Reflections on the closing of the Irish Embassy to the Holy See

I’ve been thinking about the decision to close the Irish Embassy to the Holy See.

If I were the Vatican’s Secretary of State, I would close the Holy See’s Embassy in Ireland because of budgetary constraints, and inform them that all business with Ireland would henceforth be handled from a desk at the nunciature in London.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. moon1234 says:

    Ha ha. Maybe appoint an Anglican convert as the sub-nuncio from London assigned to all communications with Ireland.

    Too funny.

  2. TNCath says:

    Ohhh, Father! In the South we would say, “Them’s fightin’ words!” However, that would certainly get the Irish government’s attention! Perhaps your buddy Father Blake might be appointed?

  3. Joe Magarac says:

    But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    This entire episode is an obvious insult to the Pope who is planning his visit there. The Irish hierarchy and many of the priests have not been obedient for years, neither have been the people. The myth of Irish Catholicism was brought home to me when I worked with Irish students in the late 1980s. Already, a mindset of rebellion and liberalism had entered the mainstream. This closing of the Irish embassy is politically a slap-in-the-face to His Holiness. In addition, one need only look at the serious lack of TLMs in Ireland to see that the renewal which is happening elsewhere is not happening there. The facts show hardly any regular TLMs and a sprinkling of special ones. The national seminary ordained six men as deacons last year, and the orders are not getting vocations hardly. Part of the problem is that some of the bishops are closed to the newer more traditional orders in their dioceses. The FSSPS are growing in some of the dioceses, thank God, but do not always have regular TLMS-having in some cases, one Mass a month in the evening. This embassy closing is merely a sign of the sick times in Ireland. I have a dear Irish priest friend who belongs to a conservative order and he has been trying to work in his own country for a long time. Pray for him and for Ireland.

  5. thickmick says:

    LOL! If only…boy, that would be something!

  6. Centristian says:

    The sexual abuse crisis should never be minimalized, of course, and our church leaders must tread carefully, sensitively, and prudently at all times with respect to it, to be sure. That having been said, the decision by the Irish government to close its embassy to the Holy See makes no sense to me. Such an action implies that it was somehow citizens of the Vatican State or officers of the Holy See who were guilty of the unspeakable crimes in Ireland, and not Irishmen; that the various crimes of sexual abuse were somehow perpetrated by the Vatican State against the Irish Republic!

    Well that’s not it at all, is it? The fact is that Irishmen were responsible for these crimes and Irishmen were responsible for covering them up. So, therefore, come up with a diplomatic sanction against a state made up mostly of Italians to retaliate against crimes committed by one’s own citizens? Dumb. Ireland’s government has gotten it all wrong, diplomatically speaking.

    “…and inform them that all business with Ireland would henceforth be handled from a desk at the nunciature in London. ”

    A desk with a portrait of the Queen hanging behind it.

  7. xavier217 says:

    Father, somehow I just don’s see a future for you in diplomacy. Pity. [Oh well… ]

  8. Fr_Sotelo says:

    What a sorrow to see the relationship between the Holy See and the Republic of Ireland at such a state. We are speaking of one of the Church’s most faithful daughters, with a glorious history of saints and scholars. I think the Holy Father should write a follow up letter to the Irish people, to explain to them the progress the Church is making and to give them the continued assurance of his fatherly solicitude. The diplomatic tensions, I think, are a symptom of an underlying crisis of anger, a perception of the Irish that the Church could simply care less and is clueless. That perception is erroneous, but the more it can be assuaged with fatherly words from the Pope, the less chance there will be of losing more and more of the faithful.

  9. Hidden One says:

    Better than “henceforth”, I think, might be “for the time being”. That would leave the door open for the resumption of proper relations in a way that “henceforth” might not.

  10. Prof. Basto says:


    You are absolutely correct. In diplomacy, there is even a principle sanctioning what you propose: the Principle of Reciprocity – when applying this principle one State gives the other the same treatment it receives. Public international law recognizes the principle of equality between States, and reciprocity decisions make this principle palpable by forcing a parity of treatment.

    The Holy See cannot be in a position inferior to that of Ireland. So if Ireland decides not to have an Embassy to the Holy See, instead dealing with the Holy See by means of a section of another Embassy, then why should the Holy See keep its Ireland Nunciature, as if Ireland were a superior State, and the Holy See an inferior State, worthy of less consideration?


    But, the troubling thing is that, in the opinion of several commentators, this is not an isolated fact, but instead it is just one alarming fact that forms part of a wider trend: the trend of the Holy See having a diminushed international importance. That depends not only on the Holy See. The international community is based on relations.

    So, not the importance of the Holy See as a religious entity, as the Seat of Peter, etc, but the importance of the Holy See as AS AN ACTOR IN THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AND IN THE DIPLOMATIC FIELD, that is to say, its importance as a “person of public international law”, the importance of the Vatican as a State, and of the Holy See as the equivalent of a State before international law, depends upon the relevance that THE OTHER STATES, the other players of the international community, decide to attribute to it.

    And, in this world where the cultural (and political) influence of the Church AND OF CATHOLICISM is FADING, due to the growing and unceasing rise of a RADICAL SECULARISM, (that often comes hand in hand with anti-Catholic or with anti-Catholic Church, or even with anti-institutional religion attitudes), it comes as no suprise that States now decide to ignore and snub the Holy See, treating it as a second-class member of the international community.

    A British diplomat quoted in the mainstream press avaliable on the internet even compared the feeling of serving in the Vatican to serving in the last days of the Most Serene Republic of Venice; others speak of at least 40 countries deciding to close their diplomatic missions to the Vatican, in imitation of the Irish gesture. This is all indeed possible in today’s world.

    The Church has done so much to “adapt” to the world, so much was her voice supressed by herself (by means of the post-conciliar unclear Magisterium, of lenghty documents prone to unclear and watered down language, where before was clarity), that the Church’s voice has become quite irrelevant in the eyes of several States: no longer a Respected Voice. In the old days, when the Pope spoke, he was heard by the peoples themselves, the mass of Catholics, and so the States had to pay attention to what the Pope’s position was too.

    But the lack of clarity of the Magisterium, and what is worse, the APPEARENCE OF CHANGE in religious matters, alienated multitudes from Catholicism. In many countries that were traditionally Catholics, masses of practicing Catholics were replaced with hordes of nominal Catholics and a great number of former Catholics. I know many people who stopped to care about religion in the wake of Vatican II — all positions can change, they say, and will change. Several “Catholics”, when a Pope dies, hope for the election of a successor that allows for women ordination, as if this were possible: those “Catholics” are convinced that the Church’s stance on matters of faith and morals can change. So why care about the prohibition of condoms, or of artificial conception, when all this can change, they think. This is all the fault of the Vatican II-created PERCEPTION OF CHANGE.

    Now, since the peoples that were once traditionally Catholic no longer care about the Church, now that Churches are empty, why should States continue to care about maintaining an Embassy at the Vatican? That’s the thinking that leads to the sunset of the Holy See’s international prominence.

  11. heway says:

    I’m sorry but as an Irish American with many Irish friends, I must disagree with putting the blame on secularism. Do not discount the abuse scandal. Fifteen 15 years ago a friend of my son, said she would never send her child to a catholic school because of the abuse shown to her mother in the 50’s. The Irish were taken advantage of. Once they became educated and saw what was truly happening, they have revolted.
    They have been deeply hurt because the Vatican did not protect the humble and the innocent.
    I only have one grandson -his mother is from Mexico but his name is Sinon Karol. Sinon, the patron saint of County Clare and Karol for Pope John Paul. The saints are the only ones who will protect us from the abusers inour midst.

  12. cumecclesia says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf,
    I hold tremendous respect and admiration for you and the apostolic work you conduct on this blog which continues to be a great blessing to me. I have even had the honor to serve Holy Mass for you on several occasions. Yet, it is with regret, that I have noticed a pattern of bias against and perhaps even an outright dislike for the Irish in your observations on this blog. I am an American of Irish descent who does not take offense easily. I just find your repeated “off hand” remarks against all things Irish frustrating. Instead, what I would expect from a priest of your caliber, is sharing in our lament for the decline of the faith in Ireland and offering prayers and encouragements for those trying to rectify this dire situation. What comes across however, is an aura of almost amusement at this decline, and an attitude that seems like one is saying, “see, I told you so, Ireland was never the most Catholic country in the world!”
    I am particularly frustrated by the comment of Centristian who stated, “A desk with a portrait of the Queen hanging behind it” should be present at your make believe nunciature in London. This is a mockery of generations of Catholic martyrs who died at the hands of the protestant English and their Queen. Would anyone else on this blog make a similar mockery of French martyrs during the revolution of 1789? I do not think so.
    Fr. Zuhlsdorf, please come to respect Irish Catholicism and all that it has contributed to the Church over the generations. It has born saints, sent missionaries across the world, preserved much of the writings of Western Civilization in its monasteries, kept the faith under persecution claiming “Ireland has and will have only one Queen” (Our Lady not Elizabeth), a legacy of martyrs–such as priests offering Holy Mass on rocks in the middle of might not to be detected by the British, received an apparition from Our Lady and so on. The decline of the faith in Ireland is due primarily to the ramifications of the adulterous union that has taken place there between the Church and liberalism. The good people of that country have been sheep without shepherds for fifty years now. May Our Lady of Knock and the intercession of the Blessed Columba Marmion preserve the faith in Ireland.
    I thank you for your consideration of what I wrote and assure you of my continued prayers for your priestly ministry.

    [Thanks for the prayers! I also hope that the Irish people return to the practice of the Faith lead by good pastors! And, for the record, I think the Ireland Desk should have a little Irish flag on it.]

  13. Fr Martin Fox says:

    The harms of the abuse-and-lack-of-oversight scandal are real and deep.

    That said, they also serve as a useful pretext and hobbyhorse for folks with other agendae.

    I agree with Father’s suggestion of shuttering the nunciature in Ireland.

  14. B.C.M. says:

    A better response, rather than sending the nunciature to London, would be to increase our presence in The Republic. Perhaps then, with an increased presence, we could not only do more good work, but also convert some of Western Civilizations saviors back to the Right Path!

  15. John Nolan says:

    The Holy See has been a major diplomatic player for centuries. It even has influence in Iran. The recent Forbes list of the world’s most powerful people puts Benedict XVI in seventh place. Enda Kenny comes nowhere. The Republic of Ireland is insignificant in diplomatic terms; by it own choice it doesn’t even have a voice in the world’s most powerful and successful alliance.

  16. Fr Martin Fox says:


    Do both.

  17. Stu says:

    Even as Scot, I would approve of such a course of action.

  18. frobuaidhe says:

    I could not disagree more. Insulting the whole nation because of the actions of the government would alienate even more Irish people from the Church. The issues which caused this anti-Catholic regime to be elected in the first place must be taken into account when dealing with matters which affect the whole country. This government will soon pass. The Vatican will be there after them, and so will the Catholic Church in Ireland.

  19. LaudemGloriae says:

    I know you’re jesting, Father. [Thanks for noticing!] Still, retreat is what the evil one wishes. The father of lies wishes for us to defend our pride and further isolate the lost and errant. May I recommend that the doors remain open and that prayer efforts and humble evangelism be re-doubled. As St. John of the Cross said, [God] will not delay, if [we] do not fail to hope.

  20. shane says:

    I’m not sure of the exact role the nuncio plays in episcopal appointments but I believe it’s significant. The Holy See’s overriding concern in its diplomatic relations with Ireland must be on the state of the Irish Church. A resident nuncio would be in a far better position to assess candidates. (Also Fr Vincent Twomey’s dangerous and half-baked suggestions for an amalgamation of dioceses and for greater lay and priestly involvement in episcopal appointments would be absolutely catastrophic in effect and must be totally resisted).

  21. shane says:

    BTW this crisis isn’t over, it’s only just beginning. The much-delayed Raphoe Report is out in a few weeks. Several others are to follow. I don’t know what they’ll reveal but I’m not looking forward to them at all.

    The Vatican must be very very careful to avoid giving any ammunition to secularists and anti-clericals in Ireland (who have been having a field day as it is). I fear that transferring its embassy to London would be great propaganda for such people.

  22. shane says:

    A third thought suggests itself: if the Vatican were to transfer its embassy to London, Irish secularists would be absolutely delighted — not just because of the enormous and potentially very effective propaganda it would give them (“The Vatican is pro-British and hates the Irish”) but also because it would signify another step in the deCatholicization of Irish society. In fact over the last two years there have been incessant calls in the media and from anti-Catholic politicians for the expulsion of the nuncio. Why do we need to do their dirty work for them?

    More importantly it would also be unfair on Catholics in Ireland who have already been through hell and now have their faith demonized and insulted at every opportunity. Irish Catholics are already very demoralized and disencouraged. Why do they need to be made even more so? They suffer enough as it is from horrible and despicable attacks on their faith from their compatriots, the last thing they need are equally despicable attacks on their nationality from their spiritual leaders or coreligionists. (BTW anyone who engages in anti-Irish bigotry – or bigotry against any ethnicity – is in no position to complain when the Church is subject to bigoted attacks.)

  23. Prof. Basto says:

    By the way, no Diplomatic Mission has portraits of authorities of the receiving State.

    An Embassy/Nunciature enjoys extraterritorial status. It is as if it were part of the territory of the sending State, and not of the receiving State.

    In full accordance with this principle, it is indeed usual for Embassies to have a portraits of the sending State’s Head of State, but not of the receiving State’s Head of State.

    Thus, the only portrait a Nunciature should have is a portrait of the Reigning Supreme Pontiff, and also a Crucifix, to make us mindful of The One Lord, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, of whom the Pope is on Earth the Vicar.

  24. Mundabor says:

    I’d actually have thought embassies work on condition of reciprocity.
    If one closes, the other closes too. Everything else would tacitly imply a difference in rank between two countries (“you don’t need to talk to me, but I need to talk to you”).

    Of course the Holy See’s Embassy in Irereland should be closed, and I do not mean it in jest.


  25. Charivari Rob says:

    For those who would seriously endorse the idea of closing the nunciature in Ireland, I would ask – isn’t that abdicating responsibility? Abandoning the field of battle, in a sense?

    Really? What message would that send other than “We’re going to take the Holy See (and all of its Apostolic & Magesterial authority and responsibility) and make it more remote and less relevant to the Faithful in Ireland at the same time that we’re saying you desperately need to cling ever closer to it”?

    B.C.M. – very well said.

    cumecclesia – very graciously said.

  26. Johnno says:

    The Holy See’s embassy should remain open in Ireland…


    They should formally annouce that they are not keeping it open as some sort of political appeasement or niceity towards the Irish Government. They should make it clear that they don’t give a damn what the Irish Government thinks and they can do whatever they like. The only reasons they are remaining open here to do their job! To convert souls! To bring Catholicism back to Ireland! To help the people of Ireland! To help and make reparation towards the victims of abuse in Ireland! And the Irish Government will not stop them from doing precisely that! And they should accuse the Irish government of hampering the process of allowing them to help victims of abuse, and the poor, and the needy, and those who depend on Catholic services and charities, etc. etc. etc. Get in the government’s face! Tell them off! The Church should stop playing the part of the guilty person and start exposing the actual guilty parties in many other areas while also publicly admiting to and repenting for its own failings. Stop letting governments and states bully you! Get back the firey passion of the saints to repent of their sins and all the while boasting of their weaknesses so that God’s grace may strengthen them and turn weaknesses into strengths!

  27. jeffreyquick says:

    Of course the Vatican must turn the other cheek. In the spirit of Matthew 5:41, it should turn the 3rd and 4th as well.

  28. PostCatholic says:

    That would be consistent with the Vatican’s sensitivity to the Irish people, all right.

  29. Supertradmum says:

    Father_Sotelo and others,

    As much as I admire and respect your comments, I must say emphatically that Ireland is not one of the Church’s most faithful daughters. The abortion rate is low only because there is a roaring trade to Great Britain, and the birthrate 16.1, like Malta’s (which is much, much lower at 1.2), shows several generations of contracepting adults, until the recent baby boom in Ireland. Ireland has the highest birthrate in Europe, but it is still lower than one would expect.

    Most of the politics favor socialism, condemned over and over by Church. Ireland has one of the highest death rates due to drug addiction of all Europe, at twice the continental average.

    As to secularism, why do people think the Irish are immune to the glamour of money, sex, and status? Pornography is popular, as elsewhere and in most areas, only 2% of the population go to Sunday Mass regularly.

    Myths die hard.

  30. Supertradmum says:

    opps, that is 16.1 per one thousand in Ireland-live births per population, not 1.2 per one mom, which is the Maltese statistic…sorry for the confusion there. The Irish birthrate per woman is 1.88. Hardly a Catholic statistic, is it?

  31. Saper Vedere says:

    I live in Ireland.
    Shane is absolutely right in all of his comments.
    Supertradmum’s observations on Irish youth are accurate due to the poor RE in Irish Catholic schools in the past 40 years. Our bishops have wallowed in self-congratulation and pandered to the media in order to try to be liked. This gushy familiarity has earned the contempt of most of Southern Irish society. The North is a bit different.
    The birth rate for the Irish appears to be higher than it really is due to the number of recent immigrants who need a child to establish residency here.

    The faith is still alive here but we need immediately some American bishops (like Archbp. Dolan) to be sent in over the objections of the Irish bishops. Due to the permanent and modernist oppressive climate in Maynooth (Ireland’s only seminary) it is rare that a courageous seminarian comes out as a courageous priest who is prepared to put his head up. The dogs in the Irish street know this and so does the Vatican.
    We the Irish faithful are praying for a few Yank bishops asap. In Irish slang, a Yank is a returned emigrant from the USA. The US church is 20 years ahead of Ireland in suffering from the disobedience. The Irish church needs to be fast forwarded and a few, holy and obedient Yank bishops are exactly what we need. Two years after it is done, the Irish church will say “Why did not we do this sooner?”

  32. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:


  33. Fr. Z what a can of worms your humour has opened! It’s amazing how little Ireland can awake such emotion. I agree with Shane et al who oppose the Nunciature’s closure (I was there once a long time ago when I lived near by). The Church has been around for a long time and will be until our Lord comes again. States come and go (Irish ‘governments’ certainly have). At some point the Irish State will need the help of the Holy See and be mightily embarassed. On the whole most of the native Irish people I have heard commenting on this issue think the Government has made a silly mistake. It pleases the liberals and secularists. It achieves nothing.

    SupertradMum – any chance of sources for these statistics?
    2% sounds dramatic but as a priest who works in Ireland, in Dublin where attendance is at its lowest, I don’t ever see it as that low.

  34. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Well, it’s obviously up to the Holy See, but my reason for proposing the nunciature be closed is to show the consequence of the government’s action. Diplomacy is reciprocal, like a conversation. If someone walks away from talking to you, you have no real choice but to disengage until there’s readiness.

    I’m not saying sell the property. As an alternative, the nuncio could be asked to return to Rome for “consultation”–something that happens a lot. The nunciature itself remains in operation.

    It would seem to me that this would also allow for some political pressure to be placed on the government. Yes, some would rejoice, but even many who are hostile to our Faith see the value of diplomatic relations with the Holy See. Were President Obama to withdraw the U.S. representative, for example, he would take a lot of criticism, and not just from those who uphold Catholic Tradition.

    Note that when the Irish government was beating up on the Vatican a while back, the Vatican responded, “not so.” Was that inconsistent with turning the other cheek?

  35. ContraMundum says:

    As for the “myth” of Irish Catholicism, it’s not all myth. At any rate….

    14 years ago I was a Southern Baptist. I had just finished up a postdoc in Tokyo, where I had given out numerous Bibles; just before leaving, I ordered 1000 NIV New Testaments. The Chinese were far more receptive to Christianity than the Japanese; they knew that Christianity was central to Western Civilization, they knew that they knew nothing about Christianity, and they were curious. Two of them ended up being baptized. Then I got my 2nd postdoc, this one in Germany.

    One of my co-workers stood out as a serious Irish Catholic, and I decided I should try to convert him. It wasn’t many months before it was obvious, to me at least, that the opposite was going to happen, and sure enough, a few years later I was Confirmed. It wasn’t so much what he said, though he did point me in the direction of the right kind of sources: Pope John Paul II, Chesterton, and Thomas Aquinas. I had already “met” St. Augustine, but I think I needed to meet someone who was really Catholic to the marrow of his bones. The Catholics I had met at home either didn’t know there Faith or, more commonly, didn’t really believe it.

    As long as Damian and his family hold out, I think there’s real hope for Catholic Ireland.

  36. Supertradmum says:

    Bro Tom Forde

    The statistic is one from the 2/6/2011 Address to Eucharistic Congress Delegates

    50th International Eucharistic Congress, Dublin, 2012

    Speaking Notes of
    Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin

    Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland

  37. Caro_c says:

    The current government, and all those who hate the Church in Ireland, and the troublesome ACP would be delighted with this move.

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