Pope Benedict XVI will live in a Vatican convent for the rest of his life after a brief period at the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. By doing so, he will be protected from prosecution in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, according to Church officials and legal experts.
“His continued presence in the Vatican is necessary, otherwise he might be defenseless. He wouldn’t have his immunity, his prerogatives, his security, if he is anywhere else,” said one Vatican official. “It is absolutely necessary” that he stays in the Vatican. In the Vatican he will have protection of the Vatican police. Plus he will not be exposed to legal claims arising from the sexual abuse scandals. If he goes to live anywhere else, he could be arrested, arraigned, tried and imprisoned.
The Vatican will protect him because the Holy See is a sovereign state and inviolable territory, of which he is a citizen and resident. So long as he was pope, he had immunity from prosecution as its head of state. But now that he is no longer the pope, he is vulnerable. So long as he stays in Vatican property, and even if he goes outside the Vatican into Italy, he will be under the protection of the Holy See because of the Lateran Treaty.
Potential prosecution is not a far-fetched idea either. Keep in mind that Cardinal Ratzinger, for 20 years, was the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the infamous Inquisition. All allegations of sexual abuse were to be referred to the congregation. Cardinal Ratzinger was responsible for handling all allegations of child abuse in the global church. He would have known of many such cases, and would have advised lower church entities on how to protect the church and its priests from scrutiny and prosecution. He has been accused of ignoring sex abuse cases or shielding the perpetrators.
For instances, in 2010 Benedict himself “was named as a defendant in a law suit alleging that he failed to take action as a cardinal in 1995 when he was allegedly told about a priest who had abused boys at a U.S. school for the deaf decades earlier. The lawyers eventually withdrew the case. Though the Vatican doesn’t expect any more cases against the “pope emeritus,” they aren’t taking any chances.
When Benedict XVI visited Britain in 2010, Richard Dawkins, the prominent atheist and author, along with Christopher Hitchens, a journalist, asked British authorities to arrest the pope to face questions over the child abuse scandal. As head of state, there was nothing that could be done.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague was asked to investigate the pope and three other Vatican officials because of the sexual abuse scandal. Other organizations filed complaints against Vatican officials accusing them of crimes against humanity for similar reasons.
“‘(If he lived anywhere else) then we might have those crazies who are filing lawsuits, or some magistrate might arrest him like other (former) heads of state have been for alleged acts while he was head of state,’ one source said.”
The globetrotting Benedict XVI is now essentially a prisoner in the Vatican.
“Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong [is] the Lord God who judgeth her.” Revelation 18:6-8