advocatus diaboli

Supreme Court: Sure, Go Ahead And Sue The Pope

Will he wear his big hat when he testifies?Imagine if a BMW dealer in Oregon were discovered to be a serial child rapist. This would not necessarily reflect badly on his employer — not on the multinational parent company, run by a Bavarian, or on its U.S. subsidiary, or on his local dealership. But now imagine that, over the span of a many years, dozens of BMW dealers were discovered to be serial child rapists, and officers at corporate headquarters just kept reassigning them to different dealerships. Why, you might say that the said multinational parent company would be legally liable for this behavior! The Catholic Church, of course, has argued that it is no mere sordid auto manufacturer and thus this logic doesn’t apply to them, but the Supreme Court has decided that, you know, maybe it does, after all!

Did you know that, long ago, the Popes used to be actual princes, ruling a real country that took up the middle third of Italy and had millions of inhabitants? Once Italy was unified and the church dispossessed of this political power, the popes literally went into their palace compound to sulk for fifty years, until Mussolini and the rest of the world finally agreed to pretend that the pope’s palace — an area literally smaller than the Pentagon, and with no actual native inhabitants of any sort — was an “independent country.” The popes wanted this real bad, to guard against exactly the situation the church finds itself in now — not specifically to hide from accusations of raping little boys, but more generally to be free from any possibility of being held accountable by the earthly laws of any nation. The pope is a head of state! The church is a country! You can’t put a head of state on trial, unless he loses a war! And who’s going to fight a war against the pope? It would be unseemly.

This “sovereign immunity” defense was one argument that the Church tried to use to claim that it couldn’t be sued for the abuse perpetrated by the Rev. Andrew Ronan in Seattle in the 1960s. Ronan had been transferred (notice the use of the passive voice here — WHO COULD HAVE TRANSFERRED HIM, HMMM?) from Ireland to Chicago and then to Seattle, for the reasons that priests generally get transferred. Another argument the God-lawyers used was that priests don’t really work for the Vatican, but rather for their local diocese, which is totally independent from the church headquarters in all ways, and they can do whatever they want, really. In fact, the church argued that they didn’t even know this Ronan guy existed, until after reading about all his sex abuses in the papers! How can they be expected to keep track of all this stuff?

Yesterday, the Supreme Court, which is two-thirds Catholic, declined to block the lawsuit over the church’s responsibility for Ronan’s abuse. Everyone is going to sue the pope now. It is going to be awesome. [AP]

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About the author

Josh was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, leaving him with a love of chicken wings and a tendency to say “pop”. He taught ancient Greek and Roman history to undergraduates before fleeing from academia in terror; worked for a failed San Francisco dot-com that neglected to supply him with stock options or an Aeron chair; lived in Berlin, where he mostly ate Indian and Ethiopian food; finished in third place on his sole Jeopardy! appearance (the correct answer was “Golda Meir”); and was named 2007 Blogger of the Year by The Week, for obvious reasons. Josh is the creator/editor of COMICS CURMUDGEON (which you should read) and does geeky editing and writing about geeky things such as "the Java programming industry for JavaWorld." He lives in Baltimore with his wife Amber and his cat Hoagie.

View all articles by Josh Fruhlinger

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94 comments

  1. Dashboard_Buddha

    Priests don’t really work for the Vatican like soap peddling pyramidists don’t really work for Amway.

  2. Prommie

    And besides, whats the big deal anyway? So, a few altarboys were diddled, I’m not saying that they didn’t get their hair mussed, but they should just “suck it up,” no pun intended, and quit with the whinging, these are reasonable and acceptable casualties in the never-ending war against Satan.

  3. Serolf Divad

    But BMW dealers raped my wallet!

    (Ed.) JK: I wish I had enough bank to complain about BMW dealers raping my wallet.

  4. charlesdegoal

    The Belgian police forces, who are currently drilling holes into bishops’ buried caskets, are part of the coalition fighting the religious fanatics of the Holy See.

  5. JMP

    Of course the priests are independent; why, they could speak out in support of the right to choose, or marry a gay couple, and the Vatican wouldn’t do a thing.

  6. Katydid

    The second worst thing about all of this is that we’re going to have to hear from that asshole from the catholic league.

  7. fictional character

    nice to see the supreme court take a break from handing out guns to random passers-by in order to make a reasonable legal decision.

  8. Baldar T Flagass

    [re=608309]Serolf Divad[/re]: You obviously just experienced the “$1200 tune-up.”

  9. Terry

    “And who’s going to fight a war against the pope? It would be unseemly.”

    Besides, those Swiss Guard dudes have metal hats and pointy spear things and seem kind of fierce, at least in a RuPaul sort of way.

  10. Katydid

    Also, the invisible hand of god must’ve transferred the child rapist. Or is it the invisible hand of the free market? Meh, when you’re talking about organized religion, one and the same.

  11. Prommie

    In the immortal words of Doug Stanhope, compared to all the guilt, fear, superstition and dogma, a penis is the least harmful thing a priest is gonna pound into a kids head, at least a little mouthwash will get that taste out, the other shit is with you for life.

  12. Scaggsville guy

    The pedophilia racket is bad enough, but what really bugs me is that to this day, the Roman Catholic Pedophilia Company still has the nerve to lecture us about sex and morality, interfere with our elections by telling the faithful that it’s a mortal sin to vote for the liberal Democratic candidate, etc.

    It’s like if Michael Jackson (before he died) had called a press conference to announce he was going to be a national spokesmodel for pedophila prevention. He would have gotten laughed off the stage. But somehow the Catholics get away with it.

    I wish some politician would have the nerve to say, “Yo, Catholics, it’s time for you all to just STFU about anything having to do with sex for, say, 200 years, until everyone forgets about, you know.”

  13. 13ollocks To The Rules

    BMWs get free lubing for life – the priests wish they had it so good.
    BMW – Bless My Wood

  14. Katydid

    [re=608322]Scaggsville guy[/re]: See, you’re looking at it all wrong. Like the pope whose kid was pope, it was all good because he had sex but didn’t use a condom. Focus on the important stuff and you’ll feel better.

  15. user-of-owls

    Some people say the Pope has hookworms. Just like the Palin family only with wicked cool Prada slippers.

  16. Nappied Hypotenuse

    [re=608309]Serolf Divad[/re]: Say I was really, really interested in a 6-series, just how handsy would I have to let my dealer get? (Note: not the convertible.)

  17. JMP

    The Vatican is also going nuts over the Belgian police actually investigating some of the child rapes.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/europe/10431317.stm
    One cardinal even compared the investigation to Communist oppression. They really don’t get it; the child rape, they think, is no big deal and the problem are angry about it; somehow actually going after the perpetrators is the real crime, they think. These holy cretins believe they are above the law, and anyone that tries to hold them accountable is somehow wrong.

  18. JMP

    [re=608329]Katydid[/re]: Yes, using a condom is the worse thing a person can do; so bad that it’s worth lying to people in the third world so that they get/spread AIDS in order to make sure they don’t use that little condom.

    [re=608322]Scaggsville guy[/re]: It has absolutely nothing worth saying; adjusted for its power, the Catholic Church is the most vile, evil organization in the world today; that people who have done so much grievous harm actually have the temerity to act as if they’re some sort of moral experts, or even know the meaning of the word, is just sickening.

  19. Jim89048

    Perhaps they need to look into a name change. If they’re gonna be hiring independent contractors, maybe they should look into Blackwater’s Xe’s business model. Seems to be working out OK for them.

  20. Brick Oven Bill

    As far as I can figure, ‘God’ established the physical laws of Nature, and from there life marched forward. The creature ‘Man’ is inherently spiritual, and turns to his spirituality frequently during the course of his life.

    This spirituality could have been implanted by God for many reasons, but one reason surely was to unify men for coordination during warfare, to prevail in human conflict. In this manner, religion is very similar to music. This explains why men are better musicians than women.

    So we rightly view with suspicion any man or organization of men who presume to speak for God, especially when there is money and other earthly pleasures involved in the deal.

    More worrisome however are men who deny the existence of the physical laws of nature, and by default, substitute themselves into the God role (‘I can close the academic achievement gap’), all while seeking to collect money and earthly pleasures.

    This is one reason why I distrust the modern political parties more than I distrust the Catholic Church.

  21. Zadig

    [re=608332]Nappied Hypotenuse[/re]: You should probably do a little research beforehand, in travel brochures and literature from the mother country, because you’ll need that info as a mental reference when it’s time to spread your legs and think of, well, you know.

    It’ll take a while.

  22. actor212

    Priests work for the Vatican, but abusing altar boys is kind of a sideline hobby, therefore not covered under their employment contract with Jesus.

  23. SayItWithWookies

    Wait a minute — let’s hear some more about this “war against the Pope” option before we dismiss it out of hand. It’s not like the Vatican is a member of NATO, right? And I’m sure Italy could use a few billion in gold leaf, statuary and various priceless artworks, so they wouldn’t stand in the way. And we wouldn’t have to hang him necessarily, once we caught him. Not that we should limit our options at this point, but just saying.

  24. Johnny Zhivago

    [re=608344]SayItWithWookies[/re]: You mean we have to fight the Catholics over there, so we don’t have to fight them over here???

  25. Prommie

    [re=608329]Katydid[/re]: 90% of people, catholics and non-catholics alike, don’t really appreciate the RC church’s attitude towards sexual “sins.” They are really considered very minor sins, not such a big deal at all. They are considered a “natural” sins, and sins of weakness, not deliberate acts of evil. This is the good side of “original sin,” since the church thinks everyone is by nature a sinner, everyone gets a pass when they sin, at least for these minor sins like sexual sins. You fornicate, big deal, you gave way to an inherent human weakness, say 5 Our Fathers and 3 Hail Marys. Its a much lesser sin than anger, violence,or hate, or a doctrinal sin such as a deliberate and knowing rejection of dogma.

    But thats why wearing the condom is unforgiveable, provided you wore it to prevent conception, presumably, if you wore it solely to prevent disease, that’d be OK, provided you built a “sperm ladder,” like those salmon ladders around dams, so the sperm had a chance. Wearing the condom is a deliberate defiance of dogma, its not a sexual sin, so its far worse.

    Look at it this way, what are the most notorious public bacchanals that take place in the world? Carnavale, Rio, New Orleans, these are the most, well, carnal, lustful, drunken, riotous orgies of every sin in the catalogue, and remember, this is very significant, these are Catholic festivals in Catholic countries. This speaks to the fact that at bottom, Catholicism is quite tolerant and forgiving of people having a little fun, dancing and singing, getting a little drunk, getting some nookie. The church is so forgiving of it, that prior to the 6 months of lent when people are asked to be extra good and all, they are encouraged to go on a mad drunken wild orgy for a few days, to get it out of their system.

    Thats really pretty reasonable, just don’t wear a condom, because every sperm is sacred.

  26. ella

    The Vatican could make every priest a citizen of Vatican City and claim diplomatic immunity. Or it could clean house, stop tolerating this shit and try to make amends with the victims.

    I don’t see either scenario happening, akshly.

  27. Johnny Zhivago

    [re=608349]Prommie[/re]: What’s even stranger – and the reason the Zhivagos are no longer Catholic is the divorce thing. Basically, the RC church will not allow divorce. But for a fee, they will pretend a marriage never really happened.

  28. Johnny Zhivago

    [re=608351]Hopey dont play that game[/re]: The Vatican IS armed! With their Swiss mercenary army, no less. And they have a lot of firepower – not just pikes – but H&K assault shotguns and Glocks, I believe.

  29. Manos: Hands of Fate

    Sorry Benedict but if you don’t think BP hasn’t already tried exploring every possible angle to this line of defense, I’ve got a basilica to sell you.

  30. weejee

    For some fun and profit let’s: run to the closest Catholic church and get some holy water; run to the drug store and get some condoms & tongue depressors; put the tongue depressors in the condoms; pour holy water in each of the condoms; hang the condoms in the freezer; after an hour or two remove the condoms; be like good Catholics and take off the condoms; set up a stand next to the sidewalk and sell Pope-cycles. Amen, also.

  31. SayItWithWookies

    [re=608348]Johnny Zhivago[/re]: Let’s not confuse the state, with which we have this disagreement, with its people, who we respect. The zero inhabitants of the Vatican should consider themselves completely safe — it’s the heads of state who will be brought to justice. Of course they’ll play that whole “persecuting the Christians” card, but it’s not like we’ll throw them to the lions or anything. Not that we want to limit our options at this early stage of the game.

  32. JMP

    [re=608340]Brick Oven Bill[/re]: Or, you know, the laws of nature are what they are, but people couldn’t comprehend them beyond what limited experience in their everyday lives and created this god (or gods) to explain that which they couldn’t understand; but unfortunately the meme persists even now that we have begun to actually discover the laws of nature and that no supernatural (or “spiritual”) explanation is needed.

  33. user-of-owls

    [re=608344]SayItWithWookies[/re]: [re=608348]Johnny Zhivago[/re]: That’s right. We need to leave all our options on the table.

    We will wait for the recommendations of the generals on the ground before we make policy. They are crafting a response to the belligerent status of Vatican City based on the lessons learned by US forces in an earlier and similar scenario.

    Grenada 1983. Never forget.

  34. 4tehlulz

    [re=608346]fishskicanoe[/re]: He’s more afraid of a smart black guy than a kid-fucking priest.

    It’s no accident that he chose “the achievement gap” as something that is a law of nature.

  35. chascates

    So this guy is CEO of a global business that purports to sell a product but can never product said product. It offers no guarantees or returns but strikes out at any criticism whatsoever and claims to banish certain individuals to eternal ‘damnation.’ It is protected by law in many countries and pays no taxes on its assets or activities in most others. Strictly run by males it subordinates females to almost slavery and forbids both sexes to engage in sexual intercourse. At the same time child molestation is rampant throughout its members who always cover up for any member accused of such crimes.

    At least they know longer burn non-Catholics at the stake.

  36. user-of-owls

    [re=608388]chascates[/re]:
    At least they know longer burn non-Catholics at the stake.

    Don’t count your chickens, Scalia hasn’t weighed in on the issue yet.

  37. WarAndG

    [re=608340]Brick Oven Bill[/re]: World Daily Net awaits your pretzel logic salted with sanctimonious babble.

  38. missly12

    Life is so lonely. Are you looking for we althy men and sexy women for relationship or marriage?
    Maybe you want to check out

    A f f l u e n t S i n g l e * c o m

    It’s the largest and best club for seeking CEOs, athletes, doctors, lawyers, investors, entrepreneurs, beauty queens, fitness models, and Hollywood celebrities. It also features certified milliona ire and verified beautiful women.I believe you will success there since thousands of singles, include me, have found true love there.

  39. thehelveticascenario

    [re=608356]Johnny Zhivago[/re]: Do the pikes turn into shotguns that turn into Glocks?

  40. BobTheBuilder

    How’d you like to be the process server who gets the Vicar of Christ assignment?

    And what will the caption of a lawsuit look like? Jimmy Kid versus His Supreme Exalted Holiness, Defender of the Faith, etc. etc. Benedict XVI a.k.a. Joe Ratzinger…

    Something tells me it’s gonna be a LONG time before we see a Pope visit the U.S. again.

  41. AKAM80TheWolf

    [re=608340]Brick Oven Bill[/re]:

    You managed to reform santorum into written word while still maintaining a staggering ignorance-to-word ratio.

    Well done.

  42. chascates

    [re=608409]missly12[/re]: I don’t have anything in common with ‘CEOs, athletes, doctors, lawyers, investors, entrepreneurs, beauty queens, fitness models, or Hollywood celebrities! I want a site like ‘www.CommonSingle.com, a place where I can find a girl who’s more like me. Lazy, unemployed, maybe a little on the trashy side. Someone who’s fairly clean, speaks pretty good English, and knows how to use a knife and fork.

  43. weejee

    [re=608340]BoB[/re]:

    Genesis 1:3
    And God said:
    del dot E is equal to four pi rho
    del dot B equals zero
    del cross E is equal to minus one over c partial B partial t
    del cross B equals one over c partial E partial t plus four pi over c times the flux
    and there was light.

    Amen²

  44. Dashboard_Buddha

    [re=608377]JMP[/re]: Zeus: They’ll take my lightning bolt away when they pry it from my cold dead fingers.

  45. BklynIlluminati

    Wait my BMW is a rapist??!! look i know the clutch is a bit sticky but she never meant no harm!

  46. Jim89048

    [re=608430]Johnny Zhivago[/re]: You can buy them at their cafe press store, I’m pretty sure.

  47. JMP

    [re=608409]missly12[/re]: I’m not rich, but was looking for an interracial relationship; do you know where I can go for that?

  48. tribbzthesquidz

    [re=608340]Brick Oven Bill[/re]: To say that men are better musicians than women has zero basis in reality. What does that even mean? There certainly are MORE male musicians. Right off the bat I can think of 2 femalez, who are virtuosos on their respective axez, that I know personally. When they get up to play, no one is concerned with what genitalia they’re packin’. Again, there are only MORE males. To say either male/female has superior and divinely placed predisposition to shred is kinda dum-dum-de-dum-dum.

  49. actor212

    [re=608409]missly12[/re]: Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, idiot. We want a better class of people than these folks….

  50. tribbzthesquidz

    Ahem, back on thread: I recommend, if ya got 20 minutes and haven’t already seen it, Stephen Fry’s lecture at The Intelligence2 Debate.
    Anyway, many Amenz and Hallelujahz to the usual suspects here at the Wonkettes.

  51. Bowdoin

    Warning to the Pontiff and all ecumenical perps: Another former head of a supposed sovereign nation is in the news. Feller name of Noriega.

  52. proudgrampa

    [re=608309]Serolf Divad[/re]: “I wish I had enough bank to complain about BMW dealers raping my wallet.”

    Well, the story wouldn’t have been as funny if it was about Ford or Chevy dealers…

  53. engulfedinflames

    [re=608340]Brick Oven Bill[/re]: You have a pretty high opinion of yourself, don’t you? I’m sick of your nonsense and will return to ignoring you.

    p.s. go piss up a rope, the choice of sucking the wet end is yours.

  54. Libbygirl

    [re=608340]Brick Oven Bill[/re]:
    “This spirituality could have been implanted by God for many reasons, but one reason surely was to unify men for coordination during warfare, to prevail in human conflict. In this manner, religion is very similar to music. This explains why men are better musicians than women.”

    WTF? That last sentence is just plain idiocy. Where have you pulled your “facts” from? Did you move your head over a tad so you could pull them out of your ass?

    Just plain ignorant.

  55. Autoo

    [re=608339]Jim89048[/re]: Perhaps they need to look into a name change.

    Dateline: 28 June 2010 – Vatican City

    The Vatican announced today that going forward, the Catholic Church has reorganized to focus on it’s core values and future growth. The new organization has renamed itself AssPenTrate® Corportation and has announced a new aggressive recruiting program targeting largely undeveloped third world countries.

    A spokesman for the Vatican said, “We feel there is a vast, untapped, as it were, market out there.”

  56. Terry

    [re=608415]thehelveticascenario[/re]:

    Their real soldiers are all albino monks. Your only line of defense is to stand always in bright sunlight, the one thing the albino monks can’t tolerate.

  57. Way Cool Larry

    [re=608320]Prommie[/re]: well, there is herpes and AIDS, which can ruin your life, not to mention the psychological trauma

  58. user-of-owls

    [re=608484]Libbygirl[/re]: Oh, really?? So you’re conveniently ignoring the fact that the SS was entirely staffed with men recruited from oompah bands!1?

  59. One Yield Regular

    I once read a book about Catholicism, so I find this story interesting. Is this lawsuit by any chance going to result in the tomb of Mary being moved from under the Louvre pyramid to under the Washington monument?

    [re=608340]Brick Oven Bill[/re]: As far as you can *figure*? As I used to tell friends in AA who started drifting off course: Christ, honey, go to a meeting or something.

  60. Wonks Anonymous

    Prommie you comment:

    “90% of people, catholics and non-catholics alike, don’t really appreciate the RC church’s attitude towards sexual “sins.” They are really considered very minor sins, not such a big deal at all. They are considered a “natural” sins, and sins of weakness, not deliberate acts of evil. This is the good side of “original sin,” since the church thinks everyone is by nature a sinner, everyone gets a pass when they sin, at least for these minor sins like sexual sins. You fornicate, big deal, you gave way to an inherent human weakness, say 5 Our Fathers and 3 Hail Marys. Its a much lesser sin than anger, violence,or hate, or a doctrinal sin such as a deliberate and knowing rejection of dogma.”

    You say this like it is a good thing.

    O.K. darling, I was raised by a good Catholic pedophile who lapsed into “sin” when I was about 5 and I spent most of my life denying and skirting the issue and being angry and dealing with various simultaneously dull and miserable sexual relationships. Just minor collateral damage. Thank you.

    In the meantime my abuser, also known as dad, made everything right with God by praying real hard and going to Mass every morning at the crack of dawn – we all got to go along to help him repent – and making sure that he disciplined his kids – with special attention to me because I was such a seductive little vixen. And because it was a minor sin – unlike say using a condom or defying the Church by publicly following his homosexual identity – everything was fine.

    The problem here is that the Church makes no distinction between normal human sexuality and love and criminal acts that do lasting damage to the innocent. It is all about what the perpetrator does with his equipment and it is all focused on the subjective experience of the perpetrator and his (or her) own sick relationship with the supremely sick God of the Church.

    If anyone is doing a class action suit against the Church they can sign me up.

  61. Prommie

    [re=608603]Wonks Anonymous[/re]: Well, yes, I did make light of the topic, its what we do here. I am sure that the fact that the church allowed your father to believe he was forgiven had little to do with what made him do what he did, and I am sorry that all happened, but, hey, life sucks. In the end, each and every one of dies, scared and alone and in pain. Focus on the 70 some-odd years of live you have coming to you during which you have not and won’t be molested, not those few hours.

    The people who abuse come from every religion, and none. The only thing they seem to have in common is having been victims of abuse themselves.

  62. tribbzthesquidz

    [re=608603]Wonks Anonymous[/re]: I think there is a misunderstanding here. I don’t see Prommies description and making light of the family tree of sinz as an endorsement of these things. You do make an excellent point about this sickness of institutionalized sexual confusion and disinformation. Best wishes 2 U. If I may also advise, “living well is the best revenge.”

    [re=608619]Prommie[/re]: “each and every one dies, scared and alone and in pain”
    Not necessarily. There are exceptions to this rule. It IS possible for one to die with dignity, acceptance, and peace. I recognize many circumstances don’t allow for this but, it’s a worthy goal.

    Defy the fearmongrels! Defy the non-existent Yarway!

  63. libwakman

    As a practicing Priest of a wealthy parish, I visited: A f f l u e n t S i n g l e * c o m
    And there I found the sexiest & most innocent Altar Boy of my wet dreams. Now how could anyone hold the Popa responsible for my intertubes use when the Old Nazi can barely write his name on restitution checks coerced by kids whose ass took a lickin’ while my priestly cock is still a tickin’ ?
    Will write more later after I am relocated to a new parish under the Duck’n’Run Vatican rule that insures I get to plant my Godly seed, condom free naturally, into a new series of youngins that are just begging to be brought closer to Catholic doctrine.

  64. boomer

    Wow!

    I initially thought this photo was Kozinski (no, not Ted, Kozinski, J., 9th Cir. CA).

    But yikes, call Quantico.

    Something tells me there are more victims out there.

  65. PickneyPinchback

    [re=608351]Hopey dont play that game[/re]: The Vatican already has the original 16th-century version of Blackwater; the Swiss Guards began as mercenaries hired to fight the pope’s wars and then stuck around to enjoy the climate.

Comments are closed.