Magazine article The Humanist

Foreign Political Interference ... Vatican Style

Magazine article The Humanist

Foreign Political Interference ... Vatican Style

Article excerpt

Reports that the Chinese, Indonesian, and perhaps other foreign governments tried to influence the White House through political contributions to the Democratic Party during the 1996 presidential election have prompted vocal outcries from Republicans quick to condemn. Then came evidence that the GOP has been far from immune to such foreign influence, and Democrats quickly put the shoe on the other foot.

Those surprised by all this ignore two important facts. First, the United States channeled millions of dollars during the Cold War to political parties in Western Europe, including at least $10 million to the Christian Democrats in Italy's 1948 election campaign. The United States also used the CIA to overthrow elected foreign governments and to defeat other candidates, especially in Latin America.

Second, the Vatican is constantly interfering in American politics without any threat of congressional investigation. And such intervention occurs not only in the United States but across the world.

Since the Vatican's intervention is almost as top secret as the CIA's, the following little-known episodes, with one exception, are provided by Catholic writers. These insiders recognize that the Vatican's actions don't represent all or even most Roman Catholics. In fact, hundreds of thousands of American Catholics are so opposed to some of the positions of the pope and his U.S. appointees that they regularly vote for candidates who oppose the Vatican's official line on contraception, abortion, aid to parochial schools, family planning, and other gender- and sex-related issues.

George E. Irani's book, The Papacy and the Middle East, illustrates the Vatican's involvement in Lebanon's series of religious wars in the 1970s and 1980s. Irani writes,"The Holy See is not an impartial actor. . . . It has temporal and spiritual interests to defend." It also has economic interests, according to Irani: "The Church's financial interests are involved with those of Italian capital and the natural markets of Italy lie along the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean."

Vatican intervention includes a visit to Lebanon in 1982 by Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York as the vicar of U.S. military forces. Monsignor John G. Meaney, regional director of the pontifical mission in Lebanon, said Cooke's visit"had great influence in getting the State Department perspective on the right track. It shaped their policy to a great extent and the policy of Congress."

The Vatican also works with and through Maronite and Melkite Catholics in Lebanon. Among the various religious militias,the New York Times reported in 1989 that the Maronite was the largest, with about 26,000 fighters, including one faction known as the "Lebanese Forces," which alone numbered 6,000 fighters.

Irani also wrote about the Maronite militias, citing Salim al-Laouzi, an important Lebanese journalist:

In the early 1970s . . . some Maronite leaders, through the

monks of Kaslik, contacted the Holy See to ask for suggestions

regarding possible training centers for Maronite

militias in Europe. [Al-Laouzi] said, "A secret military organization

based in Rome sent experts who had previous

experiences in the wars of southern Sudan and Biafra....

These experts in guerrilla warfare picked the best among

Christian militias and sent them to the city of Anvers [Belgium],

where they joined special training centers." Moreover,

the Lebanese journalist alleged that the Holy See advised

the Maronite monks to fund the training of the militias

through the Phalangist Party.

According to the October 27, 1989, National Catholic Reporter, the Maronite Catholics in the 1930s "had become enamored of Hitler's Nazi Youth and Mussolini's Fascist Youth and from that concept fashioned their own Phalange Party. …

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