8.18.2005

Boys Sue Pope, Challenge Church-As-State Immunity

Lawyer Set To Challenge Vatican Status

from The Associated Press

The lawyer who is suing Pope Benedict XVI in Texas for allegedly covering up the sexual abuse of children by a seminarian said Wednesday he would challenge the U.S. diplomatic recognition of the Vatican if the pope is given immunity in the case.

The pope's lawyers have already asked President Bush to certify Benedict's immunity from liability in the civil lawsuit since he is a head of state - the Vatican city-state.

Attorney Daniel Shea, who is representing one of three boys suing the pope, told a news conference Wednesday that Bush could abstain from confirming Benedict's immunity. If Bush grants the immunity, Shea said he would challenge the constitutionality of the U.S. diplomatic recognition of the Holy See as a sovereign state on First Amendment grounds.

"The Holy See is a church," Shea said.

The State Department has said the pope already is considered a head of state and automatically has diplomatic immunity. Spokeswoman Gerry Keener said Tuesday that Benedict doesn't have to ask for immunity and Bush doesn't have to grant it.

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