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September 13th, 2011
07:22 AM ET

Sex abuse victims ask International Criminal Court to prosecute pope

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN) - Victims of abuse by Catholic priests asked the International Criminal Court to charge Pope Benedict XVI and other top Vatican officials with crimes against humanity, a victims' group announced Tuesday.

The pope and other church leaders "tolerate and enable the systematic and widespread concealing of rape and child sex crimes throughout the world," the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a joint statement.

They filed more than 20,000 pages of documents with the international court in the Netherlands to support their charges, they said.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told CNN he was aware of the filing but had no comment.

The International Criminal Court did not immediately respond to a CNN question about whether it believed it had jurisdiction to prosecute the pope.

But Barbara Dorris, the president of SNAP, said it was the natural venue for the case.

"We are convinced this is the proper jurisdiction," she told CNN. "Who else can investigate violent crimes of a global magnitude? The ICC was created to deal with widespread systematic violent crimes against humanity."

The executive director of the International Bar Association, on the other hand, said it was unlikely the international court would find there was evidence of crimes against humanity.

"This requires a government policy, a plan, a widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population," Mark Ellis said.

"Not to suggest that victims were not harmed, but to meet the level of crimes against humanity you really have to show that there is a policy or a plan to initiate this," he said.

People can be held responsible for crimes if they knew - or should have known - they were occurring, Ellis said.

But the blind eye victims accuse the Catholic Church of turning to abuse of children by priests does not rise to the level of crimes against humanity, he suggested.

"They are crimes and they are serious, but within the jurisdiction of the ICC you have to be very specific. I don't see that you would be able to tick the boxes necessary" to bring a prosecution, he predicted.

That the defendant is the pope - along with three senior cardinals - also raises "jurisdictional hurdles," he said.

But simply filing the request will force the prosecutor to look at the case, Ellis said.

It "might be beneficial to the plaintiffs to force the court to respond," he said, saying the filing was more than just a publicity stunt.

"It raises the profile of these issues," he said.

In addition to the pope, SNAP and the CCF want prosecutions of Cardinal William Levada, the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State; and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Dean of the College of Cardinals.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI • Sex abuse • Vatican

soundoff (1,157 Responses)
  1. Big Boy

    The Pope should be prosecuted for child abuse crimes committed because he was well aware of these acts committed by priests and kept silent not having the guts to inform the authorities. His silence made him culprit in these crimes and should be prosecuted

    September 22, 2011 at 3:36 am |
    • The Obama Christian Church Worldwide Campaign

      This is the reason why we worship and praise our good christian president Obama and that Obama will be Lord of the world on October 21st of this year. We need to use Obama to restore the traditional dictates of our good Word Of God or the Bible. The Obama Administration will help us christians restore the good morals of christianity which is good. We need to learn the gospels of Obama and Christ to restore the good morals of the world.

      April 18, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  2. Fred1

    I think that as a good will gesture all of the catholic clergy should castrate themselves. It would be a nice demonstration that they are really sorry and it would eliminate any possibility of the problem reoccurring. Besides they’re not suppose to be using their thingies anyway so getting rid of them shouldn’t cause too much inconvenience. And it’s even biblical. Jesus recommended it.

    "For there are eunuchs, that were so born from their mother's womb: and there are eunuchs, that were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs, that made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." Mat: 19:12

    September 16, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  3. Amistavia

    The sooner this planet is free of the plague known as the Roman Catholic Church, the better off we'll be.

    September 15, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      There is no "we" in your personal opinion.In fact your opinion and a buck should get you something from the dollar menu at McDonalds.

      September 17, 2011 at 5:54 am |
    • a victim

      In clude me in the 'we'. The RCC is a filthy organization, beginning with the pope..

      September 17, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • isis

      Pardon the pun, but AMEN, Amistavia!!! So right you are!!! I was raised Catholic, and am appalled at the hypocrisy of the Christian religion, so I consider myself spiritual (I believe in God), not religious. The group (aka the Catholic Church) that's supposed to uphold Christian values is out abusing kids. The pope was well aware of what was happening – he was Pope John Paul's right hand guy and investigated over 4000 abuse accusations (one of which was against his great friend the Irish Cardinal). Popes and priests should not be exempt from prosecution. We should protect our children against all pedophiles – priests included.

      September 20, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.