Vatican Seeks Diplomatic Immunity for Pope
Lawyers for Pope Seek Immunity in Sex Abuse Lawsuit
By Associated Press
August 19, 2005
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.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Gerry Keener, said that the pope already is considered a head of state and automatically has diplomatic immunity. Keener said Benedict doesn't have to ask for immunity and Bush doesn't have to grant it.
International legal experts said it would be "virtually impossible'' for the case to succeed because the pope, as a head of state, had diplomatic immunity. "There's really no question at all, not the vaguest legal doubt, that he's immune from the suit, period,'' said Paolo Carozza, an international law specialist at the University of Notre Dame Law School.
Nevertheless, lawyers for abuse victims say the case is significant because previous recent attempts to implicate the Vatican, the pope or other high-ranking church officials in U.S. sex abuse proceedings have failed primarily because of immunity claims and the difficulty serving top Vatican officials with U.S. lawsuits.