Meet Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican's Fauxhemian Lawyer

We mentioned Lena recently, after he threatened the US government over a CIA rendition case if it went after the Pope. The Washington Post profiled him, and it turns out he wears flannels and doesn't clip his fingernails. Williamsburger?

The 51-year-old Berkeley resident comes off as an unlikely candidate for the Holy See's US counsel. He went to the University of California, Santa Cruz — the easiest school in the US to score drugs — and grew up in liberal Northern California. And he bought his first television last Christmas! Okay, this guy is incredibly boring, but he sure does have his hands full. From the Post:

In Kentucky, the 51-year-old attorney is defending Pope Benedict XVI from a deposition motion in a case involving child abuse by clergy. In a suit pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Lena is arguing that the Vatican cannot be tried for transferring a predatory priest from Ireland to Oregon. In Mississippi, he is defending the Vatican against accusations that it participated in a money-laundering scheme. In New York, Lena is defending the Holy See in a commercial-licensing dispute about the use of images belonging to the Vatican Museums.

When he was growing up, the Vatican's current problems were already brewing:

As the Lenas raised their family in Berkeley in the 1960s, John XXIII, affectionately known as the "Good Pope," issued a 1962 policy focused on the high church crime of solicitation of indecent acts during confession and the "foulest crime," concerning clerics who have acted obscenely toward other men, children or "brute animals."

Wait, obscene acts towards brute animals? Kind of like this? Okay, that's gross and it's time to move along. How did Lena become the Vatican's man in the US? He taught law in Italy for a while, but it is unclear how he got the gig.

Somewhere along the line in Italy, Lena established a life-altering relationship with the Holy See. Lena says he became counsel to the Vatican through "academic and professional associations in Italy" and declined repeated requests to explain the connection.

Sounds a little fishy, but whatever. The Post sums up Lena's defense strategy of the Holy See:

a state should have jurisdiction over a foreign sovereign only when harmful conduct is actually attributable to the foreign government. If a state reaches out to take jurisdiction over another country, the delicate balance of international power can be undermined."

In that case, the crimes committed by pedophiles and money launderers, who also moonlight as priests, are attributable to the Vatican, right? No, says Lena. Those guys in robes with wandering eyes and hands are more or less contractors. And the poor, defenseless Vatican needs someone to stand up for it in these trying times.

Just because a sovereign is small," Lena says, "it does not mean that its rights in this regard should be trampled upon."

So maybe Lena isn't the scruffy, fixed-gear riding, Bedford Avenue lurker we had hoped he was. But he does drink pomegranate tea and play tennis, so that should count for something.