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For God and Country

The other day, I happened to hear about this story on the radio. In brief: the Catholic Church is being sued in Texas over a pedophile priest. One aspect of the suit is a Vatican policy that such matters should be kept quiet and handled by the Church. The author of this policy (which was sent out worldwide) was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and the plaintiffs would like him to come testify about it. The catch is that Cardinal Ratzinger is now Pope Benedict XVI, and as such is a head of state and has diplomatic immunity.

The hosts of the show had an interesting observation. According to the Bill Clinton/Paula Jones precedent, a head of state can be sued while in office for matters that occurred before they took office. I dunno how this would apply to a foreign head of state, however.

But it brings up an interesting point. We here in the US have a clear separation of Church and State. But in the case of the Vatican, the Church IS the State. How does the United States deal with such a confluence? (And we do have to deal with it, because the Vatican is NOT about to change its ways to suit our principles.)

When the pedophile priest sex scandal heated up in Boston, the thoroughly despicable Cardinal Law resigned from leading the archdiocese of Boston and was recalled to Rome. He kept a low profile for a while, but was given a prominent role in the mourning of the death of Pope John Paul II. Law's case, along with a few other cases of pedophile priests being transferred out of the United States, brought up the question of whether or not members of the clergy (especially high-ranking officials such as Law) could claim dipomatic immunity through their ties to the Vatican.

I think I have a simple solution. If the Vatican wishes its higher officials to enjoy diplomatic privilege, let them declare so in advance. Let them specify which members are entitled to such protection by issuing them diplomatic passports and other forms of identification.

But any American who accepts this should be required to register with the State Department as agents of a foreign government. They are publicly pledging their service to an independent nation outside the United States, representing that nation's interests and acting on their behalf.

I know it's an unprecedented notion, but the Vatican presents a unique situation. And it will clarify and extend the formal relationship between the United States and the Vatican, in the spirit of when Ronald Reagan first gave diplomatic recognition and appointed an ambassador back in 1984.


Comments (12)

It's even simpler than that... (Below threshold)

It's even simpler than that, just threaten to revoke their tax free status and I think they'll come around to seeing it our way. It is a disgrace that a church would protect these child predators. What does that say about the church and what it supposedly stands for.

They should not be allowed to operate in this country tax free and break the laws while they do!

Talk about demanding Muslims to renounce terrorism, how about asking every God fearing Christian to stand up and demand that the church be held accountable?

Good luck, if you don't speak out against the church in this instance you are no better than the terrorists because these predators destroy lives no differently than the muslim terrorist.

Good luck, if you ... (Below threshold)
Mark A. Flacy:
Good luck, if you don't speak out against the church in this instance you are no better than the terrorists because these predators destroy lives no differently than the muslim terrorist.

"Dead" is the not the same as "molested." Or can we use people who were molested as stand-by organ donors? Since they are as good as dead in your eyes?

Molested can screw up indiv... (Below threshold)

Molested can screw up individuals & society a lot more than dead. It goes on for longer for starters.

A crime is a crime. We should not make the distinction that (a) is a major crime & must be prosecuted, but (b) is only a big crime, so should only be prosecuted if its easy to do so, and (c) is a little crime so lets not bother unless they're poor.

The solution is to have an official extradition treaty with Vatican City & define who is a foriegn national diplomat, and who is an American citizen following a religion.

erm.. fact check..... (Below threshold)
anonymoose:

erm.. fact check..

first there is not a clear seperation of church and state. All the legal arguments over that very fact going on today prove the it is as murky as the waters of New Orleans (or Galveston by the weekend).

second the commentators are morons. Pope Benedict is a foreign dignetary. Tradition and quid pro quo allows us to extend immunity. If we really wanted we could send Delta or 1st Marine into the Vatican and snatch his holyness. Who would stop us? The Swiss guard? Ha! Saddams army folded like a used dish rag. We do not arrest/seize/kidnap for sake of our own people. Thats it.

As for Clinton, there is this pesky document known as the Constitution. You might have heard of it. Anyway, it does not protect the President from all acts. There are these things called Amendments in there that specifically restrict his actions. In the case cited, Mr Clinton, as a citizen of the US not as President, pledged to tell the truth in a legal case and then proceeded to commit perjury. While he may not be imprisioned for his actions, he was held accountable under the laws of our land. He was impeached.

There is plenty of legal wiggle room here, civil cases are notorious for lax evidence standards. All the victim has to do is make the jury feel big bad evil church has screwed the little man. Works for screwing Big Tobacco and Automakers.

The solution is to extermin... (Below threshold)
NtvAmrcn:

The solution is to exterminate child molestors. And the judges and legal system who continue to give them free passes.

The closest I ever came to committing murder was when my son, and a few others, were molested in our small community. The molester was given 2 years probation. I am more furious with our legal system than with the freaken molestor. I am still thinking about retribution. Thankfully, with strong family support my son is much better. But I am still furious with ur judges and legal system for not putting this scum away for life.

You think I'm nuts. Then just imagine your little son or daughter or grandchildren, innocent all, being f$%^#[email protected]# up the behind by some local pervert. YOUR BLOOD children!!!!!

I have no sympathy or mercy for any of them. I would be one of the first to volunteer to execute any of them, without mercy!!!!

If someone in American govt... (Below threshold)
meep:

If someone in American govt thinks they can seize the Pope over this, then for sure some foreign court will decide they've got the power to seize President Bush over war crimes. Think about it for a moment, okay? So that's off the table.

If an individual can sue the Pope over official Church policy to get money, then why cannot an individual sue the U.S. President because of official state policy? I know foreign torts are popular in U.S. courts to sue various dictators around the world for seizing property elsewhere, which means there surely is precedent for suing the head of another state in the U.S.

Seriously...I think I remember hearing about various countries/dictators having American funds frozen here because of various lawsuits. Perhaps even while they were still in power.

The thing is, of course, if you have to wait for Pope Benedict XVI to not be Pope, then you've got to wait for him to die. I don't think that will make for an effective witness in a court case. Not that it hasn't been tried before (one Pope dug up a predecessor and put the corpse on trial. This was during an extremely "colorful" time in the Church's history.)

Meep,Not trying to... (Below threshold)
NtvAmrcn:

Meep,

Not trying to jump on you per se, but what the hell does all that last post have to do with anything? If YOUR young son or daughter were abused by a pervert, whether connected with the church or not, (I am not going to describe the heartbreak that is real here), why do you want to get all complicated with it and/or political?

ALL those "people" deserve nothing less than death!!! If you do not believe that, then you have not been around anyone who has had to live through the experience!! And you especially have not had to see YOUR innocent son or daughter be molested by one of those "people". I use the term "people" loosly. To me, they are not "people", they are less that rats who should be exterminated!!!

Speaking from experience. I have no sympathy, nor mercy for child molestors!!!!

And I have even less sympat... (Below threshold)
NtvAmrcn:

And I have even less sympathy for our legal system and judges who continue to give them a pass. I advocate hanging the judges and their advocates who continue to release them on our society!!! Dam, this is a subject that really pisses me off. And I tell all you, you are full shit if you think you would have any mercy for a child molester if they molest YOUR child!!!

Forgive me for being so out... (Below threshold)
NtvAmrcn:

Forgive me for being so outspoken. But I do not mean hanging those inloved metaphorically, I mean literally. Hang them in your public town square. Make an example of all of them who would give these discusting low life vermin a chance to be "rehabilitated". They only deserve death!! And I am not without sin but I would happily administer the death penalty to all of them. Even if I knew I would suffer the torture of hell for eternity!.

Actually, the Vatican does ... (Below threshold)

Actually, the Vatican does announce who its diplomats are. Their "ambassadors," who hold the title "Papal Nuncio," are on the diplomatic list. This list identifies all members of an embassy who hold diplomatic immunity, as granted by the host country. If you're not on that list, you don't have immunity.

The State Dept. Diplomatic List calls the Vatican, "Holy See." [The link goes to the State webpage on the Diplomatic list, but the link there to the 2005 list is fragged.]

Pedophelia is horrific. Th... (Below threshold)
D. Doré:

Pedophelia is horrific. There is NO defense for it. As Christians we must forgive as we are forgiven, but as TRUE Christians eventhough we may be forgiven by God for sins, even as grievous as child molestation, we must not seek to escape our social responsibility. A priest who has committed such acts and then hides behind his frock to escape just punishment shows a very weak relationship to the Christ he calls "Lord". The Catholic Church needs to not look at these incidents as something isolated, and try to brush them off singlely, but as something much larger. They need to see it through the eye's of Christ saying: "Whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done to me" instead of looking at it through the eyes of lawyers and bankers. They aren't going to go bankrupt from this.

We often are told that the USA is the richest nation in the world. Not true. The Vatican is the wealthiest. Check it out.

NtvAmrcn, I can't fathom all you've experienced. I feel in my heart that had something like that happened to any of my children, the ONLY thing that would have kept me from taking the life of the criminal would have been knowing how my being in prison would have affected the rest of my family and sent them into poverty. I couldn't allow that scum to hurt my family in those ways as well.

My prayers and hopes are with you and your family.

If we really wanted we c... (Below threshold)
Sean:

If we really wanted we could send Delta or 1st Marine into the Vatican and snatch his holyness. Who would stop us? The Swiss guard? Ha!

Imagine pissing off 1 billion Catholics world-wide. Many of whom are in positions of power (can you say Chief Justice of the Supreme Court)? The snatch and grab scenario would never fly.




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