Sam Harris joins plot to have Pope arrested.
Sam Harris, the atheist writer, has launched an appeal to fund a legal bid to have the Pope arrested when he visits Britain.
The American neuroscientist is seeking financial backing for the campaign that is being led by British writers Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. The pair have asked human-rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic church.
Harris, the author of The End of Faith, launched his appeal online, stating: “I would like to announce that Project Reason, the foundation that my wife and I started to spread scientific thinking and secular values, has joined Hitchens and Dawkins in an effort to end the ‘diplomatic immunity’ which the Vatican claims protects the Pope from any responsibility.”
“We would greatly appreciate your support in this cause. All donations are tax-deductible in the United States.”
The 42-year-old told The Sunday Times he had been moved to get involved after reading the findings of the Irish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.
“The evidence suggests the misery of these children was facilitated and concealed by the hierarchy of the Catholic church at every level, up to and including the current Pope.
“In his former capacity as Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict personally oversaw the Vatican’s response to reports of sexual abuse in the church. Did he immediately alert the police and ensure that the victims would be protected from further torments?
“On the contrary, repeated and increasingly desperate complaints of abuse were set aside, witnesses were pressured into silence and offending priests were relocated only to destroy fresh lives in unsuspecting parishes.”
Benedict is due to be in Britain between September 16 and 19, visiting Glasgow, Edinburgh, London and Coventry, where he will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th-century theologian.
Geoffrey Robertson, a UK barrister, and solicitor Mark Stephens believe the Pope would be unable to claim diplomatic immunity from arrest because although his tour is a state visit, he is not the head of a state recognised by the United Nations.
A spokesman for the Vatican insisted the Pope would enjoy diplomatic immunity and dismissed the campaign to arrest Benedict as a publicity stunt.