Justice Department Sides With Vatican In Abuse Case

The Bush administration has asked a federal judge in Texas to drop a lawsuit accusing Pope Benedict XVI of trying to cover up sexual abuse charges.

The Associated Press reported in late September that the U.S. Justice Department had informed U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal of Houston that the lawsuit against the pope should be thrown out of court because he has immunity as a head of state. The Catholic hierarchy, operating as the Holy See, claims status as a sovereign entity.

The lawsuit charges the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was involved in a conspiracy to shield Juan Carlos Patino-Arango, a seminarian at St. Francis de Sales Church in Houston, from sexual molestation charges of three boys. The lawsuit highlights a 2001 letter from Ratzinger to bishops worldwide detailing that his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would handle cases of sexual abuse in church tribunals covered by “pontifical secret,” according to the National Catholic Reporter.

A lawsuit lodged in Texas against Pope John Paul II was dismissed in 1994 pursuant to a similar motion filed by the federal government.