Friday, December 23, 2005

Judge dismisses Pope from sexual abuse case

Judge dismisses Pope from sexual abuse case

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Thursday dismissed Pope Benedict from a civil lawsuit lodged against him and other Roman Catholic church officials that accused them of covering up sexual abuse of a minor by a seminary student.

In a written ruling, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal agreed with a motion filed by the Vatican that Pope Benedict enjoyed "head-of-state immunity" in the case.

Three unnamed plaintiffs in the case have said church officials ignored their pleas to investigate Juan Carlos Patino-Arango, who they accused of sexual abuse, and that the clergy helped him leave the country.

The church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly called the Holy Office of the Vatican, headed by Pope Benedict when he was a cardinal, played a central role in the conspiracy to conceal the abuse that occurred in 1995 and 1996, the plaintiffs said.

The Church has been hit by numerous lawsuits since the 2002 scandal in the United States when it was discovered that priests accused of molesting children were moved from parish to parish to hide the abuse.