There was story recently that, mirabile dictu, the Obama administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court backing Holy See’s claim of immunity from a lawsuit brought against an alleged pedophile priest in the United States.
You have to wonder what these lawyers are really after.
There have been various attempts to involve the Vatican/Holy See in criminal or civil litigation on behalf of victims of Catholic clerical sexual abuse of minors. Here I do not intend to deal with the legal/political/diplomatic aspects of these cases, which are being discussed in the media.
Instead, consider the presumptive motive behind lawyers’ attempts to involve the Pope directly in legal cases before US courts.
Opponents of these legal maneuvers charge that the reason lawyers and their clients target the Pope is that the Vatican has "deep pockets" and that the lawyers want access to the Vatican’s money on behalf of their clients.
But is this the only or even the primary reason?
Most people, probably most journalists, don’t know that the Vatican actually has far less money than most major U.S. Catholic archdioceses.
Sure, the Vatican has a lot of art and other treasures. That’s not cash on hand. Furthermore, the Holy See has signed formal agreements with the UN never to alienate ("sell") its art treasures because they are part of the "patrimony of humankind". So if lawyers think they can force the Pope to sell the Pietà in order to pay US court judgments, they are living in Cloud Cookoo Land.
But lawyers know this. If lawyers know anything, they know who has money and who doesn’t. Their firms research the financial holdings of dioceses and religious orders before going after clerical pedophiles.
Conclusion: money isn’t the only reason they are trying to sue the Pope of Rome.
What lawyers probably want (in addition to money) is publicity for their firms and also to score points with liberal, secular society for discrediting the Pope.
They will press the claim that every chain-of-command in the Church leads to him, and that he – the Pope – could personally have stopped the transfer of pedophile priests. But [cue the DA DA DAAAA music] he didn’t.
Targeting a big media figure (the Pope) is about feeding the media frenzy. Lawyers count on the media coverage of this story as a Watergate-like drama where the conspiracy is traced from lower-level bishops up to cardinals and finally to the Pope himself.
Law suits directed at the Pope are only partly about the money