Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens plan Papal arrest

Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are seated together poolside during a promotional tour for their books.

Christopher Hitchens (left) and Richard Dawkins. (Photo: Flickr)

Scores of people – including some Catholic priests – are urging Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) to resign from his position as Holy Father of the Roman Catholic Church in light of the recent sex abuse scandals and alleged cover-up. However, individuals like prominent biologist/author Professor Richard Dawkins and journalist/author Christopher Hitchens go so far as to support a pending legal case where Pope Benedict would be arrested for “crimes against humanity” when he comes to their native UK later this year, reports the BBC. The campaign that was initiated by Hitchens is backed “wholeheartedly” by Dawkins. The Vatican has already stated that Ratzinger will not resign as a result of the scandal, so nobody should wager any payday loans over it.

Can Dawkins and Hitchens bring suit against the Pope?

This question that Dawkins and Hitchens are pursuing through barrister Geoffrey Robertson and solicitor Mark Stephens isn’t as clear cut as it may first seem. According to the BBC, legal counsel may ask the Crown Prosecution Service to pursue criminal charges against Pope Benedict. Alternatively, they may either refer the case to International Criminal Court or initiate a civil action. Hitchens does not believe the Vatican is a legal state, as it is accepted by the United Nations only as non-member observer state, which could address the likely defense of diplomatic immunity. It remains to be seen what will be decided in this case.

It’s ‘wonderfully lunatic,’ says Dr. William Oddie

Dr. Oddie, former editor of The Catholic Herald, thinks that Dawkins and Hitchens are off their rockers. “What’s lawful is what is lawfully agreed by lawful authorities,” Oddie told the BBC. “In this case, Italian law – the government of Italy – and secondly, international law, determined by the United Nations. Both legal authorities accept the Vatican is a legal state.” Again, the United Nations’ stance and role in any potential lawsuit remains to be seen. Dr. Oddie’s statement may not be entirely correct and his reputation could end up needed credit repair.

Equality before the law

Dawkins recently blogged that he is optimistic that the British government will at the very least “find it very awkward indeed to go ahead with the Pope’s visit.” While sources like BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott point out that some may view Dawkins and Hitchens’ efforts as “a mischievous attempt to create and air of criminality around the Pope,” Guardian columnist George Monbiot believes that putting Pope Benedict XVI on trial would truly show what “equality before the law” means.

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