12 Apr 2010

Arrest Pope Ratzinger!

ATHEIST campaigner Richard Dawkins is planning a legal ambush to have the Pope arrested during his state visit to Britain “for crimes against humanity”.

The Times reports today that Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Ratzinger over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.

The pair believe they can exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.

The Pope was embroiled in new controversy this weekend over a letter he signed arguing that the “good of the universal church” should be considered against the defrocking of an American priest who committed sex offences against two boys. It was dated 1985, when he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with sex abuse cases.

Ratzinger will be in Britain between September 16 and 19, visiting London, Glasgow and Coventry, where he will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, the gay 19th-century theologian.

Or maybe not. With hostility mounting by the day against the UK visit, the Vatican might well decide to pack him off to somewhere so far untouched by the Catholic Church’s kiddy-fiddling propensities – like Uranus.

Dawkins and Hitchens believe the Pope would be unable to claim diplomatic immunity from arrest because, although his tour is categorised as a state visit, he is not the head of a state recognised by the United Nations.

They have commissioned the barrister Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens, a solicitor, to present a justification for legal action.

The lawyers believe they can ask the Crown Prosecution Service to initiate criminal proceedings against the Pope, launch their own civil action against him or refer his case to the International Criminal Court.
Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said:

This is a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence.

Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great, added:

This man is not above or outside the law. The institutionalised concealment of child rape is a crime under any law and demands not private ceremonies of repentance or church-funded payoffs, but justice and punishment.

Last year pro-Palestinian activists persuaded a British judge to issue an arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni, the Israeli politician, for offences allegedly committed during the 2008-09 conflict in Gaza. The warrant was withdrawn after Livni cancelled her planned trip to the UK.

Said Stephens:

There is every possibility of legal action against the Pope occurring. Geoffrey and I have both come to the view that the Vatican is not actually a state in international law. It is not recognised by the UN, it does not have borders that are policed and its relations are not of a full diplomatic nature.

Dawkins’ and Hitchen’s plan comes a day after journalist Johann Hari called for the Pope’s arrest on the BBC’s Dateline London show this week. He said:

The paper trail goes to Ratzinger … The language of mistakes and repentance is wrong. This is a matter of criminal law. We’re talking about an international criminal conspiracy to cover up the rape of children that enabled that rape to go on for a very long period. It’s not enough to say sorry. If you’re sorry, hand yourself over to the police and let them investigate it.

Hari also pointed out that sovereign immunity applies for heads of state. The Vatican was made a state in 1929 by Fascist Italian ruler Benito Mussolini.

I don’t think we should particularly respect Mussolini’s political decisions.

Pope billboard acquires two pandas

Meanwhile, people in Malta, who will have the “pleasure” of hosting Ratzi later this month, are scratching their heads over the addition of two pandas to a billboard advertising the Pope visit. The organising committee was alerted in Friday morning and it plans to erase the images.

Could it be because the black circles around the eyes give the Pontiff a pandalike look?

No, no, no! One commentator has a far better explanation for the grafitti:

The cartoon character “Pedobear” is a renamed version of the 2chan ASCII art character ‘kuma’. In his American incarnation, he is an anthropomorphic bear child predator that is often used within the community to mock contributors showing a sexual interest in under-age girls. Pedobear is one of the most popular memes on non-English imageboards, and is gaining recognition across Europe. Although the meme is apparently unknown in Poland, it has been used as a symbol of pedophilia by Maltese graffiti vandals.

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