An international lawyer says that the Roman Catholic Church and Pope can be sued in the International Court of Justice over hundreds of filed sexual abuses cases.
The comments come as the leader of Catholic church Pope Benedict XVI has officially resigned, ending an eight-year pontificate shaped by struggles to move the church past sex abuse scandals. Meanwhile international lawyers are looking into former Pope Benedict XVI’s legal status to see whether the former pontiff is liable to a legal action over failing to stop child sex abuse by church priests.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Edward Corrigan, international lawyer from What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Mr. Corrigan your perspective on this? How likely will this even be allowed that a lawsuit will be able to file against him and that it would actually go to court?
Well, there already are lawsuits that are filed against the pope and naming him as party to the action.
In particular there is a very egregious case of sexual abuse where a priest, Father Murphy, I guess actually he has admitted to this, sexually abused over 200 deaf boys and that there has been a lawsuit initiated there which names former Cardinal Ratzinger as a party and Cardinal Ratzinger was the person in charge of the..., I guess, the Vatican’s special department that looked after keeping, sort of, religious order within the church and also dealt with issues like the sexual abuse and all this. He hold that position for 20 years.
So he clearly had knowledge, in some cases the priests were defrocked, in other cases nothing happened, they were moved, they were transferred. people have criticized this sort of covering up and trying to protect the Roman Catholic Church from scandal.
But Mr. Corrigan filing a lawsuit is very different than actually being able to take it into a court of law.
My question is, how likely is that aspect to happen? Do you think that it will actually reach that level?
Well, if it goes to the International Court of Justice I think certainly the Roman Catholic Church can be sued.
Priests, bishops, archbishops, all along the hierarchy have been sued successfully in the past and there are a number, maybe even hundreds of sexual abuse cases which have been filed against the church, many of which have been upheld and sometimes they are dealt with internally through Canon law and internal secrecy which is supposed to protect the victim but also certainly has the appearance of protecting the church and sort of hiding this problem which needs to be brought up in the open and there have been numerous priests and other religious figures who have been convicted of sexual abuse of children and women and others.
So certainly the church can be sued.
Now they were asserting a claim that the pope is protected as the head of the state by diplomatic immunity but I am not sure..., there are other heads of states that are being wanted for war crimes and for the crimes against humanity.
The head of Sudan for example has warrants for his arrest from the International Court of Criminal Justice. He is a head of state.
So I do not think that the pope would be protected by that, nor do I think he should.
Mind you within the confines in the Vatican, it is a sovereign state, it will be protected. The legal jurisdiction of the Vatican would be maintained, it would be a very serious breach of the diplomatic protocol for police to go in and arrest the pope or anyone on the territory of another country.
Mind you the United States on occasion has done things like that, as we could go on, but it would be a very serious breach of the diplomatic protocol and I do not believe that Pope Benedict will be leaving the Vatican in the very near future; he is going to stay there.
But for 20 years he was the person who was ultimately responsible for all of these investigations and in the case of Father Murphy in Wisconsin with the score of deaf boys, it is over 200 and they actually started to do an internal prosecution but Father Murphy ask for..., he was old, he was sick, he asked for that he would not be tried and the church was lenient.
[What they are doing is they] forgot over 200 victims of this particular instance and maybe the worst pedophile case in the history of the United States.