8 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 21, 2005
U.S. says Pope immune
from sex abuse lawsuit
U Lawsuit alleges that the pope was
part of a conspiracy to cover up the
crimes of a Colombian seminarian
accused of molestation
ROME (AP) - The U.S. Justice Department has
told a Texas court that a lawsuit accusing Pope Bene-
dict XVI of conspiring to cover up the sexual molesta-
tion of three boys by a seminarian should be dismissed
because the pontiff enjoys immunity as head of state of
the Holy See.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Peter Keisler said
in Monday's filing that allowing the lawsuit to proceed
would be "incompatible with the United States' foreign
There was no immediate ruling from Judge Lee
Rosenthal of the U.S. District Court for the southern
district of Texas in Houston. However, U.S. courts have
been bound by such "suggestion of immunity" motions
submitted by the government, Keisler's filing says.
A 1994 lawsuit against Pope John Paul II, also filed
in Texas, was dismissed after the U.S. government filed
a similar motion.
Keisler's motion was not unexpected, as the Vatican
Embassy in Washington had asked the U.S. government
to issue the immunity suggestion and do everything it
could to get the case dismissed.
The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was named as
a defendant in a civil lawsuit by three plaintiffs who
allege that Juan Carlos Patino-Arango, a Colombian-
born seminarian on assignment at St. Francis de Sales
church in Houston, molested them during counseling
sessions in the church in the mid-1990s.
Patino-Arango has been indicted in a criminal case
by a grand jury in Harris County, Texas, and is a fugi-
tive from justice.
The lawsuit alleges Ratzinger, who headed the
Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
before becoming pope, was involved in a conspiracy
to hide Patino-Arango's crimes and help him escape
The lawsuit cites a May 18, 2001 letter from Ratzinger
written in Latin to bishops around the world, explaining
that "grave" crimes such as the sexual abuse of minors
would be handled by his congregation and that the pro-
ceedings of special church tribunals handling the cases
were subject to "pontifical secret."
Daniel Shea, attorney for one of the plaintiffs, has
said such secret proceedings amounted to a conspiracy f,
to cover up the crimes.
The Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops have insisted the secret church procedures
in the sex abuse case were not designed to cover up
abuse nor to prevent victims from reporting crimes to
law enforcement authorities. The document deals with
church law - not keeping secrets from secular authori-
ties, they say.
The pope's lawyer, Jeffrey Lena, said yesterday it
was "appropriate" the Justice Department had deter-
mined the pope was "the sitting head of state of the ~
In a telephone interview, Lena said the motion would
now be considered by the Texas court. "which should AP PHOTO
be bound by the executive's determination" and rule in this photo released by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI is presented with a
accordingly. gift by Jewish religious leaders at the pontiff's summer residence of Castel Gandolfo in Italy last week.
Many lawsuits stemming from the U.S. church sex Shea noted that in trying to have the case dismissed, "The courts have become a lot less interested in the
abuse crisis have named the pope, the Vatican and other Ratzinger's lawyers have already admitted in court establishment clause in the last few years" said Kent
high-ranking church officials, but they failed because papers that the Holy See is a church. A May 26 motion Greenawalt, a professor of First Amendment and legal
the officials could never be served with the papers. This to dismiss the suit, citing the First Amendment, says philosophy at Columbia Law School.
case got further than most because Ratzinger was actu- the case should be thrown out because it would "invite Officials at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See said
ally served with the documents. court intrusion into the internal affairs of the Roman they were familiar with the case but had no other imme-
Shea said yesterday he would challenge the consti- Catholic Church." diate comment. The Yatican said it had no comment.
tutionality of the U.S. diplomatic recognition of the However, legal experts said such a challenge would Along with the pope, the lawsuit names as defen-
Holy See on the grounds that it goes against the First be difficult to win, partly because previous challenges dants Patino-Arango, the Diocese of Galveston-Hous-
Amendment's "establishment clause" that bars any laws have failed and because the U.S. has maintained diplo- ton, Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza and'the Rev. William
respecting the establishment of religion. matic relations with the Vatican since 1984. Pickhard, Patino-Arango's vocational director.
Bush dismisses North Korean demand for reactors
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush adminis-
tration is dismissing North Korea's demand for
civilian nuclear reactors and appears confident
of a final agreement to end that nation's nuclear
Still, the administration and South Korea
The next round of negotiations is planned for
early November. In the interim, informal dis-
cussions among the six negotiating nations -
the United States, North Korea, China, South
Korea, Japan and Russia - are expected.
"We are going to get this done," U.S. negotia-
tor Christopher Hill told The Associated Press
in an interview. He stressed that North Korea
must agree to international restraints before its
demand can be considered seriously.
In New York, Secretary of State Condoleez-
za Rice said "we will not get hung up" on the
North Korean statement.
"We can make progress if everybody sticks
to what was actually agreed to," Rice said amid
"We can make progress if everybody sticks to what
was actually agreed to."
- Condoleeza Rice
Secretary of State
meetings with foreign ministers attending the
U.N. General Assembly session. "I think we
will just stick with the text of the Beijing agree-
ment to which the North Koreans signed on,"
White House spokesman Scott McClellan,
meanwhile, said that if North Korea needed
some time to reflect on the agreement reached
this week, "We'll give it to them."
McClellan told reporters traveling with
President Bush to survey Hurricane Katrina
relief efforts that the agreement spelled out the
steps needed to be taken. "Once they take those
steps, then we would be prepared to talk fur-
ther," he said.
Bush spoke by telephone with South Korean
President Roh Moo-hyun and they agreed that
verification of North Korea's pledge to aban-
don its weapons program was critical, McClel-
Roh's office in Seoul took note of the pros-
pect of "various difficulties" in resolving the
nuclear issue and said the South Korean presi-
dent told Bush he appreciated U.S. "flexibility"
- during the negotiations in Beijing.
State Department deputy spokesman Adam
Ereli said: "There are going to be differences.
That's to be expected."
Describing North Korea's demand as
remote, Ereli said, "We're not even close to
going that far."
North Korea said yesterday it would not
dismantle its nuclear weapons program until
the United States first provided light-water
"Life is too short to overreact to every state-
ment coming out of Pyongyang," Hill said
upon his return from negotiations in Beijing.
"It obviously was not a helpful statement. But it
was not unexpected, either."
Still, Hill said North Korea's demand would
be discussed at the next round, although he
ruled out any such arrangement until North
Korea rejoined an international treaty designed
to limit the spread of nuclear technology and
agreed to international supervision.
Under the tentative agreement, South Korea
would provide North Korea with the energy it
says it needs, Hill said.
"They know what they signed on to," Hill
said. "We are not surprised by these sorts
of statements. There probably will be more
Asked if he was confident the breakthrough
agreement would be concluded, Hill replied, "I
wouldn't have supported it if I did not think it
would get done."
He noted the agreement is not with the United
States alone but with North Korea's neighbors.
"That means something in Asia," he said.
Freedom House, a private group that cham-
pions democracy around the world, welcomed
the agreement but its executive director, Jen-
nifer Windsor, said there was a risk that inter-
national interest in promoting human rights
would fall by the wayside.
"If North Korea truly wishes to join the
community of nations and if its negotiating
partners truly wish for a peaceful region, the
country's egregious human rights record must
be at the focus of serious discussions," she said
in a statement.
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