British Philosopher Anthony Grayling 'The Chances of Getting the Pope Arrested Are Quite Slim'

Militant atheists want to arrest Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Britain over his alleged complicity in covering up abuse by priests. In a SPIEGEL interview, the British philosopher Anthony Grayling explained why he believes the pope is the head of a conspiracy and argues that the Vatican should not be a state.

By Marco Evers

Protesters in London call for the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI over the abuse scandals in the Catholic Church (March 2010 photo).
AFP

Protesters in London call for the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI over the abuse scandals in the Catholic Church (March 2010 photo).


SPIEGEL: Professor Grayling, will you really try to arrest the pope when he comes to Britain this week?

Anthony Grayling: If I got anywhere near him -- yes, I would like to try it. English law provides for the possibility of a citizen's arrest.

SPIEGEL: But only if there is no doubt about the person's guilt, there is an imminent danger and there are no police around ...

Grayling: ... and that probably won't happen. There's also only a very slight hope that we will succeed through legal proceedings. All in all I'd say: The chances of getting the Pope arrested this week are quite slim, unfortunately.

SPIEGEL: Wasn't that idea a little over the top anyway?

Grayling: Let me explain this in the most neutral terms. For decades, priests have sexually abused thousands of children, in this country and in many others. These are serious crimes. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has been systematically instrumental in covering up these crimes, hiding people who committed them from public prosecution and in numerous cases allowing the abuse of children to go on. The conspiracy has gone all the way to the top. We know there are questions on Pope Benedict himself. When he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he knew about some of these cases and participated in the cover-ups himself. That is a conspiracy -- there is no other word for it. It is organized crime.

SPIEGEL: And you think the pope should go to jail for that, like any mafioso?

Grayling: If the head of a drug cartel was involved in a conspiracy, we would ask some very serious questions once he came to the UK. Why should we treat the pope any differently?

SPIEGEL: One reason is because he is on an official state visit and accordingly enjoys immunity from prosecution.

Grayling: That's indeed very frustrating. Ratzinger should at least be persona non grata -- and not a guest of the queen. We now have the very awkward situation of a person being invited and welcomed by the queen and the prime minister who is the head of an organization that is involved in a serious conspiracy. But actually, the whole thought of a papal state visit is just absurd.

SPIEGEL: Why?

Grayling: The Vatican is no state. It has no permanent population, no native Vaticanians and a territory of just 0.16 square miles (0.41 square kilometers). It is a garden in Rome with buildings on it. The idea that the head of a religion living in this garden should be accorded all the same courtesies as a real president is a kind of travesty.

SPIEGEL: But this garden is recognized by 178 countries as a state.

Grayling: Just because lots of people think it is a state doesn't make it one. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini invented the state of the Vatican in 1929. The pope at the time, Pius XI, praised him as "the man sent by Providence." I'm quite sure that some good lawyers would be able to "unstate" the Vatican again. The pope could then easily be arrested for his crimes. We definitely shouldn't tolerate any attempts of the Catholic Church to escape justice.

SPIEGEL: Aren't you just an angry atheist keen on damaging the papacy at all cost?

Grayling: Not at all. Everybody is entitled to believe. Churches have exactly the same right to exist as a football club, a trade union or a political party. But if you and I set up the Church of the Fairies of the Garden, then I don't think we should automatically be meeting the queen, be entitled to seats in the House of Lords or get public money for our fairy schools. If we shouldn't have these rights, than I don't think that the men in skirts should have them. For historical reasons and all the myths that surround them, churches still have an overinflated footprint in society -- and we should urgently change that.

Interview conducted by Marco Evers

Article...


Comments
Discuss this issue with other readers!
3 total posts
Show all comments
Page 1
mrclayton 09/15/2010
1. Just a question
Only a short question why do you say "Militant atheists " ?. I find it sad that the British police can't do the job and arrest this man for crimes that he knew of but did nothing to stop,as for him being head of state so he is immune. time to change the law, or why were other heads brought to justice for crimes only after they were overthrown. I don't feel militant just aggrieved. Though I will remain a atheist,a rare breed here in small town Germany.
Norberto_Tyr 09/16/2010
2. If Netanyahu et al are not arrested in USA or UK like General Pinochet,
If Netanyahu et al are not arrested in USA or UK like General Pinochet, even Attila or Genseric, the king of the Vandals, would be received by the Queen with a red carpet. There is a litany of crimes committed by the Israeli establishment on a daily basis even dwarfing the expulsion of Roma people from France by Sarcozy (ironically, I believe that he or his family is from South Eastern Europe as well). Showering defenseless civilians with phosphorous, piracy in the Mediterranean (not seen since the times of Emperor Augustus), forgery of foreign official documents, contract killings, manipulation of the media, apartheid, harvesting organs from killed Palestinian youth, blatant breach of international agreements, murdering their own PM (Rabin), razing Arab’s houses to the ground, preventing Palestinians returning home, medieval sieges of cities (Gaza), muzzling free press, et cetera. We need to go back two thousand years to collect a sample of what Israel has done in only fifty with total impunity. Norberto
BTraven 09/17/2010
3.
Zitat von mrclaytonOnly a short question why do you say "Militant atheists " ?. I find it sad that the British police can't do the job and arrest this man for crimes that he knew of but did nothing to stop,as for him being head of state so he is immune. time to change the law, or why were other heads brought to justice for crimes only after they were overthrown. I don't feel militant just aggrieved. Though I will remain a atheist,a rare breed here in small town Germany.
It seems to me that Catholicism can only be appreciated in those parts of Germany where Catholics are in the minority or where the population is so urban that people who can be regarded as strict ones do not have much influence on the fortunes of a community. I think it is quite harsh to imprison the pope for things he did not do. I am not so much involved in his work but since he had known that he will be interviewed it would have been appropriated had he uttered same facts which proves his claim that all wrongdoings were covered up by the hierarchy of the church to which Ratzinger has belonged for 40 years. But what is about his late own prime minister? Should Blair not be brought up to a tribunal to find out whether the means he resorted to in order to convince his countrymen of the necessity of the two wars he started were legal?
Show all comments
Page 1

© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2010
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH


Die Homepage wurde aktualisiert. Jetzt aufrufen.
Hinweis nicht mehr anzeigen.