Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Benedict XVI the emperor really has no clothes.The case against Vatican power

Benedict XVI smelling the stench of Priestly Pedophilia of Biblical Proportions committed by the John Paul II Pedophile Priests Army

The case against Vatican power

Geoffrey Robertson

Published 08 September 2010

New Statesman

The Catholic Church claims the privileges of statehood, which gives it huge advantages over other religious institutions – and allows the protection of paedophile priests under canon law.

The Pope will arrive in Britain on 16 September in two capacities. He will emerge at Edinburgh resplendent in his regalia of head of state ("a red satin mozzetta trimmed with fur") to meet the Queen, who must, according to Vatican etiquette, dress in black - only Catholic queens can wear white in the pontifical presence. He must then change into more modest robes to conduct an open-air Mass in Glasgow as head of the Roman Catholic Church. In that capacity, he deserves the warmest of welcomes and the utmost respect. But as head of a state - sovereign of the Vatican City State and the Holy See - it is time to point out that this emperor really has no clothes.

The Catholic Church is the only religion that is permitted - under international law as interpreted by the Foreign Office, and at the United Nations - to claim the privileges of sovereignty and statehood. These are consid­erable: both the Vatican and its leader have immunity from civil or criminal actions for the damage that they do to others - whether by trafficking paedophile priests or by condoning fraud at the Vatican Bank (suspects can avoid European arrest warrants by staying within the "inviolable" walls of the Holy City).

At the UN, which has wrongly allowed the Holy See to do everything a nation state may do except vote in the General Assembly (where it is nonetheless accorded six seats from which to speak and lobby), the Church's advantages over other faith groups are enormous. At conferences, it lobbies relentlessly (usually with the help of Libya and Iraq) against any humanitarian action that might condone the "heinous evils" of abortion - even after incest or rape - or homosexuality, and attempts to sabotage the distribution of condoms, including to married couples, to contain the plague of HIV/Aids.

At meetings to settle agendas relating to UN conferences on social or economic issues, Holy See diplomats have been exploiting their "statehood" to oppose the inclusion of any language that sends a shudder up their spiritual spine - "gender" and "gender equality", "sexual orientation", "unwanted pregnancy", "unsafe abortion", "sex education", "reproductive health", "reproductive rights", "contraception", "sexual health", "couples and individuals" and even "lifestyle". Sovereign statehood brings huge advantages over other faith groups and non-governmental organisations, which the Church uses to oppose the sexual and health rights of everyone and the rights of women in particular.

But this is not the only illegitimate consequence of regarding Vatican City - or its government, the Holy See - as a state. As part of its "sovereignty", the Vatican claims the right, in all states where its Church operates, to deal with its priests and other "religious" under canon law - the set of ecclesiastical rules that includes disciplinary provisions for offences ranging from ordaining women and promoting heresy to having sex with children.

While there can be no objection to an organisation disciplining members for a breach of arcane rules, there is every objection when those breaches amount to serious crimes and the organisation claims the right to deal with them internally without reporting them to the police. And that is precisely what the Vatican has been doing: instead of reporting to the law-enforcement authorities those priests whom it knows to be guilty of raping children, and to be likely to rape more children in the future, it has been dealing with them under canon law, which demands utmost "pontifical" secrecy, moving them to other parishes and other countries and letting them off with admonitions and unenforceable "penances" (usually to say prayers for their victims).

On occasion, they are accorded a canon law "trial" under a medieval written procedure run by fellow priests, which permits neither cross-examination and medical examination nor DNA testing. In the unlikely event that the trial ends in conviction, canon law has no "punishment" worthy of that name. The worst that can happen, other than an order to do penance, is "laicisation" - that is, defrocking - which permits the paedophile to leave the Church and get a job in a state school or care home without anyone knowing of this "conviction". Canon law has no sex offenders' register.

It is the Vatican's obsessive attachment to its right to deal with clerical sex abuse of children under the secrecy of canon law procedures, without permitting (let alone requiring) any reporting of the crime or the criminal to law-enforcement agencies, that has been central to its present crisis.

It is now clear that tens of thousands - perhaps even approaching 100,000 - children, mainly boys, were sexually molested by priests over a period (1981-2005) coinciding with Cardinal Ratzinger's responsibility as head "prefect" of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the CDF, the Vatican body that oversees canon law proceedings against them). Judicial inquiries have described sexual abuse as "endemic" in Catholic boys' homes in Ireland. The report of the understated John Jay College inquiry, published in 2004, found 10,667 victims in the US, where over $1.6bn is believed to have been paid in damages so far. A truth commission in Canada is uncovering huge abuse in Catholic-run residential homes. In Melbourne, Australia, the Church has had to compensate 300 victims of 60 molesting priests, only one of whom it has defrocked. Forty-five of Malta's 850 priests are suspected paedophiles, with multiple victims. Similar incidents are emerging from the priesthood in Austria, Belgium and Germany. It is said that the scale of sex abuse in Latin America and Africa, to which many paedophile priests from America and Europe have been trafficked, will be even worse.

Abuse happened on this scale - and was allowed to happen - in part because Joseph Ratzinger, both as head of the CDF and as Pope, has insisted for the past 30 years that all such cases be dealt with in secrecy under canon law. As late as July this year, when he promulgated new canon laws about sex abuse (finally making it as serious an offence as ordaining a woman), he deliberately and adamantly refused to direct his bishops to report confirmed or reasonably suspected cases of child rape to the police.

How on earth do these statehood privileges, extending even to the power to use its own law to the exclusion of local criminal law, come to be vouchsafed to just one out of many religions and NGOs? To qualify as a state in international law, an entity must have territory and must have people - a permanent population.

As any tourist in St Peter's Square will recognise, Vatican City has neither. It is simply a palace with a large basilica and ample gardens, less than a quarter of a square mile in size, like so many golf courses. It has no "Vaticanians", just a few hundred celibate Catholic bureaucrats and some daily workers who come over the road from Italy. It is a palace with museums but no nationals; all its basic services are provided from Italy.

The Holy See lacks any stable human society. Its only "permanent" member is the pontiff, who prefers on many evenings to pope-copter off to his residence in Italy, Castel Gandolfo. He has no "people" to enter in the Olympics or to play in the World Cup or to serve on any international peacekeeping mission: even the papal guards are Swiss. In reality, Vaticanland is no more a state than Bophuthatswana, or indeed Disneyland - which is larger than the Vatican and has more denizens, dressed in even more colourful costumes.

So, why does Britain recognise the Vatican as a state when it so obviously is not? I have recently asked this question through Freedom of Information requests, and have been told by the Foreign Office that it does so in reliance on the Lateran Treaty of 1929. The Holy See itself bases its claim to statehood squarely on this document. But the Lateran Treaty was a squalid deal to secure fascism in Italy, negotiated between Benito Mussolini and Pope Pius XI, who hailed the demagogue as "the man sent by providence" to put an end to liberal democracy. In truth, it was not a "treaty" - a written agreement between states - at all, but a deal between one state and its Church, as the Holy See had lost any claim to statehood after its territory (the papal states) was conquered by the army of the Risorgimento in 1870.

Nonetheless, in return for electoral support, Mussolini conveyed the patch of land containing the Vatican Palace and gardens to the pope to provide him with some territory to assist his claim to statehood, which papal diplomats said was needed in order to promote his religion's "mission to the world". Although states with Catholic populations soon sent envoys, only 85 countries had any diplomatic connections until the Reagan administration recognised the advantage of having a head of state who was profoundly anti-communist, and many western states followed when the US recognised the Holy See in 1984. Some of them opened embassies to the Vatican (located in Italy) and received papal nuncios (most of whom are still Italian) in return.

But that the Holy See is capable of having diplomatic relations with other states does not necessarily prove that it is a state itself, and some international lawyers have pointed out that it lacks people, territory and other qualifications necessary to be judged objectively as a state in international law. If they are right, the Pope would not be "head" of a state and could be sued for the negligence in relation to the traffic in paedophile priests, which happened on his watch over the 24 years when he ran the CDF.

The Lateran "treaty", for all its unsavoury fascist origins, is accorded the most astounding (and legally mistaken) respect by the Foreign Office. To a Freedom of Information request made on my behalf, asking why it was necessary for the British taxpayer to fund two separate embassies in Rome, one to the Vatican and one to Italy, the response (which came from "the Assistant Desk Officer, Papal Visit Team") was that "under the Lateran Pact, it is impossible for a state to merge its embassies to Italy with the Holy See . . . they are in separate buildings . . . in accordance with the Lateran Pacts, the two ambassadors' residences remain located in separate parts of Rome".

It is nonsense to claim that there is anything in the Lateran Treaty that requires this separation, and acceptance of the Vatican bluff that it does has cost the UK millions of euros over the years. Our superfluous embassy to the Vatican performs no useful or consular service for UK citizens. When I rang its doorbell recently during office hours, I was informed that visits were by appointment only. When I claimed to have had my passport stolen in the Sistine Chapel (an increasingly common experience), I was referred to the UK's embassy to Italy. It is astonishing that the Foreign Office has been such a pushover, conceding a claim by Vatican diplomats that is not only wrong in law but based on a treaty to which the UK is not a party. And, speaking of parties, the UK's Vatican embassy hosted 52 of them (one a week) in 2008 for 1,338 guests, namely "senior Vatican officials and others connected with Holy See diplomacy". It is unlikely that the conversations over champagne and canapés raised questions about Vatican accountability for sexual abuse of children, or deaths from condom-preventable HIV/Aids.

Reliance on the Lateran pact, which is not a treaty and to which Britain is not in any event a party, is ironic, given its Article 24, which makes the Pope's sovereignty conditional on his abjuring any part in "temporal rivalries". Recent popes have reneged on this undertaking - in 1999, with the approval of Pope John Paul II, the then Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Sodano, launched a ferocious public attack on the UK for daring to detain General Augusto Pinochet; this year, Benedict XVI condemned the UK's Equality Bill and urged his bishops to fight it "with missionary zeal".

While head of the CDF, the Pope formulated a plan to put pressure on Catholic politicians in all democratic countries to vote against abortion in any circumstances (even to save the life of the mother) and to use their political power to prevent laws providing for gay marriage.

If they contravene the Church teachings, they are to be excluded from Mass, and possibly excommunicated. Under his present Vatican "enforcer", the American archbishop Raymond Burke (who led a campaign to exclude John Kerry from Mass when he was running against George W Bush), the same threats are being made against Vice-President Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader in the House of Representatives. The exercise by one state of power to use spiritual blackmail against democratically elected politicians in other states is a fundamental breach of Article 24 of the very "treaty" under which the Vatican claims to be a state. So, too, is its use of canon law to harbour those who have committed serious crimes.

In that respect, it is astonishing that the Holy See has escaped examination by human rights bodies and the UN. It has ratified only two human rights treaties - the Convention against Torture (it has a curious reservation that seems to provide an exemption for torture in hell), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The latter treaty (endorsed almost unanimously) imposes the "paramountcy principle" that the interests of the child must always come first. There is now overwhelming evidence that the Vatican and its leader have consistently and inexcusably breached the children's convention, preferring to cover up clerical sex abuse of children in the interests of protecting the repu­tation and wealth of the Catholic Church. The UN's ineffectual "committee of experts", which pretends to supervise compliance with the convention, has said not a word.

What is most astonishing about Vatican "statehood" is that it has avoided criticism. It refuses to ratify most human rights treaties (even China has a better record in this respect). It uses its privileged platform at the UN to oppose equal and decent treatment for women and gay people; it opposes reproductive rights of all kinds, not to mention divorce, embryo experimentation, IVF and artificial insemination (because the sperm is obtained from masturbation), any form of artificial contraception and even prenatal scans. Not only is it hostile to many human rights, it is responsible for covering up the widespread and systematic molestation of children by its own officials and servants. There has not been a whisper of criticism from Amnesty International, or Human Rights Watch, or from nations such as the UK which claim to be concerned about human rights violations by other states.

One reason is that no political leader is prepared to alienate Catholic voters by criticising the Pope: Tony Blair went four times to kiss the Fisherman's Ring, while Vladimir Putin visited three times as president, as did George Bush during just his first term. A more acceptable reason is that the Vatican has a degree of protection within human rights circles because of the outstanding work being done by Cafod, Caritas and other Catholic charities, especially in remote impoverished areas of Africa and Asia. This is the splendid side of a church which brings joy and faith into the lives of hundreds of millions of adherents and cares with genuine compassion for the poor and the sick.

As head of that Church, Benedict XVI should be welcomed enthusiastically to Britain. But watch out whenever he wears his opulent robes of statehood, and look at him through the eyes of the thousands of small boys who have been bewitched, buggered and bewildered by priests protected under canon law.

Geoffrey Robertson, QC is the author of "Cases Against Humanity". His new book, "The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse", is published on 8 September as a Penguin Special (£5.99)

2 comments from readers

Left Is Forward
08 September 2010 at 21:16

"As head of that Church, Benedict XVI should be welcomed enthusiastically to Britain" - nope.

The problem with "the outstanding work being done by Cafod, Caritas and other Catholic charities, especially in remote impoverished areas of Africa and Asia" is that it's being used by the church to gain power and influence over regions too weak to stand up to it, to gain fresh converts, and as a protective smokescreen against condemnation for their more obviously dark sides.

The power and influence part is important: in the West the power of the Church is limited by a strong civic society. But in Africa, if the Vatican runs and funds sex education, it's going to be anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-condom - indeed even anti-sex! If it is in charge of the hospitals, women will be denied their reproductive rights there. If it is in charge of big chunks of the education system (more autonomous against central control than faith schools in the UK, and with Catholic-run universities also) then there will be anti-science, anti-rationalism, as well as prejudice against other (equally deluded) religions. The Church must either accept that it has no right to push its ideology down the throat of those it helps, or pack up and go home. (When Catholic adoption services in Britain were told to stop discriminating against gays, rather than comply they simply ceased operation altogether, which shows you both where their true priorities were and exactly how compassoinate they were. But in Africa few will stand up to the Church in the same way.)

If there is the need for charity and aid in the developint world, we should beef up the role of UNESCO as a provider. But Catholic charities (as well as Islamic Relief and others) must be told to stop their ideology-peddling, or stop altogether.

Letting the Catholic Church off the hook because they perform "charity" of this kind, is basically equivalent to believing that giving sweets to children is the acceptable face of paedophilia. A superficially "nice" deed which is calculatedly instrumental to their massive wrongdoing, can never be an excuse for it.


The Vatican is not a Country as other European Countries. It’s an artificial State created by Mussolini in 1929. It now wants power in European Union

Sins and crimes are not synonymous. Sinners and criminals are not one and the same

No amount of ‘historic apology’ Benedict makes will matter -- unless he fires the first criminals Cardinal Bernard Law & Cardinal Roger Mahony

Benedict XVI’s phony sorrow, superficial shame & crocodile tears in Malta; how long will he continue his Papal lies and Papal parody?

John Paul II Millstone

September 11 = 5,000 victims. Belgian Catholic Church = 5,000 victims. John Paul II the Great Pedophile Priests Army keeps marching on in Europe !!

Canon law has allowed abuse priests to escape punishment, says lawyer

Afua Hirsch, legal affairs correspondent, Tuesday 7 September 2010

The system of law operated by the Vatican has allowed serious sex offenders to escape punishment and must be abandoned, says a prominent lawyer.

According to Geoffrey Robertson QC, whose book The Case of the Pope is published tomorrow: "Canon law has been allowed to trump criminal law in countries throughout the world. This is a very serious matter‚ the pope through his pretensions to statehood refuses to acknowledge that child sex abuse is a serious crime as well as a sin.

"The Catholic church must abandon canon law as a punishment for priests who commit crimes."

The church's form of law, Robertson argues, "has no public hearings, no DNA test facilities, no enforcement mechanism, and the most severe punishments – excommunication or an order to return to the laity (without entry on a sex offenders' register) – bears no comparison with the sentences of imprisonment or community service that can be expected under criminal law."

He describes the penalties as "derisory", with those found guilty of molesting children required to undergo "chiefly spiritual exercises".

Robertson also argues that the pope cannot legally be considered a head of state and, therefore, covered by diplomatic immunity. The lawyer is highly critical of the British government, which he accuses of failing to understand the international law surrounding sovereignty.

The UK is one of several countries that recognises the sovereignty of the Vatican and the Holy See based on the 1929 Lateran treaty signed by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

"This is nonsense," Robertson told the Guardian. "The Lateran treaty says nothing of the sort, and even if it did the UK would not be bound, since it was not a party.

"The Lateran treaty cannot serve as a credible or creditable basis for the Holy See to claim statehood. The grant of 108 acres – the size of a large golf course – was not pursuant to any international treaty, but rather the unilateral declaration of one sovereign state."

Neither city nor See was ever accepted as a member of the League of Nations, and their offer to join the United Nations in 1944 was rejected "with some derision" by the then US secretary of state, Cordell Hull, Roberston said. "Yet this is the rock on which the Holy See still stands for its sovereignty and statehood."

The law, set out in the 1933 Montevideo Convention on defines states as entities with a permanent population and a defined territory.

Robertson said: "The most dimwitted tourist in St Peter's Square can recognise that before him stands not a state, but a palace with a basilica surrounded by museums and gardens."

The claims come amid growing calls from campaigners for the pope to be arrested for crimes against humanity when he arrives on Monday to begin the first papal visit to Britain in nearly three decades.

Today it emerged that the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, will be among the senior politicians and religious leaders presented to Benedict XVI by the Queen at Holyroodhouse Palace in Edinburgh. There are no plans for David Cameron to attend.

The Vatican has been accepted as a party to international treaties, including the statue for the international criminal court. Robertson argues that even if the Vatican is considered a state, there is still the possibility of an arrest for crimes against humanity under the jurisdiction of the court.


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