Dan Shea brought suit against Pope Benedict XVI for directing bishops around the world to cover up the sexual assault of children. Jonathan Levy represents Holocaust survivors who want an accounting of the gold and assets stolen from them, then deposited in and laundered through the Vatican Bank. Both have tried to pierce the impenetrable immunity of the popes and their officials to laws which govern the rest of humanity.
Colombian native Juan Carlos Patiño-Arango, a seminarian, was assigned to minister to the Spanish-speaking members of St. Francis De Sales parish in Houston in the mid-1990s.
According to court documents in Shea's lawsuit:
Patiño-Arango would offer to help counsel the boys about sex and masturbation….The suit alleges that these rectory "talks" escalated into Patiño-Arango masturbating some of the boys and performing fellatio on one of them while masturbating himself. Some of the boys said he later threatened them after the fact by telling them that nobody would believe their stories over his, and also claimed that many of the other boys in the class had submitted to his "counseling," so they shouldn't feel too bad or abnormal.After one of the boys reported the abuse to his parents, who in turn complained to the diocese, Patiño-Arango was dismissed.
The suit claims that neither the diocese nor St. Francis publicly aired the reasons for Patiño-Arango's abrupt dismissal nor did they reach out to any of the victims. The suit also contends neither the Houston Police Department nor Child Protective Services were ever notified of Patiño-Arango's alleged crimes.
Shea asserts that this secrecy was an official Vatican policy and that Pope Benedict’s own writings, as well as an earlier official Vatican document, prove it.
In Doe et al v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston et al, Shea maintains that a letter sent by then-Cardinal Ratzinger to every Catholic bishop in the world is part of an international conspiracy to obstruct justice. As head of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger oversaw official Church procedures in dealing with clerical sex abuse of minors under age 18.
Dated May 18, 2001, titled De delictis gravioribus (“Regarding the more serious offences”), and posted on the Vatican’s website in Latin (although most of the website is translated into five modern languages), the letter directs that cases of this kind are to be handled solely by the CDF and are subject to “pontifical secret,” meaning those who broke the silence to outside authorities could be excommunicated. Additionally, the letter instructs the bishops that the evidence must be kept secret for 10 years after the victims 18th birthday.
“They are imposing procedures and secrecy on these cases. If law enforcement agencies find out about the case, they can deal with it. But you can't investigate a case if you never find out about it. If you can manage to keep it secret for 18 years plus 10 the priest will get away with it [due to statutes of limitations],” Shea argued.
Ratzinger’s letter referenced a document titled Crimen Sollicitationis and Shea’s knowledge of Latin (he has three postgraduate theological degrees from Catholic institutions) prompted him to try and get a copy. “He had an idea what would be in it from its title, but it would be two years before a full copy would be sent to him anonymously in the summer of 2003 in a plain brown envelope with no return address.”
The 69-page document was sent by Pope John XXIII to every bishop in the world in 1962.
Much but not all of Crimen deals specifically with how to proceed in cases in which a priest solicits sex while conducting the sacrament of confession….But the last third of Crimen continues on to discuss something translatable from the Latin as "the worst crime": priestly sex with minors or "brute animals."In those cases, Crimen “calls for the victim to take an oath of secrecy at the time of making a complaint to Church officials….Bishops are instructed to pursue these cases ‘in the most secretive way [and] restrained by a perpetual silence.’ Everyone is to observe the strictest secrecy under the penalty of excommunication.”
To Shea, it gives the lie to the notion that the waves upon waves of cover-ups have been the work of a few bad apples. On the contrary, he says, Crimen proves that the rot came from inside the apple tree. The scandal was no longer an indictment of a seemingly endless procession of grievously flawed men, but of an organization that was involved in an international conspiracy to obstruct justice.Shea named Pope Benedict as a defendant in the civil lawsuit. He argued that the 2001 letter was evidence that Ratzinger was involved in a conspiracy with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to hide Patino-Arango's crimes and to help him escape prosecution. Patino-Arango was indicted in a criminal case by a Harris County, Texas, grand jury and was a fugitive from justice, according to the lawsuit. The suit sought unspecified monetary damages.
A Vatican diplomat asked Bush’s secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice to invoke the pope's immunity.
In August of 2005, Rice's office sent a letter to Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler informing Keisler that the Department of State recognized and allowed Benedict's immunity. The letter went on to stress the "particular importance attached by the United States to obtaining the prompt dismissal of the present proceedings...in view of the significant foreign policy implications of such an action against the Head of a foreign state."Federal Judge Lee Rosenthal dismissed the pope from the lawsuit. The judge cited a motion filed by the Justice Department, known as a “suggestion of immunity,” in which the government said allowing the lawsuit to proceed would be “incompatible with the United States’ foreign policy interests.” “After a suggestion of immunity is filed, it is the court’s duty to surrender jurisdiction,” Rosenthal wrote in the ruling.
In Feb. 2008, Shea and diocesan lawyers reached an "amicable settlement."
Other attorneys who represent Church victims say Shea’s case is significant because it’s the closest anyone has come to having popes held responsible for their actions.
As the clerical sex abuse scandal ignited in country after country, government investigations, inquiries and courts found that bishops kept secrets and obstructed justice. In the latest government investigation, an Australian inquiry was informed on July 26, 2013, that “Church protocol was a secret process that dealt with the allegations discreetly.”
The Vatican said Pope Francis will continue the policy of his predecessor. That is, within the Church, the priests, brothers and nuns who sexually abuse children might suffer consequences. The prelates who aid and abet their crimes will not.
Pope Francis will not change this because he has a dismal record as regards child sex abuse in Argentina. In addition, his appointment of notorious protectors of pedophile priests - Australia's Cardinal George Pell and Chile's Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz - as members of his inner circle of advisors, indicates he has no intention of holding hierarchs accountable.
The lawsuit brought by Jonathan Levy had its origins in the “other” Holocaust. During World War II, the Nazi puppet government in Croatia, the Ustasha under the leadership of Ante Pavelic, committed genocide against 500,000 men, women and children - roughly an eighth of the population.
The Catholic Ustashas executed, tortured, starved, buried alive and burned to death Orthodox Serbs, Jews, Roma and members of the resistance between 1941 and 1945. Priests and monks, usually Franciscans, took a leading part in the massacres. Nearly half of the 22 concentration camps in Croatia were headed by Roman Catholic clergy. Nine concentration camps were just for children. One camp for children run by nuns used toxic soda to save bullets.
Pope Pius XII could not plead ignorance to these atrocities according to historian Michael Phayer (Pius XII, The Holocaust, and the Cold War) There were Ustasha representatives in the Vatican and the pope kept in touch with his Croatian prelates. Even so, Pius refused to cut his ties with Catholic Croatia and personally blessed the genocidal killer, Pavelic, in the Vatican.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat, under whose direction a report based on the wartime archives of 11 U.S. agencies was produced, appeared as a guest on the June 2, 1998, PBS News Hour. He spoke about assets stolen by the Nazis and efforts to recover them. Eizenstat added that they had found some new information about “Croatian gold” and Vatican involvement. “We [the U.S. State Department] asked the Vatican to open their archives.” The Vatican has refused to this day.
In November 1999, Levy filed a suit representing Jewish, Ukrainian, Serb and Roma survivors, as well as relatives of victims and various organizations that together represent 300,000 World War II victims. The plaintiffs sought “an accounting and recovery of the Ustasha Treasury that, according to the U.S. State Department, was illicitly transferred to the Vatican.” The evidence included first-hand reports made by U.S. Treasury and intelligence agents in Rome that funds "largely in the form of gold coins" had been plundered from Croatian "Jews and Serbs," then deposited in the Vatican Bank and that this was known by the Vatican's highest officials.
The plaintiffs furthermore alleged that the Vatican had concealed and laundered those looted assets.
After ten years of Vatican opposition, on Dec. 28, 2009, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, upheld a lower court ruling that the Vatican was immune from such lawsuits under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act which protects foreign countries from being sued in U.S. courts and that therefore U.S. courts had no jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI had signed a Monetary Agreement with the European Union dated Dec. 17, 2009. Under its provisions, the Vatican is required to implement EU “legal acts and rules” as regards “prevention of money laundering, prevention of fraud and counterfeiting of cash and non-cash means of payment, medals and tokens and statistical reporting requirements” as covered by Directive 2005/60/EC of the European Parliament. The deadline for implementation was Dec. 31, 2010.
If a state is perceived to be at risk for money laundering, its financial institutions - in this case, the Vatican Bank in particular - usually pay a price. Depositors may take their business elsewhere, worried about possible seizures of assets, while banks in other countries may impose higher transaction costs to cover more aggressive "due diligence" measures. In general, a state's ability to play the global financial game is impeded.On Dec. 30, Benedict announced the establishment of Vatican law no. 127 “concerning the prevention and countering of the laundering of proceeds from criminal activities” and created the Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria (AIF) to oversee Vatican compliance with the new law.
Levy submitted a request to the European Commission for an “investigation and inquiry” dealing with the unresolved issues of the “Ustasha Treasury and the missing gold and other valuables from the former Yugoslavia” and “Vatican involvement in laundering concentration camp gold and loot after the Second World War.”
We also note that the Vatican Bank (Institute for Religious Works) is currently under investigation and subject to a freezing order by Italian authorities for money laundering activity lending credulity to our allegations that Vatican City State financial practices do not meet their obligations to the EU under applicable treaties nor comply with FATF [Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental group] anti-money-laundering standards….Levy basically got the run-around from the EC which seemingly has neither the will nor real power to enforce the Vatican’s compliance with Directive 2005/60/EC, but he is still in contact.
At the EC’s suggestion, Levy wrote letters stating his case to both the current (René Bruelhart) and former (Cardinal Attilio Nicora) directors of the Vatican’s AIF which predictably were ignored.
Pope Francis is not going to allow publicity generated by this claim to reopen the subject of Pope Pius XII’s role in World War II, his support of European fascism and his ratlines to help war criminals escape prosecution.
Additionally, the topic of Church support for rightwing dictatorships guilty of slaughtering their own citizens might reopen the subject of the Church’s support for Argentina’s Dirty War and Pope Francis’ response.
Modern papal and Vatican lawlessness and corruption date back to the 1929 Lateran Treaty signed with Benito Mussolini. In order to secure the Church’s approval of his dictatorship, Mussolini created the Vatican City State as a separate nation and its inhabitants, therefore, became immune from all Italian and international law.
Mussolini also gave Pope Pius XI about a billion dollars in today’s money. The windfall was put under the management of financial genius, Bernardino Nogara. Nogara, closely tied to the “masters of the universe” of his era, united the interests of Catholic Church with that of the global plutocracy through his international and amoral investments having agreed to take the job only if he could handle the funds regardless of ethical and moral considerations. (see John F. Pollard, Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy: Financing the Vatican, 1850-1950)
For those of us concerned about the ability of the Catholic Church to advance the power of the plutocracy, these seem to be darker days. Pope Francis’ popularity is “translated into a growth of trust in the Catholic Church.” New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan tells us that “before we bishops lacked a lot of credibility in many areas, and it's clear that the goodwill Francis enjoys right now…makes it easier for bishops to move the ball on many fronts.”
Veteran human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, QC, called the Vatican a "rogue state." Pope Francis' promotions through the ecclesial ranks and his election as pontiff were accomplished through a systemically corrupt organization. So, regardless of his words, it can safely be predicted that Pope Francis will take no action which diminishes the Church's wealth, power and contempt of the law. Eventually, this corruption will resurface in the media.