Legal Challenges

Who's going to prosecute the pope?by David Greenwood – July 2011

We are familiar with the disgraceful abuse of children by Priests. This article concerns Roman Catholic Church abuse although it has to be recognised that abuse happens in many varied organisations.

Breach of Trust

The Roman Catholic Church starts to build our trust the day that we are born. Babies are baptised and forced to attend church as children. Priests infiltrate communities. They befriend families and take children on days out. Priests tell us that you will suffer eternal damnation for disobeying the Church. They promote the notion of sin and their power to absolve us. They wear black outfits. Set themselves up as ‘to be trusted’. Their priestly garb reinforces their ‘specialness’.

The Vatican’s approach to child abuse by Priests

The 1962 the document ‘Crimen Solicitationis’ was a papal dictat issued to deal with the way in which bishops and priests around the world to deal with allegations of abuse by Priests. The victim, perpetrator and anyone connected with the case must be dealt with internally (i.e. not involving the police or anyone outside the Church). Any report should be sent to Rome.

An arm of the Catholic Church called The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (“CDF”) takes charge of these reports. Dr Ratzinger was the head of the CDF between 1984 and 2005 Cardinals and Bishops make decisions on what action should be taken in the case of reports of abuse. In 2001 Pope John Paul reinforced the cover up mentality with his new version of the Crimen document. In 2001 the present Pope Dr Ratzinger wrote a letter to Bishops urging them to keep reports of abuse away from the Police. In 2010 the Pope renewed his request that Bishops keep reports away from the Police.

How does this affect Justice?

Surely the Catholic Church is unable to investigate these cases and deal with them adequately without being conflicted . The evidence gathered to date is that a decision to keep allegations of abuse from the police means that abusers potentially face no penalty. The Roman Catholic Church has simply moved priests to ‘naughty priests homes’, moved parishes or diocese or moved priests to another country. Under the internalised regime of the vatican abusers do not face the courts. They do not face justice and lengthy spells in prison.

Consequences for children globally

Priests essentially face no punishment for abuse. They are able to abuse in the knowledge that the worst consequence is being kicked out of the priesthood. This is a desperate situation for children in Africa and Indonesia where there is little access to civil law enforcement agencies like the Police.
How do we change the Vatican’s approach?

Pressure through publicity and embarrassment generated by press reports and websites is certain to assist in getting the message across to the Vatican that their approach has to change for the good of future generations coming into contact with catholic priests. There is also potential for direct legal action against members of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (including the present Pope) arising from their decisions and reluctance to report allegations of serious abuse by members of their organisation to the police.

Who will prosecute the cardinals and the Pope ?

A request to indict cardinals responsible and the Pope has been made to the International Criminal Court and to the Spanish National Court both of which have jurisdiction in this area. You are referred to the website for further information and details in the indictment.

The author:
David Greenwood is a Solicitor specialising in historic child abuse cases

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