Case That Accuses the New Pope of Conspiracy May Be Dropped
Lawsuit Says the Then-Cardinal Worked with Local Catholic Officials to Cover up Abuse
By Paige Hewitt and Harvey Rice
Houston Chronicle [Houston TX]
April 29, 2005
A federal judge is considering whether to dismiss a case that accuses the new pope of conspiring with local Catholic officials to cover up the alleged sexual abuse of three boys.
U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal halted the case this week until she decides whether to grant a motion by Catholic officials to dismiss it.
The lawsuit was filed by plaintiffs known only as John Does I, II and III, who say they were molested as boys by a seminary student about 10 years ago.
Letter written in 2001
Pope Benedict XVI, who was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was added to the lawsuit this year, wrote a May 18, 2001, letter calling for adherence to a 1962 guideline for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.
The lawsuit calls the guidelines "a virtual 'green light' for all bishops to actually facilitate, albeit secretly, the sexual exploitation of minors, and even brute animals, by clergy."
It maintains that orders from the Vatican and Ratzinger make them part of a conspiracy allowing church tribunals to conduct sham trials, transfer perpetrators and silence the victims.
"If you're going after a conspiracy, you have to go after all the conspirators," said Dan Shae, attorney for John Doe I, about including the pope in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed in June last year, was moved from Harris County state court to federal court in March after Ratzinger was added to it.
Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston issued a statement saying, "It is beyond belief that someone would try to interpret this church document as a conspiracy."
The lawsuit charges that the conspiracy led to the molestation of the three boys by a former seminary student at the archdiocese, Juan Carlos Patino Arango, now 38, of Colombia. It originally was filed against the archdiocese, Fiorenza, Monsignor William Pickard and Patino Arango.
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