Dawkins and Hitchens Hope to Arrest the Pope

Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are, according their team of lawyers, vowing to arrest Pope Benedict XVI for “the institutionalized concealment of child rape” when he arrives in the UK in September. The Vatican has claimed immunity from prosecution for the Pope, calling him a ‘head of state,’ but their lawyer believes that that status won’t hold up in court.  

When you are, by your own admission, “contemptuous and hostile” toward religion, labeling it a “mind virus,” or if you believe that “religion poisons everything,” it’s not exactly edgy or gutsy to be out there making the case for charging the pope with criminal conduct. As Dawkins recently wrote, answering his own question as to whether the pope ought to resign:

No. As the College of Cardinals must have recognized when they elected him, he is perfectly – ideally – qualified to lead the Roman Catholic Church. A leering old villain in a frock, who spent decades conspiring behind closed doors for the position he now holds; a man who believes he is infallible and acts the part; a man whose preaching of scientific falsehood is responsible for the deaths of countless AIDS victims in Africa; a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence: in short, exactly the right man for the job.

The Vatican’s abhorrent actions over the years (including then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s documented role in covering up sexual abuse) make it exceedingly difficult to say anything but ‘amen’ to the new atheists in this latest quest.

On the other hand this move could backfire and spark ire among Catholics causing them to circle the wagons and dull their own criticism. It’s a fine line. The problem was caused by the inability for the Church to police itself adequately. While it’s preposterous to believe that any institution—whether it be the US financial services industry or the Catholic Church—will police itself out of ‘enlightened self interest’ (an expression that gains a whole new meaning in relation to this pope) one hopes that any given house would be cleaned by those who care about it and not by those who are its sworn enemies. 

Is it wise to take a step like this just as the Church continues to implode quite nicely on its own?

Evan Derkacz, editor of Religion Dispatches, was previously an editor and writer at the award-winning web magazine AlterNet.org from 2003-2007. Before that, he worked for Tikkun magazine. His writing has appeared in McSweeney's, AlterNet, The Huffington Post and Start Making Sense (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2004). He has been interviewed on Air America and Pacifica Radio.