Wow! Richard Dawkins and Chris Hitchens are investigating whether Papa Ratzi could be arrested on an ICC warrant when he visits the UK. Dawkins writes:
Lashing out in desperation, church spokesmen are now blaming everybody but themselves for their current dire plight, which one official spokesman likens to the worst aspects of antisemitism (what are the best ones, I wonder?). Suggested culprits include the media, the Jews, and even Satan. The church is hiding behind a seemingly endless stream of excuses for having failed in its legal and moral obligation to report serious crimes to the appropriate civil authorities. But it was Cardinal Ratzinger’s official responsibility to determine the church’s response to allegations of child sex abuse, and his letter in the Kiesle case makes the real motivation devastatingly explicit. Here are his actual words, translated from the Latin in the AP report:
“This court, although it regards the arguments presented in favour of removal in this case to be of grave significance, nevertheless deems it necessary to consider the good of the universal church together with that of the petitioner, and it is also unable to make light of the detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke with the community of Christ’s faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner.”
“The young age of the petitioner” refers to Kiesle, then aged 38, not the age of any of the boys he tied up and raped (11 and 13). It is completely clear that, together with a nod to the welfare of the “young” priest, Ratzinger’s primary concern, and the reason he refused to unfrock Kiesle (who went on to re-offend) was “the good of the universal church”.
But Papa Ratzi is a head of state — and thus surely could claim Sovereign Immunity. Geoffrey Robertson QC says “not necessarily”:
This claim could be challenged successfully in the UK and in the European Court of Human Rights. But in any event, head of state immunity provides no protection for the pope in the international criminal court (see its current indictment of President Bashir). The ICC Statute definition of a crime against humanity includes rape and sexual slavery and other similarly inhumane acts causing harm to mental or physical health, committed against civilians on a widespread or systematic scale, if condoned by a government or a de facto authority. It has been held to cover the recruitment of children as soldiers or sex slaves. If acts of sexual abuse by priests are not isolated or sporadic, but part of a wide practice both known to and unpunished by their de facto authority then they fall within the temporal jurisdiction of the ICC – if that practice continued after July 2002, when the court was established.
“At last”, writes George Monbiot, “we are waking up to what international law means. For the first time in modern history the underlying assumption of political life – that those who exercise power over us will not be judged by the same legal and moral norms as common citizens – is beginning to crack.”
If only… Somehow I can’t see Ratzi coming down the steps of his plane handcuffed to Inspector Knacker. But it’s interesting that people are beginning to think like this.
Clearly Vatican Inc. doesn’t know anything about Denis Healey’s First Law of Holes (“when you’re in one, stop digging”). Take what happened yesterday in Chile when Papa R’s leading aide did some more digging. According to the Times:
Speaking on a visit to Chile, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, said: “Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and paedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.”
This kind of stupidity proved too much even for the Vatican, which moved rapidly moved to distance itself today from Bertone’s comments. A spin doctor, Father Federico Lombardi, was mustered to explain that:
the remarks by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, went outside the remit of Church authorities, adding that the comments had been misunderstood.
“General assertions of a specifically psychological or medical nature” were the responsibility of specialists and not Church officials, he said in a statement.
Father Lombardi said that Cardinal Bertone had been referring only to cases of paedophilia in the clergy and not to “the world population”.
Ah! I see.
In the meantime, can I recommend this terrific lecture by Stephen Fry on why Vatican Inc. is not a force for good? Which, when you think about it, must be the understatement of the — still young — century.
Thanks to Ray Corrigan for the video link.