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Suing the Pope?


Can the Pope be sued? Does he enjoy an immunity? As a head of state? But is the Holy See a State?

It seems that it is seriously envisaged to initiate proceedings in England against him for allegedly covering up sexual abuses by priests.

See this post of Julian Ku at opiniojuris, and more specifically the comments. See also the update here.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lucas Velozo de Melo Bento April 20, 2010, 6:07 am

    These are all very interesting questions. More fundamentally, can one sue the Catholic Church for reparations of crimes committed in the past (or conspiracy to commit such crimes)?

  • Gilles Cuniberti April 20, 2010, 6:11 am


    I am not sure I understand your more fundamental question, but it seems to me that you always seek compensation for actions committed in the past, as you can only be compensated for a loss (already) suffered.

  • Gilles Cuniberti April 20, 2010, 6:12 am

    An update on this story can be found here.

  • Lucas Velozo de Melo Bento April 20, 2010, 6:43 am


    Yes, perhaps my comment over emphasized the fact that one can only seek compensation for a loss already suffered! My reference to the past was however to acts committed centuries ago. I should have been clearer.

    Forgive my nescience on the matter in hand, but I would be extremely grateful if you could provide your views on the following questions:

    -Can the Catholic Church be sued for crimes / torts committed centuries ago (perhaps under public international law)?
    – Can the Church be sued at all? If not, could a party sue a Church leader as an alternative? (which brings us to your comment on immunity)

  • Gilles Cuniberti April 20, 2010, 7:10 am

    Whether the Church can be sued for acts committed a long time ago will be a matter for the local criminal law to decide. It is likely that, in most jurisdictions, crimes committed many years ago will be time-barred. But, in some jurisdictions, the most egregious crimes can never become so, and I would not be surprised that rape committed on children could fall within this category somewhere. Also, it might be that, under some criminal laws, the fact that the victims passed away would be relevant and a bar for prosecution, and I suspect that the victims of crimes committed centuries ago have passed away.

    As to whether the Church or its leaders enjoy a sovereign immunity, it will again vary from one jurisdiction to another. The basics of the discussion can be found at opiniojuris.

  • Lucas Velozo de Melo Bento April 20, 2010, 7:19 am

    Thank you very much for your insight.