Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Can Benedict Be Brought to Trial For Crimes Against Humanity

Here in the UK, the papal visit planned for September is turning into a public relations disaster.Even before the current uproar over abuse and cover-ups, in some circles there was a lot of unhappiness here, which was not helped by the manner of his invitation to disillusioned Anglicans.  Now, anger over the abuse allegations has led some well known British atheists to announce that they will attempt to use the papal visit as an opportunity to either have him tried for "crimes against humanity" for his role in protecting abusers, or to have some victims sue for damages.  I don't for a minute suppose that they will be successful, but just the suggestion is remarkable and will not please the Vatican. 

From the  Richard Dawkins, in the Guardian:

The pope should stand trial

Why is anyone surprised when Christopher Hitchens and I call for the prosecution of the pope? There is a clear case to answer
Sexual abuse of children is not unique to the Roman Catholic church, and Joseph Ratzinger is not one of those priests who raped altar boys while in a position of dominance and trust. But as so often it is the subsequent cover-ups, even more than the original crimes, that do most to discredit an institution, and here the pope is in real trouble.
Pope Benedict XVI is the head of the institution as a whole, but we can't blame the present head for what was done before his watch. Except that in his particular case, as archbishop of Munich and as Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (what used to be called the Inquisition), the very least you can say is that there is a case for him to answer. See, for example, three articles by my colleague Christopher Hitchens herehere, and here. The latest smoking gun is the 1985 letter obtained by the Associated Press, signed by the then Cardinal Ratzinger to the diocese of Oakland about the case of Father Stephen Kiesle, mercilessly analysed by Andrew Sullivan here.
Never mind headlines invented by foolish sub-editors, we are serious. It should be for a court to decide – a civil court, not a whitewashing ecclesiastical court – whether the case against Ratzinger is as damning as it looks. If he is innocent, let him have the opportunity to demonstrate it in court. If he is guilty, let him face justice. Just like anybody else.
 (Read the full report)

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