Not diplomatic immunity

Not diplomatic immunity

The Dallas Morning News has an editorial today about the Vatican diplomat, Msgr. Daniel Pater, who was found to have sexually abused a girl.

I have a quibble with the editorial. It notes that diplomats, including the Vatican’s, enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution. “How many priests like Monsignor Pater have been shielded like this within the Vatican and its diplomatic outposts worldwide?” However, the immunity only shields them prosecution if they are charged with a crime in the country where they are posted and not for crimes they committed before they were diplomats or in their home countries. In other words, for Pater to have been shielded from prosecution, he would have had to sexually abused the child in, say, India, where was posted for the last several years. But that isn’t the case. The crime was alleged to have occurred before Pater was even a diplomat so the Vatican could not have posted him to diplomatic service for the sake of immunity as the editorial suggests.

I agree that Pater should not have been representing the Pope overseas, especially once Bishop Harvey was made aware of the situation. And perhaps Pater was sent to Rome for the diplomatic service to get him out of town and avoid the public scandal. But I think it’s a stretch to say that he was sent to become a diplomat in order to avoid criminal prosecution.

By the way, since Pater left town in 1992, didn’t that freeze the statute of limitations? He should still be eligible for prosecution.

  • Okay, I’ll accept that point then. The diplomatic immunity provided in new tool for a sex abuser to use in practicing his heinous habit.

    Of course, as Mark Shea mentioned yesterday, the canonical age of consent is 14. Did some Romans not think it not as serious because it was a girl this time and she was 14? And there was only one accusation and no criminal charges? Not a good excuse, mind you, but it could be an explanation.

  • I agree that by 1995 he should have been removed. But he was in the diplomatic service before the truth came out, so we can’t say he was shunted there to prevent scandal, right?

    Re: Harvey, I didn’t mean so much Italian versus American as the Roman, i.e. Vatican curial, way of thinking. As I said, it’s not an excuse, just an attempt at explanation. They live in the midst of a culture of licentiousness that may even put ours to shame. Maybe they didn’t see that is as big a deal as it could have been.