- By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 1:50 PM on 11th April 2010
Pope Benedict XVI faces a legal ambush by two atheist campaigners for 'crimes against humanity'
Two leading atheist campaigners are planning a legal ambush to have the Pope arrested during his state visit to Britain for 'crimes against humanity'.
Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens - who have both written books promoting atheism - have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.
The pair believe they can exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.
The Pope was embroiled in new controversy this weekend over a letter he signed arguing that the 'good of the universal church' should be considered against the defrocking of an American priest who committed sex offences against two boys.
It was dated 1985, when he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with sex abuse cases.
Benedict will be in Britain between September 16 and 19, visiting London, Glasgow and Coventry, where he will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th-century theologian.
Dawkins and Hitchens believe the Pope would be unable to claim diplomatic immunity from arrest because, although his tour is categorised as a state visit, he is not the head of a state recognised by the United Nations.
They have commissioned the barrister Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens, a solicitor, to present a justification for legal action.
The lawyers believe they can ask the Crown Prosecution Service to initiate criminal proceedings against the Pope, launch their own civil action against him or refer his case to the International Criminal Court.
Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said: 'This is 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.'
Richard Dawkins (left) and Christopher Hitchens have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging the Pope over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church
Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great, said: 'This man is not above or outside the law.
'The institutionalised concealment of child rape is a crime under any law and demands not private ceremonies of repentance or church-funded payoffs, but justice and punishment.’
Last year pro-Palestinian activists persuaded a British judge to issue an arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni, the Israeli politician, for offences allegedly committed during the 2008-09 conflict in Gaza.
The warrant was withdrawn after Livni cancelled her planned trip to the UK.
'There is every possibility of legal action against the Pope occurring,' said Stephens.
'Geoffrey and I have both come to the view that the Vatican is not actually a state in international law. It is not recognised by the UN, it does not have borders that are policed and its relations are not of a full diplomatic nature.'
Neil Gallanagh pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two teenage pupils at a deaf school where he was chaplain
The Pope’s planned visit comes as it emerged a priest who admitted indecently assaulting deaf boys at a school in Yorkshire has been allowed to remain as a cleric.
The abuse committed by Fr Neil Gallanagh while he was working as the chaplain of St John’s School for the Deaf in Boston Spa, came to light in 2005.
In 2005, Gallanagh pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two teenage pupils at the school.
He received a six-month suspended sentence and a further 11 charges involving boys as young as 11 were left on file.
But he avoided being defrocked after the Rt Rev Arthur Roche, the Bishop of Leeds, wrote to the Vatican asking for guidance, The Sunday Telegraph revealed.
On the Vatican’s advice, Gallanagh was stopped from exercising his ministry.
John Grady, the bishop’s spokesman said: ‘He is not in good standing with the church as a priest. He is not allowed to exercise ministry of any kind. He has observed these restrictions to the letter.’
Gallanagh now lives in a flat ‘under the observance of the Church’ and has been financially supported by the Church with a retirement grant.
He joined the deaf school in 1973, despite having been fined for a assaulting a nine-year-old boy on the Isle of Man while he was a priest in Northern Ireland.
Margaret Kennedy, founder of the support group Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors said the Church had failed to punish Gallanagh.
She said: ‘Defrocking him would send out a statement that he’s not fit to be a priest.
‘He should not be left with his honour. By not defrocking him it says that he is still a man of God and that is clearly not the case.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1265151/Richard-Dawkins-plans-arrest-Pope-crimes-humanity.html#ixzz0koopIBIc
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The Pope will just have to hope the McCanns don't need Caplan that week then.
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