Can the Pope Be Detained?

Pope Benedict XVI

by Peter McCarthy
(reporting from Australia)

This last week has seen some interesting commentary about whether the current Pope can be put on trial for covering up child abuse when he was Cardinal Ratzinger as late as November 2002. This report from St Oswald Foundation is one of the better ones for covering the options. It’s an interesting question that has a few quirky responses that reveal more about the commentator than the facts.

Predictably some have attacked Richard Dawkins for wanting to destroy the Church, which is true enough but doesn’t alter the fact that questions need to be answered. Others have attacked Geoffrey Robinson for being a lawyer who (get this one) works for money. Apparently you can only attack the Pope if you work for free though I don’t quite follow the logic on this one.

Some claim the Holy See is a Head of State and can’t be prosecuted but this too is incorrect. As current Sudanese Head of State President Omar al-Bashir can attest (from his own country because he can’t risk arrest overseas).
Of course the wacky Miranda Devine has to try and take things even further in her approach. According to her

  • There is more sexual abuse these days (not as I suspect more reporting of it)
  • Society’s to blame for moral decline not the abusing priests. Too bad it predates the Internet.
  • It’s all a Commie style plot to destroy the Church.

She then goes on to equate the possible destruction of the Catholic Church as the destruction of Christianity a proposal that should offend every other denomination that claims to be the True Christianity.

Where the real question lays is can a credible case be made that child abuse was systemic and I don’t think that one can get up. Even proof that some parts of the Church regularly relocated abusers into other child contact positions still won’t be enough to win the case unless the Pope has committed it to a written document. I hardly think something like that exists in an organization that tried to pretend the problem didn’t exist but imagine the future if the Pope got arrested on his next visit to the UK a la Pinochet?

It might actually be possible to prosecute the Pope for crimes against humanity over the Churches behavior towards it’s African members. When the African Bishops decided to undermine the AIDS campaign by spreading lies about the effectiveness of condoms, the previous Pope did nothing to reign these “Leaders” in. If the current Pope has not removed these gentlemen from Office, or worse, has not even directed them to behave responsibly, then it is a serious crime against humanity. With 2 million deaths from AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa way back in 2007, its totally irresponsible for this human assisted tragedy to continue.

In the final wash-up I don’t think arresting the Pope over pedophile priests would make much difference to the victims. The Church seems to finally realize they have a moral responsibility over their protection of child molesters, but in the unfashionable case of AIDS in Africa it might just shake them up and get some responsibility taken by these social engineers who place so little value on human lives.

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