A ‘what if?’ fantasy scenario: The Vatican Navy vs. Ireland

In this topsy-turvy world where up is down, wrong is right, and compromise is evil, is it any wonder that we question those institutions, secular and spiritual, that we for so long have depended upon?

Our government is a mess and the Catholic Church has lost much of its influence as a result of the sexual abuse scandal. Those pillars of stability are, at best, leaning towers.

Even Ireland, once a bastion of the Roman Catholic faith, has lost confidence in the church. In a recent speech, its prime minister attacked the Vatican for its cover-up of rampant child abuse in the country and for its remote opulence, which placed fear of scandal above the duty to protect children from pedophile priests.

In a thundering rebuke, Enda Kenny condemned “the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, and the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.” In response, the Vatican recalled its ambassador to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza. At one time such action marked the start of hostilities, so I began to speculate on what might happen. It goes something like this:

Kenny then announced the recall of the Irish ambassador to the Vatican, and the Vatican ordered the mobilization of the Swiss Guards. The Irish prime minister called up the reserves and mobilized the army. In a stunning development, Ireland and the Vatican were poised at the brink of war.

President Barack Obama dispatched former President Bill Clinton to mediate the dispute between what had been the strongest of allies. Arriving in Dublin, Clinton said there was still hope the parties could reconcile their differences.

He urged the pope and prime minister to attend a peace conference in Geneva. But talks broke down before they began when an Irish agent discovered that the Vatican had secret plans to invade Ireland.

The rarely seen Vatican Navy had cobbled together a fleet in the harbor at Naples and the Holy See planned to transport an advance unit of elite Swiss Guards to a remote section of the Irish coast where they would establish a beachhead in preparation for the landing of a larger force.

The Irish prime minister accused the Vatican of launching a new crusade and pledged to resist any effort to occupy Irish soil. Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, he said: “We shall fight on the beaches, in the hills, valleys, villages, peat bogs, pubs, and parks to defend our sacred land.”

As the fleet sailed and made its way up the Atlantic coast, Clinton urged the two sides exercise restraint and remember the historic ties that had for so long binded them.

The pope demanded an apology while the prime minister said an apology was owed to the Irish people. The United Nations passed a resolution offering to apologize to both sides if the invasion fleet returned to port.

The U.S. Congress was unable to agree on a resolution when Tea Party Republicans demanded that a balanced budget amendment rider be attached to it. Hoping to appeal to Irish and Catholic voters, the president offered air support to both sides.

The combatants prepared for war and prayed for divine intervention. At the last minute, Clinton proposed the formation of a special twelve-person peace commission; six appointed by the pope from the College of Cardinals, and six appointed by the prime minister from the Irish parliament.

It would be similar to the special commission included in the legislation to lift the debt ceiling that averted a default by the United States government, he said.

Like the debt ceiling commission, it would be charged with formulating a peace settlement within three months. Should the commission fail, a “triggering” mechanism would kick in.

But this would not be a “trigger” requiring across-the-board spending cuts; no, the members of the peace commission would then be armed and would fight-it-out in “gunfight at the O.K. Corral” style. The last one standing would be declared the winner and the troops would return home.

One cardinal said this would simply be “kicking the can down the road,” to which Bill Clinton quipped, “There are some cans I’d sure like to kick down the road.”

James W. Dolan is a former Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.