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."