This discussion of The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse is a continuation of The Vatican, A Rogue Pseudo-State, Part 1.
Even if, however, the Vatican were an actual state, its international trafficking of child molesters and hiding rapists from the law via its secretive Canonical trials within sovereign nations breach the secular laws of those particular nations.
Crimen sollicitationis outlines how these trials must go. Once an accusation against a priest has been made, the accuser is made to sign an official denunciation against the accused. This begins the Canonical proceedings regulated by Canon Law, which is based on what the Vatican perceives as moral and spiritual commandments from the Holy Spirit. Thus, all participants are bound by “pontifical secret” upon pain of excommunication. The trial does not admit forensic evidence and is conducted entirely in writing. Those who run the trial are all colleagues of the defendant and it is a requirement for all those handling the trial to have undergone the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Right off the bat, the odds are in favor of the accused.
Should the allegations be found unsubstantiated, the documents are all destroyed. If the charges are of some merit, but judged to be inconclusive, they are kept in the archives. If evidence of the crime is “grave enough,” several punishments are in order. However, none are more severe than laicization, or the demotion of a priest to the lay state. This is a penalty that is apparently so dreadful that even Pope Benedict would not inflict it on Father Lawrence Murphy who molested over two hundred deaf children at St John’s School for the Deaf in Wisconsin. Even in the case of conviction, there is nothing in Canon Law that compels officials to file a criminal case against the offending priest. The punishment for leaking documents is a lot more grave than what any depraved child rapist like Father Murphy could ever possibly get.
According to the “new norms” sent out in 2001 as Sacramentorum sanctitatus tutela, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the successor to the Inquisition and the former office of Joseph Ratzinger, heads Canonical trials concerning child molestation cases, particularly those that involve the confessional. The CDF is informed of all these proceedings by the local Church, which conducts the trials, under strict confidentiality and subject to the pontifical secret. This was reinforced by Pope Benedict in De delictis gravioribus.
The Roman Catholic Church performs these confidential trials under the noses of the sovereign states within which the specific churches operate. In doing so, an alleged foreign sovereign state (the Vatican) tries foreign nationals on foreign soil. This comes into conflict with the jurisdiction exercised by the host state. What’s more is that, since all relevant documents are kept under pontifical secret, few believing Catholics would dare to blow the whistle or report to proper authorities the crimes that occur within the Church. Let us remember that excommunication carries with it grave consequences that may or may not result in everlasting torture in the fires of hell. Should the police have the opportunity, however, to investigate, the relevant documents are often whisked away into the safety of the Vatican archives where they cannot be subpoenaed due to diplomatic immunity.
While the rape of children is unequivocally disgusting and reprehensible, the true crimes that the Church, the Vatican, and the pope are liable for are their gross negligence, such as in its shuffling of priests to various parishes where they have sinned again, and their operation of a secret international legal jurisdiction that disregards local laws (including the withholding of evidence from proper authorities). To make matters worse, Canonical trials are ineffective and non-punitive.
The scale of the Vatican’s indulgence of its employees’ raping and sexual slavery of children is cause for concern. It might even qualify as a crime against humanity, something not even diplomatic immunity can defend against. Thousands of children all over the world have been tortured and abused by the very ministers and confessors that they had given their complete trust. These men who stand in for Christ at the point of consecration were allowed by the Church’s policies to get away with their crimes and to transgress in some other parish.
The Catholic Church has maintained that the cause of their crisis is not their refusal to cooperate with police or their obsession with controlling and denying the sex lives of its members, particularly its clergy. The pope’s right hand man, Tarcisio Bertone, asserts that homosexuality is the reason for pedophiles in the Church. The pope himself blames secular society, saying that, in the 1970’s, it accepted pedophilia as “fully in conformity with man and even with children.”
The Holy See governs the Vatican as a rogue pseudo-state that seems to be convinced that it is above international law. While the point whether the Catholic Church hierarchy is guilty of crimes against humanity is up to international criminal courts, they should at least be allowed to put the pope on the dock. The Church cannot hide behind its Santa Claus statehood for much longer. Just because many nations officially believe that the Vatican is a state, it doesn’t make it true.
In The Case of the Pope, Geoffrey Robertson QC details an effective examination of the viability of the Vatican’s assertion of statehood and the pope’s declaration of diplomatic immunity as well as the liability of his organization in the revolting sexual abuse of children by the clergy under its employ. Robertson skillfully conveys complicated legalese to lay audiences without oversimplifying the admittedly difficult nature of international law and the politics of foreign relations. It is an articulate analysis of the Vatican and the apparent crusade it is waging against human rights. Even if you are a Catholic, if truly love what you believe your Church stands for, do not give this book a pass.
The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse by Geoffrey Robertson QC is published by Penguin Global.