Delictum Gravius: Assessing the Vatican and the Former Pope's Responsibility for Priests' Sex Crimes under International Law

Author:Sophie Clavier
Position:San Fransisco State University
Pages:608-626
e Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law
ISSN: 2338-7602; E-ISSN: 2338-770X
http://www.ijil.org
© 2014 e Institute for Migrant Rights Press
rst published online
608
DELICTUM GRAVIUS
ASSESSING THE VATICAN AND THE FORMER POPES RESPONSIBILITY
FOR PRIESTS’ SEX CRIMES UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW
SOPHIE CLAVIER
San Fransisco State University
E-mail: sclavier@sfsu.edu
is article rst posits that the Holy See and its temporal representation, the Vatican
City, constitute a sui generis state, endowed with all rights and responsibilities
reserved to every sovereign state. It further argues that molestations of children and,
the ensuing cover up by bishops and priests can be attributable to the Holy See,
thus making it responsible for committing wrongful acts under current principles
of international law. It furthers argues that these wrongful acts may amount to
international crimes, thus triggering the individual responsibility of bishops as well
as that of the former Pope.
Key words: Sex Crimes, Human Rights Violations, Holy See, State’s Responsibility,
International Criminal Law.
I. INTRODUCTION
Following the scandal of child molestation by priests, several lawsuits have
been successfully brought in the United States and abroad against Roman
Catholic Dioceses, each within their national jurisdictions, resulting in
millions of dollars in damage awards or settlements.1 During those cases,
1. In the United States alone, BishopAccountability.org, an online archive established
by lay Catholics, accounts for over 3,000 civil lawsuits have been led against
the church” in the United States, resulting in some of these cases have resulted
in multi-million dollar settlements. e Diocese of Dallas paid $30.9 million in
1998 to twelve victims of one priest ($44.3million in present-day terms). e
Sophie Clavier
GRAVIUS DELICTUM: ASSESSING THE VATICAN AND THE FORMER POPES RESPONSIBILITY FOR PRIESTS’ SEX CRIMES UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW
609
plaintis attempted to implicate the individual responsibility of the former
Pope, Benedict XVI, and of the Vatican as a judicial entity. None of the
attempts succeeded as there seems to have been an overall consensus that
the Vatican City as a state, has sovereign immunity and, that the Pope
(now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) is immune from jurisdiction as the
head of the Holy See.
However, this article contends that immunity from foreign courts
jurisdiction should not be interpreted as immunity from the law and thus,
does not preclude liability under international law. is article seeks to
nd out whether or not the Holy See or its temporal representation, the
Vatican City State, were legally responsible for committing wrongful acts
under international law, whether or not these wrongful acts amounted
to international crimes, and if so, whether or not these acts could trigger
the joint and several liability of bishops as well as that of the former
Pope, under current principles of international criminal law. Addressing
these issues requires a step-by-step approach and the answers to a set of
successive questions.
First, we need to review the legal status of the Vatican and of the
Holy See and demonstrate that they can be treated as full subjects of
international law with rights and responsibility (thereof Section II).
Secondly, we need to ascertain if the acts of priests, and/or bishops are
imputable to the Holy See (Section III). irdly, we need to examine the
nature of the acts under international law, and determine whether or not
they could amount to international crimes, and not merely wrongful acts,
in order to establish that, regardless of procedural immunity, the former
Pope could personally be found legally responsible (Section IV).
Diocese of Louisville paid $25.7 million to settle child sexual-abuse allegations.
e Diocese of Boston settled for $85 million with 552 alleged victims, and the
list goes on. http://bishopaccountability.org.

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