Lawyers for Pope Benedict XVI have asked U.S. President George W. Bush to declare the pontiff immune from liability in a lawsuit that accuses him of conspiring to cover up the molestation of three boys by a seminarian in Texas, court records show.
The Vatican's embassy in Washington sent a diplomatic memo to the State Department on May 20 requesting the U.S. government grant the pope immunity because he is a head of state, according to a May 26 motion submitted by the pope's lawyers in U.S. District Court for the Southern Division of Texas in Houston.
Joseph Ratzinger is named as a defendant in the civil lawsuit. Now Benedict XVI, he's accused of conspiring with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to cover up the abuse during the mid-1990s. The suit is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
The three boys, identified in court documents as John Does I, II and III, allege that a Colombian-born seminarian on assignment at St. Francis de Sales church in Houston, Juan Carlos Patino-Arango, molested them during counseling sessions in the church in the mid-1990s.
Patino-Arango has been indicted in a criminal case by a Harris County, Texas grand jury and is a fugitive from justice, the lawsuit says.
Of course Bush granted Benedict immunity.
Meanwhile, back at the chicken ranch, Douthat explains that Pope Benedict was right on top of the scandal that John Paul let fester.
So the high-flying John Paul let scandals spread beneath his feet, and the uncharismatic Ratzinger was left to clean them up. This pattern extends to other fraught issues that the last pope tended to avoid — the debasement of the Catholic liturgy, or the rise of Islam in once-Christian Europe. And it extends to the caliber of the church’s bishops, where Benedict’s appointments are widely viewed as an improvement over the choices John Paul made. It isn’t a coincidence that some of the most forthright ecclesiastical responses to the abuse scandal have come from friends and protégés of the current pope.
Has Benedict done enough to clean house and show contrition? Alas, no. Has his Vatican responded to the latest swirl of scandal with retrenchment, resentment, and an un-Christian dose of self-pity? Absolutely. Can this pontiff regain the kind of trust and admiration, for himself and for his office, that John Paul II enjoyed? Not a chance.
But as unlikely as it seems today, Benedict may yet deserve to be remembered as the better pope.
Strange--it was only a month ago that Douthat was preaching responsibility and criticizing Pope Benedict.
I think there are two things the pope can do. The first is to answer (or have the Vatican answer) allegations related to his time as archbishop of Munich in a “buck stops here” spirit, rather than just trying to deflect blame away from the pontiff’s person. Whatever then-Archbishop Ratzinger’s direct responsibility for allowing a sex abuser to return to public ministry, he was ultimately the man in charge in the archdiocese at that time, and he should be able to say “yes, I bear some responsibility,” even if he wasn’t the primary official at fault. This is what I meant when I said the pontiff should be willing to express contrition “on his own behalf,” as well as on behalf of the church as a whole.
Now it seems only John Paul II was to blame, as more facts become public and the public and press start to call for Benedict's resignation. I look forward to the next pope, when Douthat will, no doubt, write about that fine Pope Benedict, and how his successor just didn't live up to his predecessor's example.