Diplomatic immunity protects Vatican big-wig from going on trial

Diplomatic immunity protects Vatican big-wig from going on trial January 10, 2019

THIS week saw the start of a high-profile trial in France of six people accused of covering up clerical sexual abuse. But a seventh – Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer – is not among the defendants because the Vatican last year played the diplomatic immunity card and refused to hand the cardinal a summons issued by a French court.

Image via YouTube

Lawyers wanted Ferrer, above, in the dock alongside Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, 68, and the other accused of covering up the crimes of an abusive priest, Father Bernard Preynat, who allegedly abused scores boy scouts – as many as 40.

They argued that Ferrer had advised the Diocese of Lyon not to involve  the French justice system in the case.

It’s quite understandable why Ferrer is being protected. He is a Vatican high muckety-muck. In 2017 he became Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) – formerly the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition – and 2018 Pope Francis made him a cardinal named him the Cardinal-Deacon of Sant’Ignazio Loyola in Campo Marzio.

In 2010 a British barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC argued that the Vatican isn’t deserving of diplomatic recognition, that its claims to statehood are risible, and that it uses its status as a state to take refuge from international law and to cover up clerical sex abuse crimes.

According to Catholic website Crux, the case was brought to court by nine people who said Preynat abused them in the 1970s and 1980s. The victims say top clergy were aware of Preynat’s actions for years, but allowed him to be in contact with children until his 2015 retirement.

Image via YouTube

After the judge had read out the lengthy accusations, Barbarin, above, took the stand to maintain his innocence. He said he had encouraged one of the alleged victims to get in contact with other victims and “thanks to that” evidence against Preynat was able to be built.

If found guilty of failing to report the priest’s actions, the defendants could face up to three years in prison and a $51,300 fine. Barbarin and some other defendants are also charged with failing to assist a person in peril.

The priest Preynat, now in his 70s, wrote letters to some families confessing the abuse, and is to be tried separately on sexual violence charges involving several children.

One of his alleged victims, Alexandre Hezez, hailed the trial as an effort to “move justice forward.” Hezez, 44, spoke to the cardinal directly about Preynat and is among those who brought the case to trial.

Barbarin sought counsel on how to handle abuse accusations against Preynat from the Vatican official, Luis Ladaria Ferrer, who recommended disciplinary measures while “avoiding a public scandal.”

Numerous child sex abuse claims have been made against Catholic clergy in France since the 1990s, but there hasn’t been a huge wave like those seen in the US, Ireland or some other countries.

Barbarin is the highest-level French church figure accused of covering up abuse, and is among the most powerful figures in the Catholic Church, one of some 200 cardinals worldwide and archbishop of Lyon since 2002.

Multiple cardinals have been accused in recent years of shielding abusers or committing abuse themselves, from Pennsylvania to Australia to Chile.

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  • Jack the Sandwichmaker

    They should expel all Vatican diplomats until The Church is willing to him stand trial

  • Raging Bee

    So when can we stop pretending the Vat is an actual state, and stop treating them like one? IIRC, we’re signatories to a treaty that requires us to keep up this pretense. Does it give us any avenue to pull out of it, like maybe, I dunno, gross or frivolous abuse of the privileges granted to the Vatican pseudo-state?

  • Jim Jones

    Geoffrey Robertson QC has nailed it. In no sense is it a state.

  • TheBookOfDavid

    He said he had encouraged one of the alleged victims to get in contact with other victims and “thanks to that” evidence against Preynat was able to be built.

    So, awareness that the abuse was not isolated to one victim triggered an investigation, and you’re using that as a defense? Babarin is just dumb enough to shout from a police lineup “That’s her, officer. I’d recognize that purse anywhere!”

  • Andrew Collins

    All nations should give the Vatican a choice – Statehood recognition or a Church. As a state they could have all diplomatic protections, but would not be allowed to have schools etc as that would be the indoctrination of citizens by a foreign nation. They would also lose all tax free status etc, and would be subject to all the rules involving foreign investment etc. Or be a church and forgo all diplomatic rights and priveliges. No nation allows any other state or religion to have this much power. It is clear that the vatican has abused this and now the whole world needs to stand up and fix it.

  • Andrew Collins

    But the pope has drawn a line in the sand and has promised to fix the child abuse issue!! Oh, sorry. That was just more words but no action. Again.