This Week's Cover Story: The Man Who Sued The Pope

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Most times when you ask Houston lawyer/theologian Daniel Shea a question, you get a treatise in response, one that can take in everything from the Edict of Constantine and to the deeds of Admiral Rickover to the sins of many a modern-day bishop in the ongoing sex abuse scandal roiling the Roman Catholic faith he formally practiced for the first five decades of his life.

But for once, Daniel Shea was succinct:

"This revelation should be a wake up call to the Obama Administration. Stop diplomatic recognition of the 'Holy See.'"

The revelation he is speaking of was the latest smoking gun document out of the Vatican. Last week, a 2001 letter from Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos emerged in which the cardinal praised French bishop Pierre Pican for hiding a sexually abusive priest from French authorities.

Castrillon Hoyos was then the Vatican official in charge of priests around the world, and in his letter to the bishop, wrote the following, (translated from the French): "I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration. You have acted well and I am pleased to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all other bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son and priest."

That priest -- Rene Bissey -- was caught and sentenced to 18 years in prison. He was convicted of repeatedly raping one boy and sexually assaulting others.

Nevertheless, Castrillon Hoyos went on to write in his letter to Pican that the bishop's shielding of the priest was a great example to bishops all around the world, and that he would write them all a letter telling them so.

To Daniel Shea, that letter constitutes an international conspiracy to obstruct justice. Shea also believes that a letter written May of 2001 by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) was likewise part of an organized cover-up of priest sex abuse that reached the highest levels of the Vatican. (Castrillon Hoyos claimed last week to have had the approval of Pope John Paul II in the sending of his letter to Pican.)

And it positively boggles Shea's mind that people like Castrillon Hoyos and Ratzinger enjoy diplomatic immunity in these cases. He wants to know why a country that is ostensibly all about the separation of church and state has effectively granted the Roman Catholic faith status as a nation-state.

He had ample reason to ponder that quandary a few years ago when he almost managed to put Joseph Ratzinger on the witness stand in a Federal lawsuit here five years ago. When Ratzinger became Pope, he was dropped from the suit. In fact, Shea thinks that's the whole reason Ratzinger became Pope to begin with...

But you can read all about that in this week's cover story here...

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