Prosecute the Pope?

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ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299
Prosecute the Pope?

Well may the pope defy ?the petty gossip of dominant opinion.? But the Holy See can no longer ignore international law, which now counts the widespread or systematic sexual abuse of children as a crime against humanity. The anomalous claim of the Vatican to be a state?and of the pope to be a head of state, and hence immune from legal action?cannot stand up to scrutiny.

The truly shocking finding of Judge Murphy?s Commission in Ireland, tasked with investigating child sex abuse in Dublin?s archdiocese, was not merely that ?sexual abuse was endemic in boys? institutions,? but that the church hierarchy protected the perpetrators and, despite knowledge of their propensity to reoffend, allowed them to take up new positions teaching other vulnerable children after their victims had been solemnly sworn to secrecy. This, of course, amounted to the criminal offence of aiding and abetting sex with minors. Head of state immunity provides no protection in the International Criminal Court.

In legal actions against Catholic archdioceses in the U.S., it has been alleged that this reflected Vatican policy as approved by Cardinal Ratzinger (as the pope then was) as late as November 2002?sexual assaults were regarded as sins that were subject to church tribunals and guilty priests were sent on a ?pious pilgrimage? whilst oaths of confidentiality (?papal secrecy?) were extracted from their victims.

In the U.S., 11,750 allegations of child sex abuse have so far featured in actions settled by archdioceses (in Los Angeles for $660 million and in Boston for $100 million), but some dioceses have gone into bankruptcy and some claimants want Vatican accountability?two reasons to sue the pope in person. But in 2005, a test case in Texas failed because the Vatican sought and obtained the intercession of President George W. Bush, who agreed to claim sovereign (i.e., head of state) immunity on the pope?s behalf. Bush lawyer John B. Bellinger III certified that Pope Benedict XVI was immune from suit ?as the head of a foreign state.?

The third Mr. Bellinger is notorious for his defense of Guantanamo and Bush administration torture policies, and his opinion on papal immunity is even more questionable. It hinges on the assumption that the Vatican or its metaphysical emanation, the Holy See, is a state. But the Papal States were extinguished by invasion in 1870 and the Vatican was created by fascist Italy in 1929 when Benito Mussolini endowed this tiny enclave?0.17 of a square mile containing 900 Catholic bureaucrats?with ?sovereignty in the international field... in conformity with its traditions and the exigencies of its mission in the world.?

The notion that statehood can be created by another country?s unilateral declaration is risible. If it weren?t, Iran could make Qom a state overnight and the U.K. could launch the city of Canterbury on to the international stage by the same process. But it did not take long for Catholic countries to support the pretentions of the Holy See, sending ambassadors and receiving Papal Nuncios in return. Even the U.K. maintains an apostolic mission that, until 2005, was always filled by British Catholics.

The U.N. at its inception refused membership to the Vatican (U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull said emphatically that it could never attain statehood) but has allowed it a unique and anomalous ?permanent observer status,? permitting it to become signatory to treaties like the Law of the Sea and (ironically) the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and to speak and vote at U.N. conferences, where it promotes its controversial dogmas on abortion, condoms, and homosexuality. This has involved the U.N. in blatant discrimination on grounds of religion, as other faiths are unofficially represented, if at all, by NGOs. But it has encouraged the Vatican to claim statehood?and the immunities from liability that attach to heads of state.

This claim could be challenged successfully in the U.K. if the pope is served with a writ when he visits there in September. Unlike overly deferential American judges, British courts do not accept the executive?s word on who gets immunity. Had Chile's General Pinochet gone to New York instead of London, the White House would have stopped his extradition proceedings immediately rather than allowed him to be detained for 18 months while the courts determined that as a former head of state he could not claim immunity from torture charges. In any event, head of state immunity provides no protection in the International Criminal Court (hence its current indictment of President Bashir). The ICC statute defines a crime against humanity to include rape and sexual slavery and other similarly inhumane acts causing serious harm to mental or physical health committed against civilians on a widespread or systematic scale if condoned or tolerated by a government or a de facto authority. The U.N. Appeal Court in Sierra Leone has held that recruitment of children as soldiers or sex slaves for an army amounts to a crime against humanity.

If acts of sexual abuse by priests are not isolated or sporadic events but part of a wide practice both known to and unpunished by their de facto authority?i.e. the Catholic Church?then under the command responsibility principle of international law (laid down by the U.S. Supreme Court) the commander can be held criminally liable. He falls within the temporal jurisdiction of the ICC so long as that abusive practice and the policy to tolerate it continued after July 2002, when the court was established.

Pope Benedict has recently been credited with reforming the ?papal secrecy? system he allegedly approved in 2002, so that guilty priests may now be reported to civil authorities, although initially (and disgracefully) he blamed the scandal on ?gay culture.? His admonition last week to the Irish church repeatedly emphasised that heaven still awaits the penitent pedophile priest. The Holy See may offer the prospect of redemption to its gravest sinners, but it must be clear in law that the pope does so at his own risk?as a spiritual adviser, and not as an immune sovereign.

Bolding is mine. What do you think? Now that the pope has announced his 'resignation', should he be held criminally accountable under the ICC? This article is 2 years old but I found the topic to be current, and fascinating.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

First of all, I don't think the pope should be allowed to resign. It's supposed to be a lifetime commitment, not a job you retire from when you don't want to do it anymore. That said, yes, he should be held criminally accountable even if he remains as pope.

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4115

While I do think that the Catholic church made big mistakes in how they handled things, I just don't think prosecuting an 85 year old man in poor health will help anything. I do think that they have made some progress and seem to be trying to change how things will be handled in the future.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

"Spacers" wrote:

First of all, I don't think the pope should be allowed to resign. It's supposed to be a lifetime commitment, not a job you retire from when you don't want to do it anymore. That said, yes, he should be held criminally accountable even if he remains as pope.

Ha ha. You mean "pope emeritus" who is still going to walk around in white robes? I can't believe that.

I agree with the lifetime commitment. And in this instance, as with others, I firmly believe the $hit needs to roll uphill in order for their to be any transparency in the future.

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

I firmly DON'T agree with the lifetime commitment. Would you really want someone with dementia as the Pope? I wouldn't. I'd much rather see a Pope with the wisdom and humility to step down when he is no longer able to do his duties as they deserve to be done.

That said, yes, I believe that anyone complicit in the systematic abuse and cover up of sex with minors ought to be prosecuted.

The idea that he's too old to prosecute is gross to me. Lots of old people do criminal acts. Doesn't excuse them.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

This is the stuff that makes it hard for me to swallow being Catholic. I identify as Catholic but I certainly disagree with a huge amount of what happens in the Church.

I never liked him as Pope so I know my feelings are clouding rational judgement. I'm not sure about lifetime commitment. I've only been alive for him and Pope JP where that was a lifetime commitment but I certainly don't want someone who cannot manage the job appropriately.

He should be held accountable along with anyone who covered up abuse and allowed it to continue. It's disgusting. It was a huge reason I stopped going to Church and stopped teaching CCD which I loved to do. I was furious at my "family"

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"Potter75" wrote:

I firmly DON'T agree with the lifetime commitment. Would you really want someone with dementia as the Pope? I wouldn't. I'd much rather see a Pope with the wisdom and humility to step down when he is no longer able to do his duties as they deserve to be done.

That said, yes, I believe that anyone complicit in the systematic abuse and cover up of sex with minors ought to be prosecuted.

The idea that he's too old to prosecute is gross to me. Lots of old people do criminal acts. Doesn't excuse them.

I agree with this.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

"Potter75" wrote:

I firmly DON'T agree with the lifetime commitment. Would you really want someone with dementia as the Pope? I wouldn't. I'd much rather see a Pope with the wisdom and humility to step down when he is no longer able to do his duties as they deserve to be done.

That said, yes, I believe that anyone complicit in the systematic abuse and cover up of sex with minors ought to be prosecuted.

The idea that he's too old to prosecute is gross to me. Lots of old people do criminal acts. Doesn't excuse them.

Normally with heads of state I would completely agree. I just think that the papacy is a bit different. He's supposed to represent God on earth and IMO that is a lifetime commitment. JP II was ill and not really all there for several years before he died. I would imagine that the pope has a whole team of cardinals who act as advisors and would step in and basically act on his behalf should the he become ill or mentally infirm.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

I personally think it is ridiculous. Punish the person that did the crime.. child abusers should get the death penalty.

Joined: 03/14/09
Posts: 624

I thought this was going to be about the other charges he is facing- for fraud. I think this is the real reason he is resigning, too much corruption. I bet he'll live 25 hale and hearty years after this, and he will have a great effect on the next pope.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

Can you imagine being the next pope, and still having this guy around wandering the hallways, trying to offer you advice, getting all the pope perks without the job responsibility?

smsturner's picture
Joined: 05/11/09
Posts: 1303

I would be curious to hear about the fraud charges.

I dislike the catholic church. The idea of having this great king-like figure at the head of it makes me roll my eyes everytime.

I think that anyone that helps abusers get away with it and find more victims should be held accountable. Him being the high and mighty pope? Well, maybe that would make more of a statement if they prosecute. No one should be above the law.