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May 14, 2010 Updated Sept. 19, 2011 and Feb.14, 2013
Pope Benedict XVI
As the scandal over pedophile priests rocks Roman Catholic dioceses around the globe, a lawsuit filed April 10, 2010 in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee names Pope Benedict XVI as a defendant. And with good cause.
By Don Fulsom
Update: Pope Benedict XVI's startling decision to resign at the end of February 2013 may put him at even greater risk of prosecution. Australian human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson notes that, in retirement, Benedict's absolute immunity from legal action as a head of state vanishes. "There are many victims of priests permitted by (then) Cardinal Ratzinger to stay in holy orders after their propensity to molest was known, and they would like to sue the ex-Pope for damages for negligence," Robertson writes in the British newspaper The Independent.
"If he steps outside the Vatican," Robertson adds, "a court may rule that (the victims) have a case." The legal expert contends Benedict's "command responsibility" goes back to 1981 – when, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he took over the Vatican body that punishes errant priests.
Another major critic of Benedict – the first pope to quit the papacy in nearly 600 years – describes the outgoing pontiff's record on sex abuse as "terrible." David Clohessy, executive director of the 12,000-member Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests, tells The Guardian: “He knows more about clergy sex crimes and cover-ups than anyone else in the Church, yet he has done precious little to protect children.”
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