Two of the premiere atheist authors of our time, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have put forth the idea for seeking a legal path by which the Pope Benedict XVI would be faced with legal action for what they view as his complicity in the church’s cover up and overlooking of sexual abuse scandals. The Pope has been put in a tough position due to his signature of a 1985 letter which defended the idea that for the “good of the universal church” an American priest who was charged with committing sexual offenses against two boys. At the time, the future Pope was in charge of the congregation that dealt with sex crimes, charges and accusations brought against priests in the Catholic church.
The plan is to bring legal action against the Pope during his visit to England in September. This legal action would be similar used to arrest a Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet back in the late 90s. The common thought is that the Pope would claim diplomatic immunity upon his visit, however, the legal team pursuing this initiative argues that this will not be a legal standing as the Vatican is not recognized by the United Nations as a sovereign state.
The article about this matter was originally published in a Rupert Murdoch, and Richard Dawkins explained on his website that the harsh sounding headline which implied an elicit plot to arrest the leader of the Catholic Church himself as part of some vendetta, was simply a headline delivered by the editors in order to spin the situation. Dawkins followed up with several updates explaining that he followed up with the newspaper, and a few days later did get the newspaper to admit the erroneous and character slamming headline.
Dawkin’s and Hitchen’s hope is not so much that the Pope would be arrested, but that people’s consciousness is raised to the matter that they feel legal action would be warranted for. It is also an act they hope will strong arm Great Britain into backpedaling from their allowance of a papal visit in the early fall.
Most fear that if an arrest were to actually materialized, the world would react in a very shocked and possible harshly violent way. This will be viewed by many, especially those uninformed about why the Pope is getting arrested, as a blow against believers by the atheist community. The chain reaction of this would likely cause a violent backlash, full of atheist which hunts and a campaign by the religious extremist to stand up for the holy father against the evil of atheism. In essence, this act might actually get a lot of people who do not care to get involved in the religion vs. atheism dispute, quite worked up and harden them in defense of their religious beliefs. With the potential with a lot of anger and harm coming from and arguably justifiable action, many are left wondering if there is a better way to deal with the Pope’s involvement in the sexual abuse cover ups.