November 22, 2010
“The Vatican should be treated as a kind of ‘rogue state’ by the rest of the world until it stops using statehood – and the ancient rules of the canon law – to protect pedophile priests,” says UN judge Geoffrey Robertson.
“The Catholic Church is the only religion permitted under international law to claim the privileges of statehood and its leaders immunity from civil or criminal action,” says Robertson.
Mr Robertson makes a “powerful and cogently explained case” for the international community to pressure the Church to “abandoning canon law,” which is the church law that defines discipline for sex crimes.
The article as it appeared in The Age newspaper;
Treat Vatican as a rogue state, says QC
September 9, 2010
THE Vatican should be treated as a kind of ''rogue state'' by the rest of the world until it stops using statehood - and the ancient rules of the canon law - to protect paedophile priests, according to veteran human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, QC.
Mr Robertson, a UN judge, argues that the Catholic Church is the only religion permitted under international law to claim the privileges of statehood and its leaders immunity from civil or criminal action.
In his new book, The Case of the Pope: Vatican accountability for human rights abuse, to be published in Australia this weekend, Mr Robertson has laid out a powerful and cogently explained case in which he urges the international community to press the Catholic Church into abandoning canon law, the ancient set of ecclesiastical rules that also define disciplinary provisions for offences ranging from sex crimes to ordaining women.
However, these punishments, sometimes meted out under mediaeval written procedures run by fellow priests, allow ''neither cross-examination and medical examination nor DNA testing'' and ''no punishment worthy of that name''.
''The worst that can happen, other than an order to do penance, is 'laicisation', that is, defrocking, which permits the paedophile to leave the church and get a job in a state school or care home without anyone knowing of this conviction. Canon law has no sex offenders registry.
''While there can be no objection to an organisation disciplining members for a breach of arcane rules, there is every objection when those breaches amount to serious crimes and the organisation claims the right to deal with them internally without reporting them to the police.
''And that is precisely what the Vatican has been doing: instead of reporting to law enforcement authorities those priests who it knows to be guilty of raping children, and to be likely to rape more children in the future, it has been dealing with them under canon law, which demands utmost pontifical secrecy, moving them to other parishes and letting them off with admonitions and unenforceable penances … usually to say prayers for their victims.''
Mr Robertson told The Age that canon law was defective in failing to put the interests of children first, in not requiring compensation for victims and in condemning whistleblowers.
One of the case he discusses is that of a priest from Dapto, New South Wales, who had to go to his local newspaper to inform on paedophile priests in Wollongong but was ostracised and later committed suicide.
He says: ''Some of my family came from Dapto and the story moved me. However hard it is for clergy to inform on their brothers they must learn that the interests of children are paramount.''
Mr Robertson, whose human rights work has spanned the world and included defending Catholics detained without trial in Singapore and Irish accused of terrorism in the 1970s, says the Pope, as head of the Catholic Church and religious leader deserves the warmest of welcome and utmost respect.
But the claim to being a head of state is not a legitimate one: it dates back to the 1929 Lateran Treaty, which was not a true agreement between states but a bargain between Italy and Mussolini and the Catholic Church.
''The purpose of this agreement between Mussolini and pro-fascist Pope Pius XI was to destroy Italian democracy and to privilege the Catholic Church over all others.''
The 228 page book - published in a plain white cover - also asserts that the Holy See has infiltrated the UN as a state rather than a religion.