Questionable Motives

April 11, 2010

Deputy Dawkins?

From Marc Horne at the TimesOnline:

RICHARD DAWKINS, the atheist campaigner, is planning a legal ambush to have the Pope arrested during his state visit to Britain “for crimes against humanity”.

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.

Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said: “This is a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence.”

Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great, said: “This man is not above or outside the law. The institutionalised concealment of child rape is a crime under any law and demands not private ceremonies of repentance or church-funded payoffs, but justice and punishment.”

Dawkins posted a comment about this article on his own blog here from which I have taken the following excerpts:

Needless to say, I did NOT say “I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI” or anything so personally grandiloquent. What I DID say to Marc Horne when he telephoned me out of the blue, and I repeat it here, is that I am whole-heartedly behind the initiative by Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens to mount a legal challenge to the Pope’s proposed visit to Britain. Even if the Pope doesn’t end up in the dock, and even if the Vatican doesn’t cancel the visit, I am optimistic that we shall raise public consciousness to the point where the British government will find it very awkward indeed to go ahead with the Pope’s visit, let alone pay for it.

And that’s what makes the New Atheists different from previous atheists in general: we have decided to push back in various ways and means against the promotion and acceptance of religious belief in the public domain. Surely welcoming such a prominent and accused criminal with pomp and ceremony (and security) paid for by the state because the visitor is a high ranking religious figure falls into this category of unjustified promotion and acceptance.

Any push back – no matter how gentle but firm – will be presented as militancy by religious supporters and apologists , of course, and any public disagreement with the faithful’s unwavering support for the insertion of religious belief into the public domain will be described as strident and arrogant and a host of other negative but equally inaccurate terms. This is business as usual between the two groups. But the push back is necessary. By launching a legal challenge against the pope, the Hitch and Rich are doing what the British government and other secular states should be doing: holding  those accused of complicity in crimes legally accountable for their decisions and actions. Good on ’em, I say.

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4 Comments »

  1. More fuel to the fire here.

    Comment by tildeb — April 11, 2010 @ 12:30 pm | Reply

  2. If nothing else this will be a culture shock for the world. This was indeed my reaction on seeing the (concededly tabloid) headlines this afternoon. That such a figurehead should be constrained by the same law as the rest of us will shake the Vatican, and indeed the perception of the Catholic faith, to it’s foundation.

    Comment by rationalrepublic — April 12, 2010 @ 7:50 am | Reply

  3. From the Hitch’s article in Slate:

    There are two choices. We can swallow the shame, roll up the First Amendment, and just admit that certain heinous crimes against innocent citizens are private business or are not crimes if they are committed by priests and excused by popes. Or perhaps we can shake off the awful complicity that reports this ongoing crime as a “problem” for the church and not as an outrage to the victims and to the judicial system. Isn’t there one district attorney or state attorney general in America who can decide to represent the children? Nobody in Eric Holder’s vaunted department of no-immunity justice? If not, then other citizens will have to approach the bench.

    Comment by tildeb — April 13, 2010 @ 8:28 am | Reply


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