September 21, 2005
Papal Immunity
Posted by Christine Hurt

Among the many questions asked of John Roberts, "is the Pope immune to lawsuits" was not one of them.  If I were a judge, this would be a question I would prefer not to have in front of me, but it is currently in front of a former fellow BakerBottsian and federal district judge Lee Rosenthal.  Houston Chronicle article here.  Pope Benedict XVI has been named in a lawsuit alleging conspiracy to cover up sexual molestation.  The act in question is a 2001 letter referencing a 1962 policy guideline for addressing sexual molestation complaints.  Judge Rosenthal will have to determine whether the Pope is a head of a church or the head of a state for immunity purposes.  Vatican City was officially recognized by the U.S. in 1984 and the U.S. has an ambassador to the Vatican.  I predict "head of state."

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