I met up with Geoffrey Robertson QC, a human rights lawyer, author of numerous books, and one in particular that caught my attention a few years back - The Case of The Pope.
I was curious as to what had inspired him to write it - perhaps a particular story that touched him deeply amongst the myriad of cases of child sexual abuse within Catholic Church?
In fact, the spark came from his friend, Christopher Hitchens, who enquired during the time all the abuse cases were going ballistic, particularly in the US, if Robertson thought there was enough material to amount to a crime against humanity.
Robertson promised to have a look and started to read everything that was happening around the world. He observed how nobody had brought the whole thing together and judged it by legal standards - no one had gotten to the bottom of it. And so one Saturday night spark turned into a roaring fire resulting in the most enlightening book on the modern Catholic Church ever written - EVER.
Robertson's publisher wanted to call it: 'The Case Against The Pope', but he felt that was loaded. This simple statement confirmed an inspiring quality he holds - a total absence of any vendetta or any pre existing animus towards the Catholic Church or any religion indeed. He was matter of fact, simply looking at the evidence about Ratzinger, and the fact that he had not taken ANY action against paedophile priests who have been a public profile nightmare for the Catholic Church.
He points out how time and time again it is enormously difficult to get any evidence out of the Vatican. A handful of the American cases had letters signed by Ratzinger saying that the priests who had buggered many boys including the deaf kids in Wisconsin, should not be defrocked even when found guilty because of the damage that would do to the reputation of the Church and of course to their funds adds Robertson.
He continues to say that there can be no excuse for Ratzinger and if the Catholic Church has any shame at all it will never make him a saint because a saint he certainly was not except to child molesters, because he turned a blind eye.
What hit Robertson during his study was the sheer scale of the problem and although Catholic Church likes to claim that all churches have suffered the same paedophilia problem Robertson's assertion is a resounding: "They don't. Up to 10% of catholic priests are molesters".
He asked himself how come and the answer eventually was that the Catholic Church unlike other churches inculcate their children at the very young age of 7; with confession (7 year olds confessing sins - really?!) and with communion in which they are taught to believe that the priest is the agent of God, that he is this super natural intermediary. That, for Robertson, seemed to unlock the key to why these children are such easy prey and why they unflinchingly obey the priest. If the priest is a pedophile this is, so to speak, 'manna from Heaven' and these children are his for the taking. How twisted is that?
To destroy a child's faith not only in religion but in friendship, in humanity and in human decency is huge. There lies the real evil.
There is something peculiar to Catholicism that allows priests to purport to believe in Heaven and purport to believe that Christ said 'the worst of all the sins was to destroy a child' who then go on to destroy hundreds of thousands of children!
Crimes against humanity are a peculiarly horrendous crimes that are systematic and widespread and in the case of the Catholic Church the scale of offending convinced Robertson that it was indeed such a crime - a 'crime against humanity'.
For Robertson, a kind of satisfactory, Shakespeare's "whirligig of time" moment came recently when the United Nations' experts, the 18 members of the committee on the Rights of the Child, made their finding. To him the UN Convention on the Child is the most important because it has the most signatories, ironically including the Holly See! This is what he wrote a chapter about, and sort of begged them to investigate. He said the UN were simply not up to it unless they DO say something and finally they did! He felt it was wonderful to see the Vatican squirming in Geneva.
"The United Nations, by indulging the Vatican and pretending it was the state, had really betrayed the children."
I wanted to know how Robertson copes with writing content that deeply challenges people and their ideals and beliefs and his response is beyond gold.
Yes he gets nasty emails, phone calls, serious threats but none of those seem to deter him from his commitment to humanity "I think If you allow yourself to be inhibited, well you know, the baddies have won, you believe in human rights, you believe in their universality so you should be prepared for challenges."
So why aren't there more Robertsons and how come the international community has been allowing this constant preservation of the reputation of the Catholic Church and the protection of the paedophile priests, placing their concern for the priests above the children's best interests? Has there been a genuine ignorance?
He looks at me when he answers and in his eyes I saw the absolute power of authority, but not from the wig he wears in courts instead from the unequivocal knowing of truth that this is not right and that this crime should not be allowed: "No, I think there was a willing ignorance."
I could listen to this gentleman's wisdom for much longer but time to leave the Chambers.
I shake hands with a man who, for the love and service of humanity went out of his way to do the detective work on the Catholic Church no one else was willing to do. A man who has not been afraid to speak truth when the need called for it. A man sitting in the judge's seat (quite rightly so) condemning the crime every human being should. I take my hat (dare I say my wig) off to Geoffrey Robertson and his dedication to speak when so many are choosing to remain silent.
The Case of The Pope would serve humanity well to be read in every household - a bible of fact.