Tag Archive | "child abuse"

British Court: Catholic Priests Are Employees of the Catholic Church


Who is the boss of Catholic priests? The layman and the laity would answer without hesitation: the Catholic Church. But for the Catholic Church — and the lawyers that defend them in abuse cases — the answer is not so obvious. Are they self-employed? Or maybe employed by a higher power?

Whatever the case, the Church’s lawyers are sure of one thing: Catholic priests are not employed by the Catholic Church.

Because if the abusive priests are employed by the Church, then the Church as employers can be held liable for crimes committed by priests. The we’re-not-the-boss argument has been the foundation of the Church’s defense in sex abuse cases all over the world. Refute this and you break down the walls that protect churches from prosecution — all the way up to the Vatican.

And this is precisely what happened on Tuesday:

A British court has ruled that Roman Catholic priests are equivalent to employees, a decision that could pave the way for victims of sexual abuse to win damages from the church…

Tuesday’s ruling involved a 47-year-old woman who says she was sexually assaulted by the Rev. Wilfred Baldwin when she was living in a Catholic children’s home in Portsmouth, in southern England.

The church argued that Baldwin was not an employee, an argument rejected by Justice Alistair MacDuff.

The judge noted that Baldwin was appointed by and on behalf of the diocese to do their work. “He had immense power handed to him by the defendants,” the judge wrote in the ruling. “It was they who appointed him to the position of trust which (if the allegations be proved) he so abused.

The woman’s case is being tried in December, when another judge will have to make a further decision about the church’s liability, MacDuff said. “I only have to decide whether the nature of the relationship is one to which vicarious liability may — I emphasize ‘may’ — attach,” he wrote.

Vicarious liability is a legal doctrine that holds employers responsible for the actions of employees in some circumstances.

Proving that priests are employed by the Church is just the first step. But if vicarious liability is attached, it will completely demolish the we’re-not-the-boss defense in this case, setting the precedent for hundreds of sex abuse cases all over the world, paving the way for prosecutors to face the final boss: Pope Benedict XVI.

Until then, victims of clerical sex abuse will continue to suffer, the public will remain ignorant of the covered up crimes, and the Catholic Church will continue denying responsibility, blaming its employees and their victims (like a boss).

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The Vatican, a Rogue Pseudo-State, Part 2


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.

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The Vatican, a Rogue Pseudo-State, Part 1


A letter written in 1997 by Apostolic Nuncio Luciano Storero has recently surfaced and has elicited outrage against the Vatican regarding its, by now, undeniable complicity in the widespread rape and molestation of children by Catholic priests. The missive, which the Vatican defends as “deeply misunderstood” stated that “mandatory reporting” of cases of child rape by clergy gave rose to “serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature.” The mandatory reporting was a recommended solution by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Advisory Committee to the systemic sexual abuse crisis within the Roman Catholic Church. What Storero’s reservations refer to are specific tenets within Canon Law that demand absolute confidentiality.

The fact that mandatory reporting is even being debated among supposedly civilized company is disgraceful. Since when has the rape and torture of children not demanded immediate reporting to the proper authorities? Any other organization that shields its criminals from the law as shamelessly as the Roman Catholic Church has would have had its leaders taken to court by now.

The special treatment that the Catholic Church or, more accurately, the Vatican enjoys stems from its claim to state sovereignty. As the absolute monarch of 108.7 acres in the Italian city of Rome, the successor of Saint Peter boasts immunity from prosecution. This is the same privilege that is bestowed upon foreign ambassadors by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. But as Geoffrey Robertson, member of the Queen’s Counsel, writes in The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse, there is good reason to be skeptical of the Vatican’s claim to statehood.

The Vatican State as a Bully Pulpit

The Vatican state was unilaterally declared after a deal by Pope Pius XI with the fascist dictator of Italy, Benito Mussolini, in 1929. This deal, the Lateran Treaty, and the Church’s Concordat with the Nazis were unveiled at a lavish ceremony in Rome. The Vatican newspaper announced, “Italy has been given back to God and God to Italy.” Pius XI hailed Mussolini as “a man sent by providence” and promptly told all Italian Catholics to vote for him. Mussolini won 98.33% of the vote. These overtly sinister roots of the seat of the Vicar of Christ are not often taught in Catholic schools.

Since then, the Catholic Church has abused its position as the only world religion that has its own country, officially. As the only non-member state with permanent observer status in the United Nations, the Holy See has consistently led the charge, despite its lack of right to vote, against initiatives towards the equal rights of women and LGBT and the reduction of AIDS cases via the distribution of condoms.

Mirroring the Catholic Church in the Philippines’ current hijacking of the RH Bill proceedings, the Vatican has invariably attempted to derail the UN’s own reproductive health programs. In 1995, during the UN conference on population and development in Cairo, the Holy See said that reproductive health meant ‘abortion,’ which they call a “heinous evil,” as well as ‘tolerance of homosexuality,’ another “heinous evil.” In the Beijing conference on women that same year, the Vatican lobbied its Catholic allies as well as Muslim states to oppose any consensus text that included words and phrases such as “gender equality,” “unwanted pregnancy,” “reproductive rights,” and even “lifestyle.” It also tried to ban the NGO, Catholics for a Free Choice to attend.

Questioning Vatican Statehood

The Vatican has regularly taken advantage of its perceived statehood in order to propound its own fundamentalist dogmas and to bully other majority Catholic nations into enacting the Holy See’s own agenda. This circumvents its inability to vote in the UN. Despite its pretensions to statehood, however, Robertson argues that the Vatican does not satisfy international law regarding official state recognition. The Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States has four requirements in order for states to be recognized in the international community and they are as follows.

1. A Permanent Population

The Vatican has no nationals or residents to call its own. It is mainly home to the bureaucracy of the Roman Catholic Church. There are no permanent residents and “citizenship” is mainly authorization to remain in the Vatican until their status or employment expires. To cross from Rome into Vatican City, the only requirement is to have one’s baggages checked.

Citizenship may be extended to “the wife [in a sexist presumption that all diplomats will be male], children, parents, brothers, and sisters.” However, sons must leave Vatican City at the age of 25 and daughters must leave when they marry (another sexist provision, as Robertson opines). Unlike any other nation on Earth, citizenship cannot be acquired by birth. There are no “Vaticanians” born and there is no national community to speak of.

2. A Defined Territory

“‘Vatican City’ cannot properly be regarded as a territory at all,” writes Robertson. This is because all that Vatican City contains is a large palace, a few attached buildings, and a vast garden. It is not even a city since it is entirely within another city, Rome.

Real estate within the Vatican cannot be sold unless with papal permission. While, all of the basic services necessary for the upkeep of the Vatican (electricity, water, gas, and sewage) are run by the Italian government and its Italian citizens.

The government of the Vatican, the Holy See, does not even enforce its own supposed territory. With one of the highest crime rates in the world, the Vatican has its criminals apprehended by foreigners, the carabinieri (the Italian police). It is strange how a state can insist on its sovereignty when it cannot even exercise jurisdiction over its plot of land.

3. Government

The Holy See (comprised of the Supreme Pontiff and the Curia) is arguably the government of the Vatican. However, seeing as how it itself does not have territory and the Vatican has no population, this argument is rather tenuous. The Holy See governs the Catholic Church and the Vatican exists not for Vatican nationals but for Catholics all over the world, who are themselves citizens of their respective nations. The Curia operates the Vatican’s international affairs in the Italian city of Rome while defense and policing, as well as medical services, are provided for by the Italian government (which is supposed to be a foreign state). This defies the requirement of the Montevideo Convention for states to have some independence in conducting international affairs.

The Holy See cannot even punish crimes against its own leader. After Mehmet Ali Agca attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II and was arrested by Italian police, he was held in Italian prison and was tried in Italian courts. Agca’s defense tried to argue that he had been unlawfully extradited to a foreign state. This plea was rejected, a fact that flies in the face of Vatican statehood claims.

4. Capacity to Enter into Relations with Other States

In order to be involved in diplomatic relations, consular relations are a necessary implication. Consuls are mainly concerned with the welfare of their nationals in foreign countries. However, if you are ever injured or attacked in Vatican City, do not expect help from your nation’s ambassador to the Vatican because they do not offer consular services. The envoy to Italy will take up this role.

Interactions by states with the Holy See are mostly involved with religious matters, such as arranging audiences with the pope. As the headquarters of a religion and not of a nation-state, the Vatican functions in the international community in a capacity unlike any other state.

Simply put, as both Professor Gillian Triggs of the University of Sydney Law School and Robertson agree on, “Vatican City does not meet the criteria for statehood.”

This discussion of The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse is continued in Part 2.

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