Sex-Abuse Case Used as Ploy to Downgrade Vatican Status at United Nations

ROME, August 19, 2005 ( - A US lawyer, Daniel Shea, is leading an effort to have the US State Department diplomatically de-recognize the Holy See using a sex-abuse lawsuit. The suit names then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, at the time head of the Catholic Church’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, accusing him of involvement in a conspiracy to cover up the sexual assault against three boys by a seminarian in Texas in the mid-1990’s.

Shea, himself a former seminarian educated in law at Catholic University of America, has demanded that the US waive the Pope’s diplomatic immunity as head of state in the suit, a move that has been characterized as absurd by international legal experts.

He told reporters in Rome that, should the Bush administration decide to “grant” the Pope immunity, he would launch a constitutional challenge to have the US de-recognize the Holy See as a sovereign state. Shea’s anti-Catholic biases were revealed at the press conference at which he made this announcement which was held under the aegis of the Italian Radical Party, a branch of one of Europe’s most openly anti-Catholic organizations.

According to State Department spokeswoman, Gerry Keener, however, no formal declaration of diplomatic immunity is required. The Pope is recognized by the US as a head of state and automatically has diplomatic immunity. Keener said that Benedict does not have to ask for immunity and Bush does not have to grant it.

Shea’s case rests on a letter issued in 2001 by then-Cardinal Ratzinger to the world’s bishops stipulating that cases of sexual assault that came before the Church’s canonical tribunals be subject to “pontifical secret.” The use of this phrase, one that indicates that the Vatican is responding to the allegations with utmost seriousness, is being used by Shea to prove that Ratzinger was attempting to protect accused molesters from civil prosecution.

The letter, however, refers only to matters of internal Church governance and the status of those accused under canon law. “To insinuate that this letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is part of a Vatican conspiracy is a total and complete misunderstanding of the purpose of the letter,” Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston said in a statement.

This is not the first time radically dissident “Catholics” have attempted to undermine the international legal status of the Holy See. The last attempt was made by the bogus group, “Catholics” for a Free Choice, when in 1999, they launched a postcard campaign to have the Holy See delegation ousted from the UN. The presence and prestige of the Vatican diplomatic corps at international conferences such as those on population at Cairo and Beijing have long been a thorn in the side of groups working to promote abortion and sterilization.


FREE pro-life and pro-family news.

Stay up-to-date on the issues you care about the most. Sign up today!

Select Your Edition:

You can make a difference!

Can you donate today?

Share this article