Bargaining with the holey C

It seems to me there’s a considerable amount of bullshit in the UK government’s response to the petition urging it to tell the pope on second thought to stay home.

The visit is described as a Papal Visit with the status of a State Visit… 

The Holy See has a global reach and so is a valuable international partner for the UK Government.  Our relationship with the Holy See enables us to address jointly a range of foreign policy and development issues…

As with any bilateral diplomatic relationship, there are issues on which we disagree.

Lots of things have “a global reach”; that doesn’t necessarily make them worth treating as honored guests. Al Qaeda has a global reach; McDonald’s has a global reach; sexual slavery has a global reach. Some global reaches are perncious and tyrannical, and liberal governments should not give them standing by inviting them for state visits.

And talking about the relationship between the government of the UK and “the Holy See” as a bilateral diplomatic relationship just seems absurd. What diplomacy can the Vatican engage in? What point is there in it? What can the Vatican offer any real government that makes it worth treating as if it were a real government too? What is the reward that makes it worth turning a blind eye to “the issues on which we disagree”?

The reality is that the UK government had no obligation at all to treat the Vatican as a real state with a real government and real diplomats and real benefits to offer. So why is it doing it?

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