Pop Quiz

[Trigger warning re: clergy abuse.]

Q: What do the Pope and George Bush have in common?

A: Executive Privilege!
Pope Benedict, accused by victims' lawyers of being ultimately responsible for an alleged cover-up of sexual abuse of children by priests, cannot be called to testify at any trial because he has immunity as a head of state, a top Vatican legal official said on Thursday.

The interview with Giuseppe dalla Torre, head of the Vatican's tribunal, was published in Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper... Dalla Torre outlined the Vatican's strategy to defend the pope from being forced to testify in several lawsuits concerning sexual abuse which are currently moving through the U.S. legal system.

"The pope is certainly a head of state, who has the same juridical status as all heads of state," he said, arguing he therefore had immunity from foreign courts.

Lawyers representing victims of sexual abuse by priests in several cases in the United States have said they would want the pope to testify in an attempt to try to prove the Vatican was negligent.

But the pope is protected by diplomatic immunity because more than 170 countries, including the United States, have diplomatic relations with the Vatican. They recognize it as a sovereign state and the pope as its sovereign head.

..."The Church is not a multi-national corporation," dalla Torre said. "He has (spiritual) primacy over the Church ... but every bishop is legally responsible for running a diocese."
Well, isn't that delightfully convenient?

It's so awesome how the biggest organization in the world ostensibly tasked with human accountability, of which confession for wrongdoing has been made a ritualistic centerpiece, has cloaked itself behind so many layers of Super Specialness—We're a religious institution! We're a sovereign state! Our leader is also a head of state with diplomatic immunity! Our real business is making money, but we're not a corporation!—that countless survivors of institutional sex abuse abetted by the Super Special Organization can neither get justice, nor hold accountable the chief abettor, nor even insist on fundamental changes to ensure as best as possible that no further victims are created.


I love how Giuseppe dalla Torre, head of the Vatican's tribunal (LOL the Vatican's "tribunal," which is probably a bathhouse with jewel-encrusted tubs where Vatican officials sit around laughing about what a stroke of genius the whole becoming-a-sovereign-state scheme was), took a moment to note that the Catholic Church "is not a multi-national corporation." In case no one had noticed.

Q: Besides NOT PAYING TAXES, how can you tell the Church isn't a multi-national corporation?

A: If Microsoft, say, were discovered to have been covering up an international child rape ring among its ranks for (at least) decades, and Bill Gates were discovered to have authored a letter ordering members of his organization to keep it secret, and the Dublin office had been discovered to be conspiring with police to hide evidence and silence survivors, and employees who had been identified as child rapists were just moved to other offices, like pedophilia is all about location location location! and because the organization's reputation is more important than protecting children from known rapists, and Microsoft spent more time deflecting responsibility and blaming its gay employees (FOR FUCK'S SAKE) for the crimes committed by the sexual predators the organization had abetted and protected...Microsoft would be OUT OF FUCKING BUSINESS.

Because no one would be making any goddamn excuses for any multi-national corporation, no matter how much other "good stuff" they'd allegedly done, if that organization had been found to be disproportionately staffed with men eminently capable of committing or concealing child rape, corruptible from guy in the local franchise straight to the CEO at the top.

That corporation would be DONE.

But claim to have a direct line to God, and suddenly everything's different.

That is Christian privilege of almost inconceivable proportions, right there: As long as you assert a belief in divine justice, you're more likely to escape human justice.

It's a particularly cruel irony that those who assert moral authority are given the most latitude to behave in immoral ways without the inconvenient bother of being held accountable for their crimes.

And when people who are decidedly unthrilled about the privilege conferred upon religious institutions, particularly in the midst of a worldwide crisis of sexual assault in which countless children have been victimized, challenge this privilege, they are dismissed as bigots, as wanton haters of the Church, or its adherents, or its doctrine—as if there is not a preponderance of evidence to warrant legitimate criticism, as if they are being unfair, as if standing up for children, vociferously and unyieldingly and despite knowing the shitstorm of accusations of bigotry to come, is somehow evidence of a "real" moral failing.

As if compassion for countless children being sexually assaulted is just a convenient excuse to criticize the Church used by atheists and secularists and feminists and other nefarious types.

That is an accusation I have received repeatedly in my inbox from self-identified Catholics: "You must love the pedophile scandal because it gives you an excuse to bash the Church," they tell me. It takes my breath away every time. So divorced from compassion for survivors, they can conceive only that I have an irrational hatred I (further) exploit survivors to wield, rather than imagine the thought of institutionalized child rape enrages me all its own, that it is inherently contemptible.

That a survivor of sexual assault, who writes endlessly about the rape culture and its purveyors, even (and especially) when it's a fallen hero, can be readily cast as the scoundrel with an agenda for being critical of the largest-scale institutional sex abuse crisis in recorded history, pretty much says everything that needs to be said about this situation and the enormous, fucked-up privilege at work here.

Except, perhaps, this: The Pope has immunity. And he's invoking it.

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