UPDATE: Researching the Law of the Vatican City State
By Stephen Young & Alison Shea
Update by Angelo Coccìa
Angelo Coccìa is an Italian lawyer, cassationist and rotal. He graduated in Law from the University of Rome "La Sapienza" with Thesis in Ecclesiastical Law. Graduated in Canon Law from the Pontifical LateranUniversity. He also holds a diploma as a Rotale Lawyer at the Rotale Studies of the Chancellery Palace in Rome. Member of the Archsodalizio of the Roman Curia, and adviser of the Coetus Advocatorum Association, he is registered in the Register of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota, at the Register of Lawyers and Prosecutors of the Tribunals of the Vicarage of Rome, at the tribunals of the Vatican City, all courts in which he permanently works.
Published March/April 2020
Table of Contents
- 1. The Vatican City in a Nutshell
- 2. Sources of Law
- 3. The Government and Legal System of the Vatican City State
- 4. The Vatican in International Relations
- 5. Survey Articles, Official Publications, & Additional Resources
The Vatican City State (VCS), an enclave of Rome, is a sovereign monarchical-sacerdotal state. The citizens of the State in 2019, according to the official site of the State, are 618, of which only 246 (including the 104 members of the Swiss Guards) live inside the walls. The VCS is a distinct legal jurisdiction, but the inexorable intertwining of the Church—in the form of the Holy See—with the VCS only serves to obfuscate the jurisdictional boundaries that lie between church and city state.
This article will explore the resources used in researching the laws of the VCS. The article begins by describing the founding of the city state in 1929 and analyzing the documents that comprise its constitution. This is followed by a description of the sources of law, the branches of government, and the treatment of the VCS in international law. The article concludes with a short bibliographic essay. Although the structure and governance of the Catholic Church is inevitably linked to the VCS through the Holy See, the focus of this article will be on the temporal aspects of the jurisdiction. As such, the Church laws embodied in canon law will only be discussed as they relate to the operations of the city state.
The VCS came into existence as a sovereign nation in 1929 with the signing of the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy. The signing effectively ended the “Roman Question,” the decades-old tension between the Catholic Church and the nation of Italy. Prior to the treaty, the relationship between the Church and the country was governed by the Law of Papal Guarantees, an Italian law that allowed the Pope a certain amount of autonomy within the borders of Italy.
The Lateran Treaty consisted of three separate documents spread over twenty-seven articles and four annexes: an agreement acknowledging the Vatican as an independent state, also known as the Treaty of Conciliation, a concordat on church-state relations between the city state and Italy, and a financial convention liquidating the financial claims of the Holy See against Italy. In signing the treaty, Italy ceded 108.7 acres of Rome to the Holy See, thus creating the world’s smallest sovereign nation. At the signing, Pope Pius XI was represented by Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, papal secretary of state, while King Emanuel III was represented by Benito Mussolini, prime minister of Italy. The Lateran Treaty was incorporated into the Italian Constitution sixteen years later in 1947.
Following a lengthy deliberative process, the Lateran Treaty was substantially amended in 1984 with the signing of a concordat between the Holy See and the Republic of Italy. Although the status of the Vatican as a sovereign state was unaffected by the concordat, the document served to establish the independence of the Italian state from the Holy See, and thereby from the Catholic Church. The concordat was signed on February 18, 1984 and came into force on June 3, 1985.
The agreement (Concordat) between the Holy See and the Italian Republic makes modifications to the Lateran Treaty. Additional Protocol approves the rules for the discipline of the administration of the assets belonging to the ecclesiastical bodies and of the purchases of these bodies.
The agreement also reaffirms the independence and sovereignty of the Italian State and the Catholic Church, each in its own order. For example, the Church has the freedom to appoint ecclesiastical office holders by ecclesiastical authority. The Italian State recognizes civil effects at marriages contracted according to the norms of canon law. The effectiveness, in the Italian Republic, of judgments of nullity of marriage pronounced by ecclesiastical courts, bearing the decree of enforceability of the Apostolic Signatura with sentence of the competent appellate court. In the additional protocol the principle, originally referred to by the Lateran Pacts, of the Catholic religion as the sole religion of the Italian State is considered no longer in force.
In the same year of the Treaty of the Lateran Pacts, the VCS promulgated on 7 June 1929 a "[s]upplement for the laws and dispositions of the state of the city of the Vatican City of the Vatican containing six constitutional laws": N. I - Basic Law of the Vatican City, N. II. - Law on sources of law N. III. - Law on Rights of Citizenship and Sojourn, N.IV. - Law on Administrative Organization, N. V. - Law on economic, commercial and professional organization, and N. VI. - Public security law. Under the second of these laws, "the sources of VCS law" were comprised of the Codex Iuris Canonici (Canon Law Code), and “[t]he laws promulgated for the City of the Vatican by the Sovereign Pontiff or by any other authority delegated by him, as well as the regulations lawfully issued by the competent authority.” Article 3 of this law also allowed for the use of Italian law as well as provincial and municipal Roman law when they did not conflict with canon law, the rules of the Lateran Treaty (and, later, the 1984 Concordat), or divine law.
Much of the law of the sources of the law is devoted to synthesizing these three sources into a unified set of laws for the city state. Certain parts of Italian law are specifically mentioned in various articles of this law. These include the Italian Penal Code, Code of Penal Procedure, Civil Code, and various national and local laws relating to public works, transportation, telecommunications, and health and sanitation.
The first constitutional law was modified in 2000 by John Paul II when an ad hoc legal commission was established by Pope John Paul II. The commission was charged with updating the Fundamental Law of the City of the Vatican so as to reflect modifications that had been made to the VCS’s legal system since 1929. The preamble to the new law describes the Pope as having “taken note of the need to give a systematic and organic form to the changes introduced by successive stages into the legal system of Vatican City State.” The new law, which took effect on February 22, 2001, is primarily devoted to prescribing the powers and duties of the VCS’s branches of government. From the perspective of the legal researcher, the new law more clearly delineates the powers delegated to the legislative branch from those delegated to the executive branch. The civil judicial system remained largely unaffected by the new Fundamental Law, due in large part to recent reforms. In addition to the articles outlining the responsibilities of the various branches of government, there are articles devoted to topics such as security, labor disputes, amnesties and pardons, and the state flag.
Constitutional Law on "sources of law" was instead modified in 2008 by Benedict XVI as we shall see later.
The VCS is a unique entity in that the state’s monarch is also the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world. As the elected absolute temporal monarch of the state, the Pope has full legislative, executive, and judicial authority over the jurisdiction. The Pope delegates most of this authority to a variety of organs within the Vatican City, all of whose members may be appointed or removed at the discretion of the Pope. The powers and duties of these various organs are described in detail later in this article.
In the absence of the Pope, as for instance the period between the death of Pope John Paul II on April 2, 2005, and the election of his successor, Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, 2005, or following Benedict XVI's resignation from February 28, 2013, the state goes under the authority of the Sacred College of Cardinals. This body consists of all the cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church. Although it has the authority to administer and oversee the operations of the VCS, its actions during this time are reviewable by the incoming Pope.
Laws of the Supreme Pontiff, either directly or through the delegated powers of one of the organs of the state, can take a variety of forms, including acts and regulations for the VCS, apostolic constitutions, and conventions and agreements with other states.
Often referred to by its Latin name, Codex Iuris Canonici, the Code of Canon Law is the codified representation of church theology and organization of the church in legal language. According to Pope John Paul II, the Code of Canon Law is “an expression of pontifical authority and therefore is invested with a primatial character.” He further stated that the Code is “the Church’s principal legislative document founded on the juridical-legislative heritage of revelation and tradition an indispensable instrument to ensure order both in individual and social life, and also in the Church’s activity.”
The Code of Canon Law is incorporated into the legal system of the VCS by the law of 1 October 2008, which entered into force on 1 January 2009, which definitively replaces the constitutional law as the source of law of 1929. Article 4 of the Law of 01.10.2008 specifically outlines areas of civil law that are regulated solely by canon law or by the Code of Canon Law, thus excluding any application of the civil code. These include marriage, prescription of ecclesiastical property, and gifts and legacies upon death.
Article 3 of the Code of Canon Law provides that in matters in which the sources listed in its Art. 1 - the laws and other legislative acts issued in the Italian State - are observed as supplementary and subject to transposition by the competent Vatican authority. The Vatican law takes great care to ensure that Italian law is not applied in instances where it might conflict with pontifical or canon law.
The Italian civil code, updated to 2009, applies to civil law.
For civil procedure, Art. 5 of the same law prescribes observing the Vatican Code of Civil Procedure of 1 May 1946, with subsequent modifications, also for the simplification and abbreviation of the rite.
The Vatican criminal law is still substantially constituted by the Italian penal code of 1889, or Zanardelli code. This code, object of material reference by the law on the sources of 1929, is again referred to - until a new definition of the penal system is provided - by the law on sources n. LXXI of 2008 (art. 7), together with the changes and additions made over the years by the Vatican legislator, including those particularly important in the law n. 1 of 1969, which introduced a series of amendments to both substantive and procedural criminal law under the pontificate of Paul VI.
According to the art. 8 (n. LXXI of 2008 ) until a new procedure is adopted, it is observed, under the reserves specified in art. 3, the Italian Criminal Procedure Code implemented with the law of 7 June 1929, n. II, as amended and supplemented by Vatican laws.
According to the Code of Canon Law, "the term Holy See or Apostolic See means [.] the supreme governing body of the Catholic Church", namely
- strictly speaking, the Pope's own office, which, according to Can. 331, "by virtue of his office, he has supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power over the Church";
- in a broad sense, the set of bodies through which the Pope governs the Catholic Church, or the Roman Curia. The Holy See is the legal personality of the VCS which enters into treaties and sends and receives diplomatic representatives
Elected by the College of Cardinals, the Pope is an absolute monarch and gathers in himself the executive and judicial legislative powers which he delegates to others.
The legislative responsibilities granted to the Pope are delegated to the Pontifical Commission. The Pontifical Commission is composed of seven cardinals appointed by the Pope for a five-year term. The commission can seek the advice of the Consulta, a group of experts appointed by the Pope, on any legislative matter if further information on a topic is required.
The legislation of the VCS is comprised of the laws and regulations of the State of the Vatican City, the Code of Canon Law, the Code of Civil Procedure, the apostolic constitutions, the Lateran Treaty and the conventions with other foreign states. As noted earlier, where these laws and regulations do not cover certain instances, the Vatican has recourse to Italian laws, to provincial regulations and to the municipal rules of the city of Rome.
The executive power is exercised by the president of the Pontifical Commission, who, in this capacity, assumes the name of President of the Governorate, with the assistance of a secretary-general and a deputy secretary-general. The president of the commission can enact decrees for the implementation of legal provisions and regulations and, in times of urgent necessity, enact decrees that have the force of law if they are confirmed by the commission within ninety days. Although the Pontifical Swiss Guard is not governed by the VCS, the president of the commission has recourse to the guard if needed, in addition to the security forces of the VCS.
The president of the Governatorate of the Vatican City attends to the day-to-day functions of the Vatican City, a position comparable in status of mayor of an Italian city. The president is responsible for the administration of the museums; the maintenance of the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope in the Vatican City, and other buildings, except St. Peter’s Basilica; as well as the management of such facilities as the post office, the gardens and nurseries, and the grocery store.
The judicial system of the VCS has undergone several evolutions since its creation in 1929 until John Paul II promulgated on November 21st 1987 the "Law approving the judiciary of the Vatican City State," which entered into force on 01.01.1988, amended on 24 June 2008.
The judicial system of the VCS is organized as follows: a Sole Judge (Giudice Unico) presiding over a court of limited jurisdiction; a three-judge Tribunal (Tribunale); a three member Court of Appeals (Corte d’Appello); and, finally, the Supreme Court of Cassation (Suprema Corte di Cassazione). It is important to distinguish these judicial organs from those of the Roman Curia, which is the administrative arm of the Holy See. Cases from temporal VCS courts are not generally reported, but a listing of the types of cases tried before each of the courts is published in "L’Attivita della Santa Sede", the annual yearbook.
Beginning at the lowest level, the Sole Judge is responsible in the civil law for such matters as small claims, periodic maintenance, maintenance or reintegration in possession, eviction for finite lease, observance of distances, validation of marriages and also administratively some decriminalized crimes. The judge, in accordance with city state law, must be a citizen of the VCS, and must also serve simultaneously as a judge on the other courts.
The Court of First Instance consists of a panel of three judges that are appointed by the Pope, and they are able to hear both civil and penal matters. Actions concerning the status and protection of a person, actions relating to real estate, disputes concerning taxes, actions for damages are judged in civil proceedings. In criminal law a whole series of crimes provided for and punished by the penal code and the Vatican criminal laws. The three judges that comprise this second level court are appointed by the Pope, and they are able to hear both civil and penal matters. The “Vatileaks” scandal has caused attention to be turned to the prosecution of criminal acts in the VCS, and there has been additional reporting on how the criminal process works in the VCS.
The Court of Appeal judges the appeals against the judgments and orders pronounced in the first instance in the panel of three judges. The composition of the Court of Appeal of the VCS’s judiciary again showcases the dependence of the VCS on the Holy See: most of the judges on the Court of Appeal are also judges on the Roman Rota which is responsible for governing the ecclesiastical side of the house
From the perspective of a common law jurisdiction that strongly adheres to the doctrine of the separation of church and state, it is interesting to examine a modern-day state in which a high-ranking church official serves on its supreme court. This is the case in the Court of Cassation, where the president is also the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest canon law court in the Catholic Church. The two other judges who serve on the VCS’s highest court are also cardinals and members of the Apostolic Signatura. The Court of Cassation is primarily responsible for hearing appeals from the Corte d’Appello and has original jurisdiction over those penal matters against cardinals and bishops which the Pope does not handle personally.
To practice before the temporal courts, lawyers must meet three requirements: first, they must appear on an official list which the tribunal maintains; second, they must be members of the Order of Rotal Lawyers; and third, they must have a degree in civil law.
The financial aspects of the VCS have been described as mysterious. Despite the notoriety that has on occasion defined the finances of the Vatican, there is still little known about exactly how much wealth the Vatican possesses and what form this wealth takes.
The VCS’s budget is maintained by the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See, which also manages the fiscal affairs of the Roman Curia. Vatican citizens are not subject to Italian taxes on their income, and the Vatican State pays neither taxes nor assessments to the Italian or Roman governments. Most of the daily expenses that the VCS supports are paid with a budget that consists of profits from real estate properties, the museum and post office, from the offerings that come from the faiths also from Saint Peter's Pence, which is paid each year by the collection of the offers of all the churches of the world on the day of St. Peter and Paul June 29.
The customs rules of the VCS are based on article 20 of the Lateran Treaty which exempts it from all European Community duties and taxes. The small amount of goods originating in the VCS and exported to Italy is exempt from duty and subject to a preferential arrangement. The VCS has a special position with relation to imports and exports that allows goods to be carried into the Vatican from Italy free of payment of any customs charges. This has been a common source of contention between the Vatican and Italian officials.
The VCS is entitled to use the Euro as its official currency. The VCS had relied on the Italian lira as its form of currency until Italy signed onto the Maastricht Treaty establishing a plan for a single European currency. In recognition of the Vatican’s reliance on the currency of Italy, and despite its nonmember status, the European Union agreed to let the VCS use the new currency provided arrangements were made with Italy. The new arrangement with Italy, amended by the European Commission in 2009, entitles the VCS to issue Euro coins in two parts:
- a fixed part for a maximum annual face value of EUR 2 300 000 which may be revised annually by the Joint Committee to take into account both inflation and any significant developments on the market for collector coins in euro, and
- a variable part corresponding to average per capita number of coins issued by the Italian Republic in the previous year multiplied by the number of inhabitants of the Vatican City State.
There is only one bank operating in the VCS, the Institute for Works of Religion (Instituto per le Opere di Religione), which also exists as the Central Bank of the VCS. It should be noted, however, that despite the existence of a central bank, the VCS is not a member of the International Monetary Fund, and there have been no examinations by international organizations of the VCS’s banking, economic, and financial systems. Nor does the VCS have direct access to the major payment clearing systems of the Euro area.
The Institute for Works of Religion (henceforth, the Institute or IOR) is an institution of the Holy See, erected with the Chirograph of His Holiness Pius XII on June 27, 1942. Its origins date back to the “Commission ad pias causas” established by the Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII in 1887. The mission of the Institute, established by the current Statute, attached to the Chirograph dated 1 March 1990 of His Holiness John Paul II, consists in “providing for the custody and administration of movable and immovable property transferred or entrusted to the Institute by natural persons or juridical and intended for works of religion and charity. The Institute can accept deposits of assets from entities and persons of the Holy See and the Vatican City State." The Institute is subject to Law n. XVIII of 8 October 2013 on the subject of "Transparency, supervision and financial information", recently amended by Law no. CCXLVII of June 19, 2018.
The XVIII Law assigns to the Financial Information Authority the task of issuing implementing regulations respectively on the subject of Prudential Supervision and Supervision for money laundering purposes.
Regarding the problem of anti-money laundering, Benedict XVI established with motu proprio of 30.12.2010 The Financial Information Authority (AIF). AIF is the competent institution of the Holy See/Vatican City State for the fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism. In this capacity, the AIF performs the functions of financial information and supervision both for prudential purposes and for the prevention and combating of money laundering and terrorist financing.
The AIF had a consolidation of its institutional mandate with the Apostolic Letter in the form of Motu Proprio promulgated by Pope Francis on 8 August 2013, which gives the AIF the mandate to carry out prudential supervision, and with the Apostolic Letter in form of Motu Proprio promulgated by Pope Francis on November 15, 2013, with which the new Statute of the AIF was approved. The performance of the institutional activities of the AIF is regulated by the Vatican law n. XVIII of 8 October 2013 laying down rules on transparency, supervision and financial information.
To be considered a “state” under international law, the Montevideo Convention requires that an international personality have a defined territory, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other States. Many of the leading commentators in the field have often questioned whether the VCS really does qualify as a state, since its constituent elements are highly abnormal or reduced to a bare minimum.
Very often, the names "Holy See" and "Vatican" are mistakenly used as if they were interchangeable. This overlap is wrong because the Holy See and the Vatican play different roles both religiously and politically. This distinction becomes even more necessary when it comes to papal external action. It is in fact the Holy See that maintains diplomatic relations within the international scene because it is endowed with international subjectivity, an attribute that, under public international law, among other things, legitimizes those who own it to relate to other actors with international subjectivity. The Holy See was recognized for international subjectivity long before the Vatican City State was established, with the signing of the Lateran Pacts (1929).
In international law, the Holy See is fully understood and recognized. The international personality derives from her character as a member of the international community, invested in original powers, not derived, that is, from any other subject of international law. Under this legal position, the Holy See is the recipient of all the rules of general international law, with the sole exclusion of those not compatible with its special nature and its natural scope of action (for example, international standards applicable in armed conflicts).
The Holy See participates actively in international organizations and has membership or observer status in organizations such as the United Nations, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, International Atomic Energy Agency, Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Commission, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, World Intellectual Property Organization, the World Trade Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. It is interesting to note that the Vatican City State is the official member of those organizations in which the Holy See cannot maintain membership for reasons of its existence solely as a legal personality and not a temporal body. On its Web site, the Press Office of the Holy See delineates such organizations as those in which the Holy See maintains the membership “in the name and on behalf of the Vatican City State.”
The Holy See has one of the largest and oldest diplomatic representations in the world, maintaining diplomatic relations with 175 countries. Seventy-one countries have resident embassies to the Holy See, including the European Union and the United States.
From the researcher’s perspective, the legal system of the VCS is best approached by examining the documents that established the nation and formed the constitutional basis for the world’s smallest nation state. The most useful work for this purpose is HeinOnline’s World Constitutions Illustrated (WCI), which contains full text PDFs of a number of the VCS laws, many of which have been pulled from the Vatican’s official website and other primary source Hein libraries. Unfortunately, the researcher can be misled into thinking English translations of all laws exist due to their listing in English; upon browsing, many of the more recent laws are only in Italian or French. In addition to the primary source documents, WCI links users to articles, monographs and other works on the VCS (and the Holy See) that are included in Hein’s other libraries. The WCI entry also contains a robust bibliography of collected works on the VCS.
Also useful but only available in print, Amos Peaslee’s Constitutions of Nations (2d ed. 1956), provides a short summary of the nation’s legal composition, the text of the Lateran Treaty, extracts from the accompanying 1929 Concordat, the complete text of the six constitutional laws of 1929, and a short bibliography. Some of the entries in Peaslee’s work appear digitized in WCI, above.
The “Vatican City” section in Constitutions of Dependencies and Territories (Philip Raworth ed., 2002) should be consulted for English-language versions of the 2001 Fundamental Law and the 1984 Concordat between the Holy See and the Italian Republic. It should be noted that since this the VCS is treated as a “special sovereignty” in this source, there is no entry for it or the Holy See in Constitutions of the Countries of the World: A Series of Updated Texts, Constitutional Chronologies, and Annotated Bibliographies (Albert P. Blaustein & Gisbert H. Flanz eds., 1971).
Several short survey articles exist that can provide researchers with a basic overview of the city state’s legal system. The most useful of these is Jorri Duursma’s forty-five-page chapter on “The State of the Vatican City” in Fragmentation and the International Relations of Micro-States (1996). It provides an excellent overview of the history and status of the VCS. Particular attention is paid to the international status of the city state and the extent to which it has achieved independence from Italy.
Also recommended, albeit far more concise, is Robert Shelledy’s “Vatican” in Legal Systems of the World (Herbert M. Kritzer ed., 2002). This succinct entry provides an historical account of the development of the legal system, together with a description of the legal concepts that govern the nation and an accurate depiction of the current structure of the legal system. Similarly, useful is the “Vatican” entry in Vincenzo Buonomo’s Encyclopedia of World Constitutions (Gerhard Robbers ed., 2007). This six-page entry provides a good overview of the legal structure of the VCS, together with a short list of primary and secondary sources consulted. Less useful, due to its incomplete and often confusing description of the VCS, is the entry in Modern Legal Systems Cyclopedia (Kenneth R. Redden ed., 1993 revision).
A short and now dated entry entitled “Vatican” is included in International Encyclopedia of Comparative Law: National Reports (Victor Knapp ed., 1997). The entry, actually completed in December 1972 by Judge Astuti, provides a very brief overview of the constitutional system of the city state, together with the sources and contents of law and a selective bibliography of Italian language resources.
There are a few entries in the Max Planck Encyclopaedia of Public International Law which mention the Vatican in a variety of settings, including Thomas D. Grant’s entry “Micro States”, and Gerd Westdickenberg’s article “Holy See”; however these do not shed much light on the legal system of the VCS specifically.
A less obvious source that provides a modest amount of background information is L. Barbarito’s entry for the “Vatican City” in New Catholic Encyclopedia (2d ed. 2003). There is less focus on the legal system than in the other items mentioned, but the information concerning the rise of the modern state and the operation of the city state’s government is still very serviceable.
Legal researchers who traditionally rely on Foreign Law by Reynolds and Flores for an overview of a foreign jurisdiction and an accompanying legal bibliography will be disappointed. Regrettably, they cover neither the VCS nor the Holy See, and there is also no mention of the city state in the section describing the legal system of the Republic of Italy.
Since 1908, the Vatican Publishing House (Libreria Editrice Vaticana) has been responsible for publishing Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS), together with its supplements, on a periodic basis. AAS constitutes the official bulletin or gazette for the Holy See; it contains papal encyclicals, apostolic constitutions, and other forms of pontifical acts. Since this is a publication of the Holy See much of what is published in AAS is not directly related to the governing of the VCS; however, it is the official, Latin language source for pontifical acts and canon laws. Legislation pertaining just to the governance of the VCS is usually published in the supplement to the AAS.
The Vatican Publishing House is also responsible for publishing the daily newspaper of the VCS, L’Osservatore Romano (The Roman Observer). Although the foci of the newspaper are the daily activities of the Pope and news from within the Church, the newspaper also reports items of interest regarding the governing of the VCS. The daily edition is published in Italian; however, since 1968 a weekly, English language compendium edition has also been published. Issues from 2011 forward are available through the Vatican’s new information portal, NEWS.VA.
The focus of the overwhelming majority of legal commentary on the VCS has revolved around the jurisdiction’s status in international law. The most complete treatment of this area of law is Hyginus Cardinale’s The Holy See and the International Order (1976). This 557-page work provides an extensive discussion of how the Holy See, the Church, and the VCS are united in international representation under the agency of the Holy See. Additionally, Cardinale’s text provides annexes to both the 1929 Concordat and the 1929 Fundamental Laws. A more recent examination at the status of the VCS and its legitimacy can be found in chapters 4 and 5 of Geoffrey Robertson’s The Case of the Pope (2010).
Other articles include:
- Cedric Ryngaert, The Legal Status of the Holy See, 3 Goettingen Journal of International Law 829 – 859 (2011). It focuses more on the international legal status of the Holy See but contains and in-depth discussion on Vatican State v. Holy See in part B of the paper.
- Jaclyn O’Brien McEachern, Diplomatic Activity In Service Of Papal Teaching: The Promotion Of Religious Freedom In Relations With Selected Islamic States During The Pontificate Of John Paul II, dissertation (2010). It focuses almost exclusively on the Holy See but does contain extensive analysis of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and many countries, as well as translated text of bilateral agreements: Agreement Between the Holy See and the Republic of Kazakhstan on Mutual Relations, Convention Between the Holy See and the Republic of the Ivory Coast concerning radio broadcasting stations; Convention Between the Apostolic See and the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire concerning the “Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro International Foundation”; Agreement Between The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (Vatican City) and The Permanent Committee of Al-Azhar for Dialogue with Monotheistic Religions (Cairo) for the Creation of a Joint Committee for Dialogue; John Paul II’s Letter Addressed to the Heads of State of the Nations Who Signed the Helsinki Final Act (1975); and the exchange of notes between John Paul II and King Hassan of Moracco
- Keith Nuthall, Render Unto Ceasar…, Money Laundering Bull. no. 159 (December 2008)
- Kurt Martens, The Position of the Holy See and Vatican City State in International Relations, 83 U. Det. Mercy L. Rev. 729 (2006)
- Nicola Picardi, Il Tribunale dello Stato della Citta del Vaticano (relazione del promotore di giustizi per l’inaugurazione dell’anno giudiziario 2003) [The Court of the State of Vatican City (report by the promoter of justice for the inauguration of the judiciary in 2003)], 126 Il Foro Italiano 84 (2003).
- Giuseppe Dalla Torre, La Nuova legge fondamentale dello Stato della Citta del Vaticano [The New Fundamental Law of the Vatican City State], 222 Archivo Giuridico ‘Filippo Serafino’ 27 (2002)
- Noel Dias, Roman Catholic Church and International Law, 13 Sri Lanka L.J. 107 (2001)
- Robert John Araujo, The International Personality and Sovereignty of the Holy See, 50 Cath. U. L. Rev. 291 (2001)
- Matthew N. Bathon, Note, The Atypical Status of the Holy See, 34 Vand. J. Transnat’l L. 597 (2001)
- Joël-Benoît d'Onorio, Le Saint-Siège et la Communauté internationale, 28 Revue Generale de Droit 295 (1997)
- Yasmin Abdullah, Note, The Holy See at United Nations Conferences: State or Church? 96 Colum. L. Rev. 1835 (1996)
- Karin Oellers-Frahm, Grenzen hoheitlichen Handelns zwischen der Republik Italien und dem Vatikan [Limits of State Jurisdiction between the Republic of Italy and the Holy See], 47 Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht 489 (1987)
- Pio Ciprotti, The Holy See: Its Function, Form, and Status in International Law, 8 Concilium 63 (1970)
- Robert Graham, Vatican Diplomacy: A Study of Church and State on the International Plane (1959)
- Josef L. Kunz, The Status of the Holy See in International Law, 46 Am. J. Int’l L. 308 (1952)
- Horace F. Cumbo, The Holy See and International Law, 2 Int’l L. Q. 603 (1949)
- Herbert Wright, The Status of the Vatican City, 38 Am. J. Int’l L. 452 (1944)
- Gordon Ireland, The State of the City of the Vatican, 27 Am. J. Int’l L. 271 (1933).
Researchers who turn to the Internet for resources on the VCS’s legal system are likely to be disappointed, although there have been some considerable recent improvements. There is now a website specifically for the Vatican City State. This site contains a good general overview of the many different offices and functions of the VCS, including organizational charts which list who is in charge of what. It contains links to a few of the major pieces of VCS legislation, including the Lateran Treaty and the 2001 fundamental law, as well as substantial discussion on the VCS’s position in international organizations.
Conversely, the Vatican’s Web site is primarily devoted to disseminating information from and about the Holy See, rather than the VCS. The Vatican Web site does however contain the text (in HTML, not PDF format) of selected papal documents dating back to Pope Leo XIII (1878), and it should therefore be considered a potential source for the text of apostolic constitutions and motu proprios that apply to the VCS. Also impressive is the Vatican’s recent foray into social media; the Vatican’s YouTube channel and Twitter account which, although not entirely relevant to the legal researcher, show that the VCS is moving towards a larger internet presence than previously noted.
The Financial Times maintains excellent coverage of the Vatican’s financial and legal matters and should be consulted as a key resource for any researcher looking to track the financial dealings of the VCS.
Many of the traditional Internet sites consulted by researchers looking for information on foreign jurisdictions provide little information on the nation state (see e.g., Andrew Grossman, UPDATE: Finding the Law: The Micro-States and Small Jurisdictions of Europe and the Law Library of Congress’ Guide to Law Online) and most do a very poor job of distinguishing between the legal system of the Holy See and the legal system of the VCS. Due to the incomplete or inconsistent quality of the information in most of the Internet guides, it is difficult to recommend these sources as a resource for researching the VCS.