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The pope's lawyers have already asked President Bush to certify Benedict's immunity from liability in the civil lawsuit since he is a head of state - the Vatican city-state.
Attorney Daniel Shea, who is representing one of three boys suing the pope, told a news conference Wednesday that Bush could abstain from confirming Benedict's immunity. In that case, the judge handling the case, Judge Lee Rosenthal of the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston, would decide how to proceed, he said.
Joseph Ratzinger - Benedict's former name - is named as a defendant in the civil lawsuit, accused of conspiring with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to cover up the abuse of three boys during the mid-1990s. The suit is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
The three boys, identified in court documents as John Does I, II and III, allege that a Colombian-born seminarian on assignment at St. Francis de Sales church in Houston, Juan Carlos Patino-Arango, molested them during counseling sessions in the church in the mid-1990s
Shea has argued in civil court documents that a May 18, 2001, letter Ratzinger wrote to bishops around the world was evidence that he was involved in a conspiracy to hide Patino-Arango's crimes and to help him escape prosecution.
While international experts say the pope can certainly claim immunity in the case and that ultimately Shea's suit won't succeed, lawyers for church sex abuse victims say the case is significant because it has gone further than other recent attempts to implicate the Vatican and high-ranking church officials in the sex scandal.
The Vatican spokesman and Ratzinger's lawyers have declined to comment on the case.