The Vatican is throwing a hissy fit over the fact that the Chinese government has just appointed the head of the Roman Catholic Church in their country without consulting with Rome first.
The last batch of Wikileaks showed, beyond doubt, that the Vatican deliberately tries to influence the domestic policies of nations throughout the world and much of this is done through the offices of their "men" on the ground. Roman catholic bishops throughout the world are working as fifth columnists in whichever country they find themselves in and their loyalty, whatever their nationality, is primarily to the Vatican nation rather than their country of residence. At least, the Pope and his political aides obviously expect it to be.
Really, I can understand the motivation behind China's action. Not only that, I think they are setting a sensible example for the rest of the world to follow. I don't like the idea of governments appointing religious leaders within their own countries without reference to the church concerned and so the Chinese solution to foreign influence under the guise of religion is too extreme for my tastes and, no doubt, all democrats. However, this does not mean that governments should not lay down laws to control political interference in their nation wherever that comes from. If a nation or any other foreign organisation wants to communicate with another nation's politicians it should be done through the diplomatic channels already in place and not by any other means. The Vatican nation is running an intelligence agency in every country it has access to without any fear of diplomatic retaliation. This is wrong.
Of course, the Roman Catholic hierarchy is not the only bunch of foreign politicians interfering in the politics and culture of other countries. In Britain, the loyalty of most Muslims to various foreign religious groupings and individuals has resulted in extreme damage to British culture and our politicians willing to appease and pander to the Islamic community whilst not giving a damn about the inherently peaceful members of other faith traditions, including Christians and atheists. A report in our newspapers today states that our government agencies have had absolutely no impact on the level of anti-British feeling and loyalty to foreign institutions within our Islamic community since the terrorist attacks in London. Muslims, in this respect, are no different to Roman Catholics, they are basically cultural fifth columnists.
But this perversion of religion for political ends exists even closer to home. Throughout the world, national, Anglican churches are being bullied into adopting foreign moralities, doctrine and culture by the Archbishop of Canterbury who appears to have decided that the Pope and the various ayatollahs have the right idea when it comes to international politics and faith leadership. And morality is, most definitely, a political issue.
So what should the governments of democratic nations do to stop aggressive influence by foreign religionists on domestic politics and society? To me the answer is simple and obvious. They should democratically impose democracy on the situation. Although countries such as the Vatican should still have full diplomatic privileges through their embassies, and religious groupings should have representatives in the same way as the Church of England has "our man at the United Nations," all other officers should be appointed locally. Officers in positions where they are easily able to influence the politics of a nation (for example, in respect of episcopal churches, their bishops and above) should be chosen by secret ballot at whatever level or levels appropriate for each denomination. No doubt, in the case of Roman Catholicism, this would be the domestic bench of bishops. The Church of England would probably continue with its appointment by committee, although this should be democratised by the insistence of secret ballots within the process and more enlightened churches, such as TEC and SEC would continue with their admirable good practice.
Furthermore, foreign religious leaders should be treated the same as foreign political leaders. Should such leaders try to influence the political processes, society or culture of a country other than their own, outside of official diplomatic channels, then the governments of the country attacked should come down on them like a ton of bricks as they would if a secular foreign power tried it on in the same way.
There is not just one freedom. We have to balance different freedoms against each other. In my opinion, the freedom to enjoy and develop ones own culture unmolested by aggressively promoted foreign cultures should be regarded as a higher freedom than the freedom to blackmail, bribe and bamboozle people that the world's religions currently enjoy.