red hats signified the willingness to have their blood shed as martyrs. Those days are soon upon us.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 16, 2003 1:17 PM ET USA

    I am loathe to criticize a Pope. However, I cannot help but wonder what Dostoevsky and Soloviev would say about Pope John Paul II's enthusiasm for UN peacekeeping missions. Peacekeeping missions that are only necessary because UNFPA wasn't successful in getting 100% of the indigenous population to abort their pregnancies.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Dec. 16, 2003 12:50 PM ET USA

    Martino's comments show a total lack of prudence in what to say, who to say it so, how to say it, and when to say it. It makes one wonder how this guy got to be a cardinal.