With criminal allegations against Roman Catholic priests in the news, not for the first time, the question of international legal status for the Catholic Church/ Vatican City/ Holy See comes up.
Is the Catholic Church like any other global faith-based movement from a legal point of view -- Bah'ai, Anglican, Scientology -- or does it have special status that confers some kind of immunity on its officials? Is the Pope some kind of Head of State?
Geoffrey Robertson argues that the claims for statehood, or anything like statehood, are bogus, and I agree.
The relationships between the Vatican, the Holy See, the office of the Pope, and the worldwide Catholic Church are immensely complicated. That is ok -- faith-based movements can organise themselves in complicated ways if they want.
It is also ok for the state of Italy to allow special privileges for the section of Rome occupied by the Vatican.
But the relationship between Australia and Rome is not a relationship between states. It is not diplomacy, it is courtesy or deference. If an Australian representative can only be a member of the Catholic faith, that is discrimination. (This is ironic. Catholics worldwide have been the targets of discrimination for centuries.)
Smoke and mirrors about special international legal status should not be allowed to get in the way of normal police investigation of any criminal acts alleged against members of the Roman Catholic priesthood. Internal Church investigations of misconduct should have exactly the same status as with any other large organisation -- the AFL, unions, etc -- significant for minor matters but very limited for criminal matters. Victims are entitled to no less.