Pope Benedict’s Decision to Remain in the Vatican Grants Him Immunity From Any Legal Actions

Here is one story that went under the radar on Friday, when Reuters published “Pope will have security, immunity by remaining in the Vatican.” The article says that the decision by Pope Benedict XVI to live in the Vatican after his resignation “will provide him with security and privacy,” and “will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world.”

The Reuters story also published quotes from a Vatican official:

“[Pope Benedict XVI’s] continued presence in the Vatican is necessary, otherwise he might be defenseless. He wouldn’t have his immunity, his prerogatives, his security, if he is anywhere else,” said one Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It is absolutely necessary” that he stays in the Vatican, said the source, adding that Benedict should have a “dignified existence” in his remaining years.

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The story also included the following about why remaning inside the Vatican would be beneficial for Benedict:

The final key consideration is the pope’s potential exposure to legal claims over the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals.

In 2010, for example, Benedict was named as a defendant in a law suit alleging that he failed to take action as a cardinal in 1995 when he was allegedly told about a priest who had abused boys at a U.S. school for the deaf decades earlier. The lawyers withdrew the case last year and the Vatican said it was a major victory that proved the pope could not be held liable for the actions of abusive priests.

Benedict is currently not named specifically in any other case. The Vatican does not expect any more but is not ruling out the possibility.

According to the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State (ITCCS) —a group that speaks out against the “abuse, trafficking, torture and murder of children” which “appears endemic to European culture, and continues to be actively practiced, and condoned and protected, by church, state, judicial and police forces around the globe”— it is claiming that Benedict will be meeting with Italian President President Giorgio Napolitano on “Saturday, February 23 to discuss securing protection and immunity from prosecution from the Italian government.” The ITCCS piece attributes “Italian media sources.”

The ITCCS also sent President Napolitano an open letter.

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Here is the full English version of the letter:

An Open Letter and Appeal to Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Republic of Italy from Rev. Kevin D. Annett, Secretary of the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State

14 February, 2013
Al Presdente della Repubblica Italiana Giorgio Napolitano
Presidenza della Repubblica
c/o Palazzo del Quirinale
00187 Roma
Italia

Dear President Napolitano,

On behalf of our Tribunal and people of conscience everywhere, and of the millions of victims of church abuse, I am making an appeal to you regarding your upcoming meeting with Joseph Ratzinger, who will retire soon as Pope Benedict, the Pontiff of the Church of Rome.

Our understanding is that, in the wake of pressure to have him resign his office because of his proven complicity in concealing child trafficking in his church and other crimes against humanity, Joseph Ratzinger is seeking the assistance of the Italian government in securing protection and immunity from legal prosecution.

I need not remind you, Mr. President, that under international law and treaties that have been ratified by Italy, you and your government are forbidden from granting such protection to those like Jospeh Ratzinger who have aided and abetted criminal actions, such as ordering Bishops and Cardinals in America and elsewhere to protect known child rapists among their clergy.

Your obligation to the Vatican through the Lateran Treaties does not negate or nullify the requirements of these higher moral and international laws; nor does it require that you give any protection or immunity to a single individual like Joseph Ratzinger, especially after he has left his papal office.

The need for you to abide by international law and not be seen to collude with Joseph Ratzinger is even more true when one considers the enormity of the crimes of which the Vatican and its highest officials are clearly guilty, according to considerable evidence gathered and documented by our Tribunal and other groups, and acknowledged by many governments.

In Canada alone, the Roman Catholic Church and its Vatican agents have been found guilty of responsibility for genocide and the deaths of at least 50,000 aboriginal child children in the Jesuit-initiated Indian residential school system, that operated until 1996.

In Ireland, more than 10,000 women suffered and were exploited in the Catholic-run Magdalene Laundries, where many of them died. Similar church-run institutions all over the world have caused enormous mortality, disease and ruination for millions of children. And yet the church has never been held accountable or prosecuted for these deaths and the theft of enormous wealth from entire nations.

With the recent initiative of at least one European government and a host of lawyers to bring Joseph Ratzinger and other church officials to trial for these crimes, we feel it is incumbent on you neither to assist nor to be seen to assist or condone the attempt by him to evade, obstruct or delay justice, lest you open yourself to a charge of being an accessory to a crime.

On behalf of our Tribunal and of many people who cannot speak, I call on you to stand on the law of nations and humanity, and offer no support or protection to Joseph Ratzinger or his accessories in their efforts to evade responsibility for their proven crimes.

I look forward to your reply, and to discussing this with you more when I visit your country in May with a human rights delegation to investigate this matter more closely.

Sincerely,

Kevin D. Annett, M.A., M.Div.

Secretary, The International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State
Central Office, Brussels

cc: world media

Besides the Reuters story and the information being shared by the ITCCs, The Digital Journal provides a good summary of the issues involved. Its story also includes this information about Ratzinger:

According to a Los Angeles Times report, while Ratzinger was in charge of overseeing all investigations into sexual abuse allegations, memos written by Archbishop Roger M. Mahony and Msgr. Thomas J. Curry between 1986-1987 showed a “concerted effort…to shield abusers from police.” It is alleged that Ratzinger was aware of these memos.

In 2001, a letter written by Ratzinger clarified the confidentiality of internal church investigations into accusations of sexual abuse by priests. The Bishops Accountability organization states that Ratzinger ordered bishops worldwide to maintain absolute secrecy about priest pedophilia and to simply transfer them from one parish to another.

While many loyal Catholics might view these recent developments as just another example of a smear campaign against The Catholic Church, the sexual abuse scandal that has left a permanent stain on the Church still contains several unanswered questions: How much did the Vatican know? And if the Vatican and Pope Benedict were indeed unaware of what occurred and they did nothing to try and cover it up, why not just be more transparent about it? Why not fight aggressively against the allegations and why now have a Pope resign for the first time in nearly 600 years?

As one opinion writer from Addicting Info writes:

The thing is, this institution [the Church] knows no bounds when it comes to protecting their own, no matter how heinous the crimes. Anyone not living under a rock knows that the Pope and his cronies have abusing children for decades, and likely centuries. The thing is, they are just the biggest example of religion getting people passes. Shameful, but true. All those of us with a sense of justice and conscience can do is hope that one, if not both, of these attempts at legal action is successful.

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