British atheists want Pope arrested when he visits Great Britain

The Tower Of London, perhaps the Pope’s new residence

Prominent British atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have hired  lawyers to investigate the possibility of prosecuting the Pope for crimes against humanity, their attorney confirmed today.

The pair are arguing that Pope Benedict XVI should be arrested when he visits Britain in September and put on trial for his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. Last week a letter emerged from 1985 in which the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger urged that a paedophilic priest in America not be defrocked for the “good of the universal church”.

The Vatican has already suggested the pope is immune from prosecution because he is a head of state. But Dawkins and Hitchens believe that because he is not the head of a state with full United Nations membership, he does not hold immunity and could be arrested when he steps on to British soil.

This is the advice they have been given by their lawyers – solicitor Mark Stephens and human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC.

“I’m convinced we can get over the threshold of immunity,” said Stephens. “The Vatican is not recognised as a state in international law. People assume that it has existed for time immemorial but it was a construct of Mussolini, and when the Vatican first applied to become a member of the UN, the US said no. So as a sop they were given the status of permanent observers rather than full members.”

Stephens said there are three lines of approach to put the pope in the dock. “One is that we apply for a warrant to the international criminal court. Alternatively, criminal proceedings could be brought here, either a public prosecution brought by the Crown Prosecution Service or a private prosecution. That would require at least one victim to come forward who is either from this jurisdiction or was abused here. The third option is for individuals to lodge civil claims,” said Stephens.

Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great) are long time critics of organized religion especially the Roman Catholic church. In Sunday’s Washington Post, Dawkins called Pope Benedict  “A leering old villain in a frock, who spent decades conspiring behind closed doors for the position he now holds; a man who believes he is infallible and acts the part; a man whose preaching of scientific falsehood is responsible for the deaths of countless AIDS victims in Africa; a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence  . . .”

Should be interesting when the attorneys appeal for an arrest warrant for a visiting head of state, even though the Pope is more hat than head, and Vatican City is smaller than the National Mall in Washington DC.

The Pope will most likely be able to go to Britain without fear of being thrown in the Tower of London, but if this thing gains ground, come September when the Papal visit is due, don’t be surprised if Benedict comes down with a bad case of something, those cells in the Tower are cold, so very cold.


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Posted by on April 12, 2010. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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29 Responses to British atheists want Pope arrested when he visits Great Britain

  1. (O)CT(O)PUS Reply

    April 12, 2010 at 1:30 am

    Early this morning, I looked out my kitchen window and saw a mockingbird molesting a robin as a bright red cardinal, perched high in a tree, looked askance in silence.

    Old Octopus aphorism: Any belief system (political or religious) that violates its own moral precepts becomes a perversion of itself. Crimes against humanity may be a stretch, but conspiracy to obstruct justice, I think, is the correct legal approach.

    • Holte Ender Reply

      April 12, 2010 at 8:44 am

      I also observe Mockingbirds in my back yard chasing away any of our feathered friends that dare to try entering “their” yard while the Cardinal sits atop a tree. Then when the Mockingbirds start to fight with each other, the Cardinal sneaks in underneath the radar. The red-frocked men of Rome keep trying to ignore the fuss going on in their own backyard too.

      I think Dawkins and Hitchens are reaching for the sky, but will be happy just to make the visit, if it happens, as uncomfortable as possible, for the Vatican and the British government.

  2. Leslie Parsley Reply

    April 12, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Apparently this is a misquote by the Murdoch-owned paper “The Times of London.”

    • Holte Ender Reply

      April 12, 2010 at 8:52 am

      Imagine a Murdoch owned media outlet misquoting anybody who disagrees with them. The “Times of London” headline said: “I want to arrest the Pope” quoting Dawkins. The source I used was The Guardian which said: “Richard Dawkins wants to put the Pope on trial.” THE GUARDIAN

  3. MadMike Reply

    April 12, 2010 at 9:30 am

    While “well intentioned: neither Dawkins nor Hitchens are going to get the pope busted. There may be millions of people who agree with them, and I am one, there are hundreds of millions who would literally revolt at any attempt to arrest and incarcerate the leader of the Church of Rome, regardless of his crimes. Great post.

    • Holte Ender Reply

      April 12, 2010 at 9:43 am

      As I said to Octopus, no government in any country would allow the Pope to be arrested, Dawkins and Hitchens are making as much fuss as possible to make everyone concerned a little twitchy when Benedict does visit.

      If, by some chance, he was arrested, British Embassies would be burned to the ground all over the Catholic world.

      • MadMike Reply

        April 12, 2010 at 12:06 pm

        No doubt the British government is getting a little “twitchy.”

      • Anonymous Reply

        September 12, 2010 at 11:36 am

        should not be an excuse though
        no1 should be free of prosecution due to fear of retaliation
        we don’t give in to terrorism

        I think prosecuting him personally might be a bit tricky
        since he never actually tampered with evidence or anything
        he just made some very dubious public statements

        but I think that as the head of an organization which got itself into some pretty controversial and illegal activity, he should (and hopefully can) be at least forced to give full cooperation to any law enforcement investigating these case of sexual abuse

  4. Infidel753 Reply

    April 12, 2010 at 9:41 am

    I’m sure the Pope won’t be arrested, but if Dawkins and Hitchens get people thinking about why he won’t be arrested — why he’ll be treated any differently than any other accessory to a felony — that will be of some value.

    • Holte Ender Reply

      April 12, 2010 at 9:48 am

      Agreed, there is great value already. I’m sure the Vatican propaganda machine has been reading The Guardian this morning and thinking “Holy Ba’al, how can we get out of this.”

      • Infidel753 Reply

        April 12, 2010 at 12:07 pm

        That’s the point — keep the heat on. The Pope will never face legal justice, but by clinging to the Church’s curdled sanctity, he will just help make its true nature more obvious:

        No, Pope Ratzinger should not resign. He should remain in charge of the whole rotten edifice – the whole profiteering, woman-fearing, guilt-gorging, truth-hating, child-raping institution – while it tumbles, amid a stench of incense and a rain of tourist-kitsch sacred hearts and preposterously crowned virgins, about his ears.

        (From Dawkins’s own website — the same post as your quote from him originally came from.)

    • SJ Reply

      April 12, 2010 at 10:29 am

      I agree also. Just imagine what would be going if this was still kept as quiet as it was in the 19th (or any of the preceding centuries?) Pederasty would still be practically institutionalized behind closed doors. Speaking out always makes a difference. The more they and others speak out, speak the truth, the more necessary change will come about.

      • Holte Ender Reply

        April 12, 2010 at 11:47 am

        Maybe the Vatican will eventually apologize sincerely, perhaps in 500-700 years time. Galileo is a prime example of the church being centuries late in apologizing for his trial and imprisonment, back in the 1600s, for suggesting that the earth was not the center of the universe. Pope John Paul II said sorry about 20 years ago.

        • SJ Reply

          April 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm

          Yeah Holte, they’ll never live that one down.

        • (O)CT(O)PUS Reply

          April 13, 2010 at 1:32 am

          An old joke about the Vatican: Ask a question; you get an answer 300 years later.

  5. Gwedolyn H. Barry Reply

    April 12, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Ah, for the days of Henry the VIII and his rebukes of Rome~! Eh? Actually…yeah. Yeah again.
    I respect Dawkins… I’ve read him for years. Not in total agree-ance, but in much. Yet, SJ is right, if Brits did try to arrest Pope, there would be diplomatic / religious backlash to deal with.
    But I’m thinking in the climate they have caused themselves, no one country would take an action against it. Just mouth off.

    • Holte Ender Reply

      April 12, 2010 at 11:49 am

      Mouthing off is all they are doing, they know action is nigh on impossible, if mouthing off is all you can do, do it.

  6. Tom Harper Reply

    April 12, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    I’ve seen that tiny cramped cell in the Tower of London where Sir Walter Raleigh — among other famous English prisoners — was held. The Pope’s new digs — I like it.

    • Holte Ender Reply

      April 12, 2010 at 10:35 pm

      Lots of residents (prisoners) in the Tower of London over the centuries, have been innocent of any crime which wouldn’t be the case as far the Pope’s is concerned.

  7. Greta Reply

    April 13, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Ah, but we can dream, can’t we? In the meantime, any pressure put on the RCC and pope can only help the cause of innocent children.

  8. sigrid Reply

    September 2, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    When Dawkins said: “a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence”, he misspoke. These men were actually caught with their fancy skirts up.

  9. Rush Reply

    September 2, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    I Love Richard Dawkins and Hitchens, I’m glad they stand up for what they believe in. Like others have said, even though the pope doesn’t get arrested. It’s nice to know there is a voice of reason out there fighting for a greater good.

  10. H.Hesse Reply

    September 19, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    I’m not holding out much Pope hope. Germany has had an arrest warrant out for the mass murder engineer, Donald Rumsfeld for 6 years and they still haven’t nailed him. I keep hope for that alive. I still want to go duck hunting with Dick Chenney:-)


  11. Brian Denholm Reply

    April 13, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    when everybody realises that the big book of fairy tales called the bible was written by the catholic church all those hundreds of years ago,and that most of the people in the world were brain washed into believing that all the stories were true,when they stop believing all that bullshit the world will be a better place,if that guy they call jesus was or is a god then i am queen elizabeeth the second of england.

  12. Xavier Flix Reply

    May 5, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I’ll be praying for the Pope… in hopes that he gets arrested!

  13. Joshua Ray Reply

    May 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    It shocks me how people are so surprised that the Church abuses children and has always abused children. A religion that follows a book that has been interpreted into and out of Ancient Greek following an ancient Greek/Roman practice of pederasty should not be shocking to anyone. It’s an institution littered with hypocrisy and deception. Men that call NYC babylon for it’s mix of people and tongues…all while belonging to an organization consisting of people from different countries that speak different languages. Men that are supposed to be celibate instructing society on sexual matters. A religion founded on pederasty…ritual sex…which is against their own book. A Church that tells people to pray before sex as though God is a voyeur. A book that tells men not to put their faith in princes or kings in the Old Testament…and then has them worshipping the Pope. Just recently the Pope stated that the Bishops should report cases of child molestation if they deem necessary…but honestly it’s just a ploy so that the Vatican can wash it’s hands going forward and claim no responsibility as more and more cases of coverups continue to become public. The church hierarchy plays the victims all while continuing to ignore the real victims unless forced to by the authorities. It’s amazing how the people that are the most opposed to any discussion on evolution are the ones that act the most like monkeys. This wouldn’t be a problem if the priests didn’t think that the secret of God is that he has sex with children.

  14. A.Kramilius OAM,JP,Australia Reply

    October 6, 2011 at 8:00 am

    Sorry I am late with my comment.Now I read the comments of
    British atheists. Have you got The Pope ” Your poor lunies…Hope the British will put you down in the dog cemmetery on this earth ? I am sure the Lusifer in Hell
    will find a special boiler with used tar by the Bolsevicks.

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