Dawkins, Hitchens Call for Arrest and Trial of Pope Benedict

April 13, 2010

public domain - from Wikipedia Commons

According to the Guardian , famed "New Atheists" Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have hired lawyers to investigate the possibility of prosecuting Pope Benedict XVI for crimes against humanity.

They argue that the pope should be arrested during an upcoming visit to the UK and placed on trial for covering up the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal.   Last week a letter surfaced in which Benedict (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) urged that a pedophilic priest not be defrocked for the "good of the universal church".

The Vatican has suggested the pope is immune from prosecution as a head of state.  Dawkins and Hitchens counter that because he is not the head of a state with full United Nations membership, the pope does not hold sovereign immunity and could be arrested upon visiting Britain.  Their lawyers, solicitor Mark Stephens and human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC, argue that the Vatican "is not recognised as a state in international law. People assume that it has existed for time immemorial but it was a construct of Mussolini, and when the Vatican first applied to become a member of the UN, the US said no. So as a sop they were given the status of permanent observers rather than full members."

Stephens offered three possibilities of placing the pope on trial. "One is that we apply for a warrant to the international criminal court. Alternatively, criminal proceedings could be brought here, either a public prosecution brought by the Crown Prosecution Service or a private prosecution. That would require at least one victim to come forward who is either from this jurisdiction or was abused here. The third option is for individuals to lodge civil claims."

In a recent article in the Washington Post , Dawkins described Ratzinger as a "leering old villain in a frock ... whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence. . . . This former head of the Inquisition should be arrested the moment he dares to set foot outside his tinpot fiefdom of the Vatican, and he should be tried in an appropriate civil - not ecclesiastical - court. That's what should happen. Sadly, we all know our faith-befuddled governments will be too craven to do it."

Comments:

#1 beldoc on Friday April 16, 2010 at 2:06pm

What is the real likihood that this will proceed
to anything substantial? It is certainly horrible, and morally bankrupt, but does it reach the threshold of crimes against humanity in the courts eyes?
I am fascinated and hopeful that this could
bring about real change regarding the influence
of the church in society. Finally people may be forced
to think about it in its true light.
I also took to heart the comment Dawkins made that
Practicing catholics should be ashamed that it took atheists to bring this challenge forward. Where have
the faithful been. Who has spoken for the children here?
I admire the courage of Dawkins and Hitchins to
tackle such a monumental and historically powerful entity as the catholic church. It should be inspirational to us all and a reminder the the status quo should never be good enough, particularly when it comes to issues as important as the welfare of our children and the dispensing of moral advice.
Cheers to them!

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