Arrest the Pope?
The atheist blogosphere has been positively buzzing as of late with calls to arrest Pope Benedict XVI. I’m no fan of the Catholic Church, but I have seen evidence that the media reports half-truths and pulls things out of context to make the Catholic Church look worse than it has to. The case of Father Lawrence Murphy is a great example.
The leader of the charge is the always pit bull-like Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens wants the Pope charged with aiding and abetting the scandal–or perhaps more serious charges, such as accessory to rape.
The problem is that the Holy See, of which the Pope is head, is treated as a state for the purposes of international relations. As head of that state, the Pope enjoys sovereign immunity, the controversial concept that the government can’t be the subject of a lawsuit or a criminal proceeding.
Sovereign immunity can be waived by the owner, and it’s very doubtful that either the Pope or the Catholic Church will do that. Or, courts can strike it down as inapplicable in the current case, as was done by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in November of 2008. A case against the Vatican was allowed to proceed because sovereign immunity doesn’t apply to tort law, according to the Fedeal Sovereign Immunities Act.
Sovereign immunity doesn’t apply to international tribunals, either. The Pope could still be charged in the International Criminal Court for patterns of human rights violations perpetrated by the Vatican under the previous two pontiffs.
It will be interesting to see if this actually comes to pass. I doubt that it will, but we shall see.