Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are right. Of course, Pope Benedict should be prosecuted when he comes to Britain!
It is alleged that as a bishop he helped cover up for paedophile priests and shielded them from prosecution. If he is not guilty, then prosecution would clear his name of the stigma that will otherwise attach to it— that Benedict XVI is the pope of the paedophile priests!
If he is found guilty then he should be punished according to the law — as any citizen in any civilised country should and would be.
The Pope, the spiritual absolute monarch of the world's 1.4 billion Catholics, is special? But why should he be above the law?
Benedict is indeed “special”. He is at the top, and for decades was very near the top, of an authoritarian hierarchy which controlled vast numbers of paedophile priests and which, everywhere, covered up for them and let them continue as priests — paedophile priests who had access to children.
Benedict's share of the guilt for the decades of world-wide cover-up is enormous. “Getting” him for the few cases in which he can be proved to have been directly involved would be a bit like the big-time murdering Chicago gangster Al Capone being jailed for tax evasion (as he was). But that would be better than letting this old scoundrel remain impervious to the law of all civilised countries. Far better!
Why should the victims of paedophile priests be denied recourse to law against the head of the Catholic hierarchy? Because Benedict is a Head of State — of the Vatican State? But why, once he is outside his territory, should he be exempt from the laws of other states, whose citizens have been victims of paedophile priests under the hierarchic and authoritarian discipline of the church of which Benedict is now head? He shouldn't be.
It is plausibly argued by advocates of prosecution, that the Vatican State, a very small territory in the city of Rome, is not an internationally recognised sovereign state, and, therefore, that Benedict does not really have the status of a head of state.
In any case, the central fact is that vast swathes of the Church hierarchy, parish priests, bishops, cardinals, and now, it seems, the Pope himself, were involved in various ways and degrees of covering up for paedophile priests and, many of them, in allowing known paedophiles to go on to fresh territories and fresh crops of young victims. The Head of the Church should be legally accountable for that.
As the seemingly endless exposures of paedophile priests and their protectors and abetters continues to reverberate like an earthquake, shaking the structures of the Catholic Church, buried layers of traditional Catholicism are being thrown up out of their too-shallow graves.
One prominent cardinal has asserted publicly that the exposure of priests is part of a “Jewish conspiracy” to destroy the Church. "The Jews" are really behind it all ! Soon now another old reprobate in Cardinal Red will tell the credulous that “the Freemasons” are behind it — and probably “the Illuminati”.
And the root cause of the foul crimes against children that everywhere went on behind the holy facade of the Catholic Church? The fact that the compulsory celibacy imposed on priests is an unnatural condition? That, perhaps, some men become priests because of the opportunities working within the church would give them?
Not at all, now speaks another Cardinal — it is the “sin of homosexuality” that is responsible! For priests who molest little girls too?
The hierarchs lash out, seeking any cause for the crimes of paedophile priests except that which demands of the church a reappraisal of the compulsory celibacy that has been in place — though often in fact flouted — for a thousand years.
The Catholic hierarchy is incapable of comprehending the terrible consequences for so many children of what its priests have done, let alone of judging itself for its part in injuring them. That is the fundamental reason why the full force of the law should step in when Benedict comes to Britain.
Yes, prosecute the Pope!