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Dawkins & Hitchens plan a legal ambush to have Pope arrested

Yep, you heard right. Dawkins and Hitchens are planning on getting the Pope arrested when he visits England in September:

“Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.

The pair believe they can exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.

The Pope was embroiled in new controversy this weekend over a letter he signed arguing that the “good of the universal church” should be considered against the defrocking of an American priest who committed sex offences against two boys. It was dated 1985, when he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with sex abuse cases.

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Benedict will be in Britain between September 16 and 19, visiting London, Glasgow and Coventry, where he will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th-century theologian.

Dawkins and Hitchens believe the Pope would be unable to claim diplomatic immunity from arrest because, although his tour is categorised as a state visit, he is not the head of a state recognised by the United Nations.”

(Side note: Could the Times have possibly found a more evil looking photo of Dawkins? Sheesh)

I find this quite interesting. I’m not well versed in international or British law, so the fact that this is plausible is intriguing. And I have to say, I agree with Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ sentiment. The Pope and the Catholic Church have systematically covered up hundreds of cases of child rape. They shouldn’t receive immunity because they’re a religious organization – thinking you have an imaginary friend isn’t exactly a good reason to commit such horrible crimes.

At the same time, I’m a little worried. There are still many people out there that are sympathetic to the Pope, and to have two figureheads for atheism going after him isn’t going to be too great for our image. I really hope that other religious figures will join in and support Dawkins and Hitchens. We need to show that this isn’t some atheist agenda to bring down the Catholic church – it’s a human agenda to protect our children and deliver justice.

(Hat tip to Miranda)

EDIT: It seems the Times has overblown the story a bit. For more of an explanation, check out this post.

Comments

  1. says

    1. Doesn't 'evil-looking' help his street cred? Plus, the article pits him against the pope. The Times has a long way to go before Dawkins (or Hitchens, who always strikes me as a guy who doesn't smile or laugh, evidence to the contrary) seems like the eviler of the bunch.

    2. More seriously, I don't think it's the pope's status as the head of Catholicism that's protecting him, but his status as head of a sovereign nation. It's why Bush was never arrested and tried for war crimes during his time in office (or since then, either). And then there's the fact that the cover-ups have been taking place in various nations on various continents. International law might be tricky there.

  2. says

    1. Doesn’t ‘evil-looking’ help his street cred? Plus, the article pits him against the pope. The Times has a long way to go before Dawkins (or Hitchens, who always strikes me as a guy who doesn’t smile or laugh, evidence to the contrary) seems like the eviler of the bunch.2. More seriously, I don’t think it’s the pope’s status as the head of Catholicism that’s protecting him, but his status as head of a sovereign nation. It’s why Bush was never arrested and tried for war crimes during his time in office (or since then, either). And then there’s the fact that the cover-ups have been taking place in various nations on various continents. International law might be tricky there.

  3. says

    Well the Anglicans currently have no love for the Catholics, probably easy enough to get them on board.

    This is interesting, will be watching to see how this pans out.

  4. says

    Well the Anglicans currently have no love for the Catholics, probably easy enough to get them on board. This is interesting, will be watching to see how this pans out.

  5. mcbender says

    This strikes me as bad PR… but in all honesty I don't object. If they can pull this off, it'd be amazing.

    On a side note: I don't think Dawkins is evil-looking there, not in the slightest..

  6. mcbender says

    This strikes me as bad PR… but in all honesty I don’t object. If they can pull this off, it’d be amazing.On a side note: I don’t think Dawkins is evil-looking there, not in the slightest..

  7. Anonymous says

    I know there are a lot of Catholics (especially in Ireland) who are mighty pissed about this. It would be neat if they were on board.

  8. Anonymous says

    I know there are a lot of Catholics (especially in Ireland) who are mighty pissed about this. It would be neat if they were on board.

  9. says

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  10. says

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  11. says

    Lol DM. Oh dear. While that photo may be interpreted as sinister, I think he looks rather dashing myself!

    And I agree with BathTub. Hopefully the Anglicans see this as a good thing.

  12. says

    Lol DM. Oh dear. While that photo may be interpreted as sinister, I think he looks rather dashing myself!And I agree with BathTub. Hopefully the Anglicans see this as a good thing.

  13. ellisburks says

    I am all for the arrest of the Pope. If he can be considered a head of state then he should be prosecuted (not persecuted) for crimes against humanity. Not just for the sexual abuse cover ups but also for being a direct cause of the spread of AIDS by lying about the ability of condoms to not only stop the spread of diseases but also stop unwanted pregnancies. These are unforgivable.

  14. says

    @DM. I think you should be told by now that no one, in the history of anything ever, has been intimidated by a Canadian.

    Sorry. It's nothing you did, you just lost in the genetic lottery (or the nationality lottery, I guess you could say).

  15. says

    @DM. I think you should be told by now that no one, in the history of anything ever, has been intimidated by a Canadian.Sorry. It’s nothing you did, you just lost in the genetic lottery (or the nationality lottery, I guess you could say).

  16. says

    “There are still many people out there that are sympathetic to the Pope, and to have two figureheads for atheism going after him isn’t going to be too great for our image.”Depends on what you mean by “great.” Sweating PR and putting on a friendly face are things Old Atheists would do. What did that accomplish? It made everyone say, “Aw, aren’t they nice?” and never have to think about us again. An image that makes things happen isn’t usually nice. It’s engaging. It’s loud and logically sound so it can’t be swept under any rugs.More principatically, (Google hits: 0) pulling punches might improve our image, but our first concern should be what it’s an image of. That goes for any movement, but more for us, since our chief principles are honor and truth. You can’t be in a movement, trying to change the world, being afraid to step on any toes. We should be kicking shins at the very least.”I really hope that other religious figures will join in and support Dawkins and Hitchens.”For God’s sake man, we don’t need other religions to lend us credibility. We need them to die.

  17. Erp says

    I suspect active Catholics outnumber active Anglicans in Britain and a fair number of Anglicans are quite sympathetic to the Pope (some of those disgruntled he is attempting to lure). Admittedly a fair number of Catholics sometimes go the other way (swimming the Thames rather than the Tiber) and join an Anglican Communion church. Also I suspect it is not so much whether the Vatican State is recognized by the UN but whether the Bishop of Rome’s diplomatic immunity is recognized by the UK and you can be certain that will be confirmed before he heads towards there.

  18. Kacey says

    I really hope this works. Imagine the headlines: “Pope Arrested In England” That would probably make my year.

  19. says

    At the very least this may cause the pope to cancel his visit, which is a good enough outcome for me. It would be nice if we could somehow arrange for the pope to be under house arrest where he is never allowed to leave the Vatican as long as he lives.

  20. says

    While that’d be great, I think that there’s a greater chance of a meteor striking the popemobile than him or the Catholic church being held responsible for … well, anything.

  21. says

    I doubt there will be many other religions out there in support of this. The dirty little secret is that most religious groups have similar problems with child molestation. The reality is, religion is arguably a cause of child molestation. By making people feel all sex is evil, it makes it harder to understand which sex is permissable.

  22. PrimeNumbers says

    Nice to see atheists taking the moral high-ground and declaring child rape and the cover-up of abuse to be wrong, where the Catholic Church and Ratzinger seem to think it ok.

  23. says

    Here’s what I posted as a pithy comment on Facebook:”Maybe ‘Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s’ means you should do jail time for the criminal cover-up you’re responsible for and stop hiding behind religious privilege.”In this case, Caeasar’s realm appears to have higher ethical standards than God’s realm.

  24. says

    “(Side note: Could the Times have possibly found a more evil looking photo of Dawkins? Sheesh)”Meh… at least they edited out his horns. ;)

  25. says

    the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.Point of information, Jen: the Pinochet arrest was legally dependent on a warrant issued by Baltazar Garzón of Spain, who has not done so this time; indeed, he is under indictment himself.

  26. Edwin Star says

    To add some perspective to this article: the rates of child abuse are no higher in the Catholic Church than they are in North America at large. True, it is doubly hypocritical for the offending priests (and more troubling due to their positions of power). However, I think it would be unfair to brand the entire Catholic church as an organization bent on abusing children.Also, comparing the Pope to Pinochet is quiet a stretch. Pinochet loaded dissenters and political rivals into helicopters and dumped them into the ocean. The Pope has only a tangential relationship with the actual incidents. He clearly should have been harsher when it comes to disciplining the offending priests. But that is something entirely different from promoting abuse. Dawkins and Hitchens would charge the Pope with the Crusades or the Inquisition if they could. They are attention seeking ideologues that thrive when they are attacking something and have few constructive ideas. As for the AIDS question I refer you to this article if you are searching for another voice in this debate. http://www.catholicnewsagency….

  27. says

    If you know someone has molested a kid, you don’t “discipline” them, you call the cops. Not to do so is a crime. Helping them avoid suspicion is another crime. You live in a strange world of euphemisms.

  28. Rayna says

    Since when is “calling the cops” not a form of enforcing discipline?But I do wish the papal organization was as harsh with their offenders as our church is as harsh with ours. :(

  29. Daniel says

    If you didn’t already know, The Times is not far above the moniker “wank rag” when it comes to sensational headlines. So they’re basically making shit up – Dawkins thinks it’s a great idea and facilitated access to a lawyer, but is not planning on dragging the local gestapo down to arrest the pope. He should, after all the kiddy-fiddler-enabling bastard has it coming, but the headline is just plain sensational and wrong.

  30. Daniel says

    Edwin, I just thought I’d say something which has obviously escaped such an apologist as yourself:The now-pope penned a letter stating that protecting the image of the church was more important than protecting children from pedophiles within itYou cannot, you really cannot, call that anything else than a crime.And as for the AIDS debacle, the official stance of the RCC is doing nothing but making things worse by lying about the efficacy of the condom, and making the suffering of millions worse by it’s anti-birthcontrol stance.

  31. Edwin Star says

    Don’t get me wrong I think the Pope’s actions are wrong both on a moral level and also from a PR level. If he really wanted to improve the image of the Catholic church (judging by the views of some of these commenters) he should have had the priests burned at the stake or at least removed from the priesthood. Nevertheless, I don’t believe Dawkins has any right to have him arrested. And if he somehow managed to, it would probably galvanize the Catholic church and likely do far more harm than good from Dawkins perspective. And I don’t believe using condoms (or promoting their use) is fundamentally wrong but sexual promiscuity and infidelity is something that AIDS is tied to at the hip. Using a condom protects one from AIDS on a personal level (obviously) but may increase incidents on a cultural level. Promoting monogamous relationships or even abstinence is something the Church or any organization has every right to do. And just because Bono isn’t on-board doesn’t mean it won’t work. I’m glad condoms are available, but I don’t think they should be billed as the only solution.

  32. pablomartinsbalieiro says

    I really don’t know if this is the right thing to do. Arresting the pope is (at my view point) just a way to create more controversies. I’m not a catholic, but i think that we have a thousand other ways to do something against this situation. It unacceptable pedophilia happening, but the people aren’t too smart to see the things like we see. Obs: Sorry my poor english :P

  33. KellyRachel says

    “They shouldn’t receive immunity because they’re a religious organization – thinking you have an imaginary friend isn’t exactly a good reason to commit such horrible crimes.”Well said my friend.

  34. says

    How’s everyone liking the new comment system? Anyone having problems?I don’t do Twitter, so I’ll answer here, hoping it’s okay. It seems fine to me, except that a new comment doesn’t seem to appear in “Recent Comments” before quite a time has elapsed, even though it appears OK on the thread immediately (faster than before). It would be nice if it recognised a previous Guest and filled in all the fields. Mine does that, but you’ll have to post twice with an interval (for manual vetting to pass you through the eye of the Akismet needle) to see the effect. I visited FriendlyAtheist yesterday, and his comments field filled in my name, addy and url for me; although I didn’t actually post. I guess his site “read” my IP.

  35. Daniel says

    exsqueeze me? It’s not right to arrest the pope – an enabler of kiddy-fiddlers – for a crime we have evidence he committed why?Because he’s the pope? Well then, that makes a certain deceased ruler of Germany exempt from name-calling because he was the head of a real country rather than just a dirty pervy old mans club…but i digress.the results are in: promoting monogamy only does not work, has never worked and most likely never will. Promoting safe sex also (never heard of ABC? Look it up) does, has and most likely will in the future (you do know that in “promiscuous” countries where sex education, preventative materials and birth control is available, that there are far less numbers of people with AIDS and other STD’s, even given that they actually have a chance in these countries to live longer? You didn’t? Well…the more you know, eh?)I’m glad you don’t think condoms should be the only answer, but hey, those proposing monogamy seem to want monogamy as the only answer, and that track record is non-existent, except as a litany of failure.A “personal” level of protection is all a single (hah!) person needs, k?

  36. says

    Well, it looks like we can stand down from Red Alert. UK’s New Humanist reports that this was just another case of a feverish headline writer getting carried away with himself. “The Times has since changed the headline on its website and, while the story is still interesting, you’ll need to drop that image of Dawkins personally nicking the Pope. The truth of the matter is that Christopher Hitchens has suggested the possibility of mounting a legal challenge to the Papal Visit, and has been exploring it along with Dawkins and the lawyers Geoffery Robertson and Mark Stephens.” http://blog.newhumanist.org.uk

  37. says

    New comment system —->>Excellent! I didn’t have to mess about with OpenID; it recognized me right away. I kind of miss having a Preview button, but this just works, so I’m fine.It’s a Good Thing.

  38. says

    that image of Dawkins personally nicking the Pope. For the benefit of Leftpondians, demotic Brit English used to describe an arrest as the policeman “fingering your collar”. Hitchens fingering the Pope’s stole and saying, “You’re nicked, sunshine”, is indeed a formidable one.

  39. edwinstar says

    Could we please, for the sake of rationality, not compare the Pope to Hitler. That is the main problem I see with this whole situation. As much as you might disagree with theism and religious institutions we can at least agree that if someone wants to leave the church they will not be hunted down by the Gestapo. The RCC is too powerful and there clearly should be more transparency. Benedict should be publicly criticized, and I think parishioners should be vocal about institutional change and perhaps vote with their feet. The picture Hitchens and Dawkins paint, is a Pope that tip-toes off to his dungeon at night to drink the blood of altar boys. They exaggerate and seem to have some sort of personal vendetta against Christian thought that carries them off to often very extreme conclusions. Parishioners of the RCC should be the only ones with the power to boot out the Pope (in this case). Catholics don’t want their children abused and they have the right and responsibility to change the system or simply abandon it. As for the AIDS question I think we are looking at different statistics. The RCC imo should keep mum when it comes to condoms, but I think they should feel free to promote monogamous marriage and abstinence before it. Africa is swimming in condoms at this point, and AIDS is still rampant. Do I think that those who have promiscuous sex are going to hell? No. But that doesn’t mean monogamy or abstinence can’t have benefits.

  40. Madelyn Writer says

    Ambush? If I told you six months ahead of time that I was going to sit on your doorstep for a half an hour, would you consider that, too, an ambush?

  41. says

    That the rates of child child abuse in the catholic church versus the public at large are no different is exactly the point. The secular public doesn’t claim to be a system of moral absolutes headed up by an infallible individual, all based on the teachings and orders of a supreme being holding the promise of eternal salvation. The catholic church – as said moral organization – had damn well better have pedophilia rates _significantly_ lower than the general public, and the cases of pedophilia should be dealt with harshly.Neither one of these ‘criteria’ for moral examples are the case, hence the catholic church (including the pope) has absolutely _no_ right to claim any moral high ground, and that they excuse and hide pedophiles rather than punish them is at the very least complicit. It could even be argued that such a poorly held secret actually encourages such behavior in the concept of Moral Hazard. In that way, the church _did_ indeed encourage the behavior. You’ve come off as a papal apologist here, and attempt to distract the conversation by instead attacking those who take issue with the heinousness of pedophilia. Try this on for a distraction, eddie, what are _you_ trying to hide?

  42. says

    I can’t even imagine the shit-storm this would stir up if it went through in the actual sense of the pope being arrested and detained on British soil.I’m not a watch-the-world-burn kind of person, but I have to admit it would be very interesting to watch how that unfolds.

  43. ivo says

    “(Side note: Could the Times have possibly found a more evil looking photo of Dawkins? Sheesh)”Well, they could have used a picture of the Hitch instead, so I guess we should be grateful :P

  44. says

    See, and when I saw the picture, before I read the article, I was all, “God, he’s really hot.” Or, in his case, I guess, it would be “No God, he’s really hot.”

  45. fxgreek says

    The Roman Catholic Church …has outlived it’s relevance in the veryday lives of people around the world!Remember the Inquisition and strike at the heart of the BEAST.The pope is the personification of Lucifer on earth.Abolish the Roman Catholic Church and thus erradicate one of the major scourges of humanity!

  46. says

    The atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. Isn’t it strange how prominent atheists always prefer to attack Christian leaders? Would it ever have occurred to them to have similarly call for the arrest of people like Yasser Arafat or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during their visits to the UN?

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