Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Pope's Envoy To France

Archbishop Luigi Ventura, papal nuncio to France
Credit: Rémy Gabalda/AFP/Getty Images
Vatican lifts diplomatic immunity for envoy facing assault claims | World news | The Guardian

On January 17 this year, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, gave a new year’s address to diplomats, religious leaders and civil society figures in the city hall. Also invited was 74-year-old Archbishop Luigi Ventura, papal nuncio to France, the equivalent of an ambassador for the Vatican City state and the personal representative of Pope Francis. He has held the post since 2009.

While there he allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulted a member of the city staff, by groping his bottom, once in full view of witnesses. The attention was unwanted, uninvited and unwelcome.

The employee reported the matter to his employers who, on 24 January, reported the matter to the police as a sexual assault, and an investigation was launched. After these allegations emerged, a second man alleged that Ventura had molested him in Canada. Christian Vachon alleged Ventura touched his buttocks at least twice during a banquet held at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, near Quebec.

However, as an accredited diplomat, Ventura was immune from prosecution, as is every other diplomat under the 1961 Vienna Convention, unless diplomatic immunity is withdrawn by the diplomat's own country - in this case, the Vatican City.

Ventura is a career diplomat who, according to the Guardian, has "previously served in Brazil, Bolivia, and Britain, before being appointed papal nuncio to the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger, Chile and then Canada, according to his website". He will be well versed in the application of the Vienna Convention.

So that appeared to be that. All the investigations would be pointless if no prosecution could be brought. In previous similar cases, rather than have miscreants prosecuted in criminal courts in the countries where they had committed their crimes, the Vatican simply recalled them to Rome and dealt with them in secret with their own 'trial' procedures.

As I reported in November 2017, the Vatican rescued a diplomat, Monsignor Carlo Capella, from Canada after he had been reported for child pornography offences in the USA and Canada. He was later put on trial in the Vatican and sentenced to be given free board and lodging and his own apartment in the Vatican City for five years.

Similarly, in August 2013, Polish Archbishop Josef Wesolowski was recalled as papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic where he sexually abused boys. He was laicised after a canonical trial but died before he could be put on trial in the Vatican for possession of child pornography.

Nathalie Loiseau
Credit: Generalitat de Catalunya,
Attribution, Link
However, the French authorities did not leave the Archbishop Ventura case at that. In March, Nathalie Loiseau, then France’s minister of European affairs and herself a former diplomat, urged the Vatican to waive immunity, saying "... the Holy See is clearly aware of the serious accusations that have been brought against the apostolic nuncio...".

Then last Monday came the surprise announcement by Alessandro Gisotti, the interim head of Vatican communications, saying, “I can confirm that the Holy See renounces jurisdictional immunity enjoyed by the apostolic nuncio in France, Msgr Luigi Ventura, by virtue of the Vienna convention of 18 April 1961 on diplomatic relations, for the purposes of criminal proceedings concerning him", although he described this as "an extraordinary gesture".

It remains to be seen whether this is a one off move as implied by the phrase "an extraordinary gesture", or whether this marks a change in general policy. It certainly sets a precedent.

Following the escalating crisis within the Catholic Church over its handling of historical child sexual abuse by priests and nuns, Pope Francis summoned an emergency meeting of of bishops from around the world to discuss a code of conduct for safeguarding vulnerable children in future. This meeting was noteworthy for the attempts to blame others - homosexuals, the gay lobby, liberals, Satan, etc. Conspicuous by its absence however was an agreed code of conduct for safeguarding vulnerable children.

Then in May, the Pope issued a decree making it mandatory for all Catholic priests and nuns to report all instances of sexual abuse and its cover-up to church authorities. Significantly, this did not include an obligation to inform the law enforcement and child protection agencies, just the church authorities. The Pope appears to believe the best organization for policing the activities of predatory clerics is the same church that put its own interest and reputation above that of its victims, and which operated much like an organized paedophile ring for most of the 20th Century and probably earlier.

If the Ventura case is a one off and each case is to be decided on a case by case basis, the same diplomatic protection could still be afforded to predatory Catholic paedophiles and sex pests as it afforded to diplomats of other states accused of speeding and parking offences. And still there is no obligation on any Catholic priest or official to inform the authorities in the state where the offences occurred.

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