Cardinal Renato Martino, prefect of the Pontifical Council on Peace and Justice, has a habit of making personal pronouncements that he makes sound like dogma on issues which call for prudential judgments on which good Catholics can disagree. Or he garbles Church teaching, like saying the death penalty is never allowable. (Wrong.) Or he simply trots outthe typical European disdain for all things American. Sometimes he hits the trifecta.
This time he was speaking about a US public policy debate over whether we should secure our porous southern border with an actual wall. He said it was “an inhuman project” that will lead to the deaths of immigrants and is a violation of the dignity of the human person, basic human rights, etc.
Yet, Robert Miller at First Things notes that if Cardinal Martino doesn’t like walls on national borders with armed guards standing atop them, he should first start closer to home.
Vatican City, as most people know, is a sovereign state, albeit a very small one entirely within Italian territory in the city of Rome. Most visitors to this tiny country enter it by stepping from the Via della Conciliazione, which is in Italy, into St. Peter’s Square, which is in Vatican City. If you’re going to those parts of Vatican City that are not regularly open to the public, however, you have to show your passport at a guardhouse, as you would at other international borders. One doesn’t just walk in. In fact, except for St. Peter’s Square, almost the entire city-state is surrounded by high stone walls, including, on its southern and western borders, parts of the famous Leonine Walls, which were put up by Pope Leo IV in the ninth century. If you took it in your head to climb over these walls, the Vatican’s army, known as the Swiss Guard, would arrest you. The guards might wear those flashy uniforms designed by Michelangelo, but they carry SIG P75 9mm pistols and Heckler & Koch MP-5 submachine guns.
If the Vatican has the right to defend its borders from illegal intrusion—and I would argue that it does—why not the US?