A lawyer representing three men who say that since 1962 the Vatican orchestrated a coverup of priests sexually abusing children in the United States wants a court order allowing him to question the pope about what the Catholic Church knew about sex abuse allegations.
I posted about how the Church tried unsuccessfully to stop the lawsuit last year.
The lawsuit is based, in part, on instructions that the Vatican sent in 1962 to Bishops worldwide instructing them to keep allegations of priest sexual abuse confidential, at the risk of excommunication.
In a report from Louisville KY lawyer William McMurry, who represents the men, said:
The passage of time not only raises questions of Pope Benedict XVI’s continued availability but also increases the likelihood that his memory of events dating back many years will grow less reliable,
McMurry says the Popes testimony is important because before he was pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith and oversaw reports of sexual abuse by priests. That office, along with its predecessor, the Congregation of the Holy Office, were directly involved with the investigation of sexual abuse by clerics.
In May 2001 then Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) sent a letter to Bishops confirming that the 1962 code of secrecy remained in effect.
There have been several lawsuits that have tried unsuccessfully to sue the vatican or the Pope for their role in the pries sexual abuse scandals. So far they have all been struck out on the basis of sovereign immunity.
The Pope recently visited the United States where he issued an apology (sort of) for the priest abuse claims that have rocked North America. However, the Pope blamed the abuse on individual priests and failed to acknowlege the role he and the Church may have had in allowing the abuse to continue for decades.
“It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen,” Benedict said. “It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission … to these children.”
One might also ask how those who knew about the abusive priests could have betrayed the children who were their victims.
In the unlikely event that the Pope is ordered to testify in McMurray’s case, it will be interesting to see how the Pope explains his role in the priest sexual abuse crisis.