A Not-So-Hypothetical Legal Exercise: What if Jorge Mario Bergoglio Were to be Sued in his Individual Capacity?

One can just imagine the panicked phone calls going out on Sunday morning, summoning annoyed associates and partners back to their cushy downtown law offices in New York, Boston, Chicago, and Washington. So many questions, such huge stakes, and now it’s not just money….. there are now criminal law issues hanging over what used to be strictly civil law files.

The partners and associates duly assembled in the big conference room at each of the firms, one can almost hear the urgent meeting starting something like this:

  1. “Sorry to drag you down to the office on Sunday, but it’s an emergency. The Archbishop’s office called. We need complete research memos on state and Federal law on the following questions, and we need to have the on the desk of the Archbishop no later than 8 a.m. on Monday. Here are the questions:
  2. Assuming the Vigano memo is largely correct, and that the Archbishop knew or should have known that McCarrick was an incorrigible sexual predator, does the Archdiocese have any defense against any seminarian who claims to have been propositioned or molested by McCarrick between June 23, 2013 and today?
  3. Assuming, again, the Vigano memo is accurate, does Jorge Mario Bergoglio, in his individual capacity, have any defense against a civil action for conspiracy in commission of sexual harassment by any seminarian who claims to have been propositioned or molested by McCarrick between June 23, 2013, and today?
  4. Assuming the veracity of the Vigano memo, did the Vatican expose itself to civil liability in the United States when Jorge Mario Bergoglio, either in his capacity as an administrator of the charitable institution known as the Roman Catholic Church, or in his capacity as head of state of Vatican City, chose to ignore credible warnings concerning a sexual predator and to, instead, place the predator in offices of responsibility where further predation was a virtual certainty?
  5. Can a United States plaintiff in a civil case obtain jurisdiction over Jorge Mario Bergoglio through personal service upon him outside of the United States?
  6. Can Jorge Mario Bergoglio be served in a United States civil matter if he enters air space controlled by the United States, if he is personally present on a United States-flagged vessel or air craft, or if he is physically present in an embassy of the United States?
  7. If, in the course of a sexual predation, McCarrick has committed a crime between June 23, 2013, and today, what, if any, is the level of criminal exposure of the Archbishop, the Pope, or Jorge Mario Bergoglio individually? Would the Archbishop have had to know for a certainty that McCarrick was going to commit a crime to be criminally liable, or would general knowledge that McCarrick was highly likely to commit a crime suffice? How does the criminal standard vary from state to state?
  8. If McCarrick, for purposes of sexual predation, induced a minor or an adult to cross state lines after June 23, 2013, could the Archbishop, the Pope or Jorge Mario Bergoglio have criminal exposure under the Mann Act?
  9. To what jurisdictions did McCarrick travel after June 23, 2013? In which of these jurisdictions are local and state prosecutors more or less likely to attempt to file criminal actions against the Archbishop, the Pope, or Jorge Mario Bergoglio?
  10. What settlements with sexual abuse victims has the Archdiocese executed since June 23, 2013? Do any of these settlements contain undertakings by the Archdiocese that it will cease and desist from permitting sexual predators to operate with impunity in the Archdiocese? What are the damages if the Archdiocese is found to have breached these undertakings?

Now we all know that we cannot permit our clients to say anything about the Vigano memo at this time because of criminal exposure, possible impeachment, and the chance of waiving our client’s rights against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment. But, surely they can say something, right, as long as its non-substantive, does not address any facts, and is vague?

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