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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. gesposito

    Demuth – you must be insecure about your beliefs since you go around bashing others belief

    September 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Not at all.

      I am here to hold the evil accountable.

      Frankly, believe what you want, and I shall ignore you.

      But defend the rapists, and you become my enemy, and the enemy of all rational men.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  2. hippypoet

    right, people ... i was stating a fact, hitler was an austrian jew... he was a catholic yes, but a jew... being a jew and believing in jewdism is totally different. Being a jew is a culture, not a religion.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  3. gesposito

    if priests are guilty then hang them. But I have not seen or read about many confessions or admissions of guilt. Just supposed victims stories. And please do not tell me to look on wike, that is not a reliable source

    September 13, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Google John Geoghan.

      He ia a classic example, protected by the Church (Ratzi himself I suspect, as well as Cardinal Law)

      He was beaten to death in prison after being tried and convicted on multiple counts.

      I can offer you the video of his murder if you like, I enjoyed it thouroghly. I was taken in his cell!

      September 13, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  4. Sandapple

    I'm not bashing anyone's religion, I'm just curious.
    Why is the pope considered such a great man? What makes him the be-all-end-all? Isn't he just a false idol? I have never understood this and never been able to get a straight answer from a catholic.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Because he was Christ's gay lover back in the Bronze Age.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Didn't you know that the Pope is infallible?
      We know this because he says so!
      Kind of like how the Bible is The Truth because the Bible says that it is.

      I am the Emperor of North America, by the way.
      You can bow down before me at your convenience.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • J.W

      I have wondered this as well.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • William Demuth

      All Hail Doc Vestibule

      September 13, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      @Sandapple: He's the 'Vicar of Christ' on earth. Sort of like god's PR representative. No joke.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Sandapple

      What I usually get told is "don't ever say anything bad about the pope to a catholic!" I don't understand this and have never met a catholic willing to explain what makes the pope better than everyone else. He's just a man.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      @Sandapple: They don't think of him as just a man. They think of him as the representative for god on earth carrying on from the doctrines of Saint Peter.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Sandapple

      @Awkward Situations
      Thank you! That is the best explanation I've ever gotten.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      😀

      September 13, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • A Theist

      An old, wrinkly, senile European man dressed up like our favorite chihuahua...what's not to love?

      September 13, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  5. gesposito

    Hey Skep – those allegations are just that. They are the word of someone claiming abuse but have no facts to back it up. The orginaztion that brought them to the court is just looking for money. If on the other hand though, there is DNA evidence or solid proof then prosecute them. You bashers need to take a step back and look at the whole picture, not just the part that interests you

    September 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • William Demuth

      20,000 pages of evidence

      Dozens of confessions

      Thousands of complaints

      All fabrications? I doubt even you might believe that.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  6. Your take

    After having read all the comments, we were not at all surprised by your commentary.

    The theists were sorry for the children and pray to God so that justice will be served

    The conspiracy theorists are still not too sure what to make of all this, how much truth is there and how much deciet is being covered up in these kind of articles??? We left them pondering!

    The atheists said blah blah blah blah all day long!

    September 13, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • MyTake

      "The atheists said blah blah blah blah all day long!"

      Well, at least you proved you're a typical christian who can't comprehend what is written.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Winner

      And the winner of Miss Universe 2011 is .....

      September 13, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Your Take
      This atheist provided verifiable facts, back on page 11 of these comments.
      But I understand that to most believers, facts sound like Charlie Brown's parents.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  7. ameadus

    another fact. the people who are out for blood like the witch hunters usually are the closet pedo. and btw i dont care what anyone says kids dont look like they did 25 years ago and its a proven fact they are reaching maturity earlier both physically and mentally. 1 the internet 2 the food.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Normon

      "another fact. the people who are out for blood like the witch hunters usually are the closet pedo."

      Blog postings do not consti.tute fact.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • William Demuth

      So I guess you think eight year olds are fair game?

      Scary beyond words.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Fred1

      Typical Catholic... blame the victoms

      September 13, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  8. gesposito

    Me – how hard would it be for you to work at your current job if some person claims you abused them years ago and wanted you to pay?

    September 13, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Normon

      Don't know about you or "me", but I probably wouldn't have a job in that situation.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Just Sayin

      If they didn't do it, they wouldn't be accused of it over and over again. These were not one time allegations at one church. They were multiple allegations from multiple churches about the same priest. Still confused how you can defend these actions.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Normon

      @just sayin,
      Not that I think all the priests are innocent, but by your logic at least some of those burned at the stake were actually witches.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  9. Just Sayin

    If your child was molested at school and the principal knew about it and did nothing and just moved that teacher to another school, i'm wondering how many of you Catholics would be defending that school and teacher. It's no different. It's disgusting that anyone can excuse any type of crime against children! Direct criminal or not...they knew about it and did nothing.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  10. Ladervijd

    i somehow figure i was Catholic Pope in past life, and so i obviously missed (regardless of powers) to make sure that any child is never alone with any priest. i guess i was relying on how children were taken of traditionally, as in being in sight distance and/or with peers all the time, respectivly children in the country-side having natural survival instincts. Anyways, blame me for the organizational side of things, and shoot me or whatever.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Ladervijd

      *eye-sight and/or hear-sight, and girls/women (when possible) looking after small children regarding feeding and such

      September 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Ladervijd

      *though technically, hear-sight isn't always reliable for various reasons

      September 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  11. gesposito

    Why is it taken as fact the word of the accuser? Most of the allegations have not and can not be proven to be true or false. I am not a catholic but I think all this stems from people wanting money. They know that the Catholics will probably pay to keep out of a drawn out court battle. The other funny things is that you people attack a group of people for their beliefs. Get over it, most of the world is religious in one way or another. You morons are in the minority as I see it

    September 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Observer

      "They know that the Catholics will probably pay to keep out of a drawn out court battle."

      So paying out millions of dollars for "false" claims is better than going to court to prove your innocence especially when the moral integrity of the church is at stake? Sure.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Me

      If these men were innocent, why were they being shuffled around when they were accused? It's like trying to explain to a police officer that you were running from him or her because you are innocent. Why was O.J. Simpson running if he had not murdered his wife?

      September 13, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Actually thanks to the Chineese, most of the worls is NOT religious, at least openly!

      Regards to Chairman Mao's clan! He wants to be your new Jesus!

      September 13, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  12. ameadus

    its both. and a person can have relationships and perform normally. the stereotypical image is a fat balding ugly middle aged person when in fact it strikes people of all ages and races. ugly or attractive. you dont just become one, you are born with it. most can curtail the urges with images alone. most know the consequences and wont risk trying anything. its a horrible burden i imagine. more like torture of the mind.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  13. XW

    R, you r disgusting, probably a child molestor yourself to comment something so horrible! you have no idea the damage that those priests have caused on those children. The pope is as guilty as the priests who abused the children, he was just moving them from one place to another instead of putting them in jail etc....u r an azz/h and a disgusting PIG!

    September 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • gesposito

      where is the proof – not the stories the alleged victims state. Not a catholic but you religion bashers will jump on any accusation

      September 13, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Skep

      The proof is in those 20,000+ docu.ments sitting in the offices of the International Criminal Court.
      We don't have to provide you with the proof. We've seen enough of it already. You are just pretending that there is none.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • NOo..oON

      @gesposito,
      "...you religion bashers will jump on any accusation"
      You lie... we don't jump on just any accusation. Where's your evidence?

      September 13, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  14. hippypoet

    jerryherb
    check some of my earlier posts, i stated hitler was an austrian jew, i think it was page 9 or 10..

    and yes its true.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Skep

      That's been debunked. Hitler was born a Catholic. Maybe he is descended from Jews, but he was born a Catholic and his regime murdered Jews. German Catholics made up a large part of the Nazi military machine. Hitler died a Catholic and had correspondences with the Vatican. No Jew is going to do that, are they?

      September 13, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • William Demuth

      hippypoet

      In some way you are correct, in that he was NOT Aryan and may have had some Jewish blood, but if you read his book he CLEARLY states he believed in Christianity and used it in forming his party

      "My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.

      -Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922 (Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, pp. 19-20, Oxford University Press, 1942)

      September 13, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  15. Johnson

    Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston should be added to the list given his escape from Boston into exile in a palatial home in Rome. This claim definitley deserves consideration and if found guilty it would send a final message to Rome that playing with little children is illegal as is covering up for perpetrators.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • William Demuth

      So true.

      He was so dirty they had to hustle him out of the US.

      The Irish in Boston were played for fools, having thousands of their children hurt.

      I hope a victim finds him and extracts a bit of justice from him, preferably from his carrotid artery.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  16. jrc

    I just think that the people who want to prosecute the Pope is just as low as the pedophile. You have hateful thoughts and filled with anger. These Priest are adults and know the law and the rules. They also have choice. They choose to cross the line. Authorities should send these people straight to jail if caught. There should be no protection from these individuals, but you are going to stand here and tell me that its the Pope's fault that these guys molested people... go get a life.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • William Demuth

      He hid them.

      He hangs

      September 13, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Edwin

      There are plenty of famous, well-known people throughout history who have publicly denounced the Catholic church and were considered above reproach by their peers. It's not just a bunch of people on the internet looking for a cheap intellectual high by going after a major moral authority.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • July

      They aren't saying the molestation is the pope's fault, as you said the individuals who committed those crimes should be held responsible. This case is about the lengths the pope and the Vatican went to cover up those crimes and the actions take to hinder the prosecution of the individuals who actually committed the crimes and that is indeed the fault of the man at the head of the organization, which in this case is the pope.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Observer

      "the people who want to prosecute the Pope is just as low as the pedophile"

      You have a fascinating set of moral values.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  17. claybigsby

    "@ William Demuth. Watch yourself, you will be burn in hell without having time to say sorry."

    More fear mongering.....Christians, do you use any other tactics? You know, like actual intellectual conversation?

    September 13, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • William Demuth

      They have been burning me in effigy since the 70's!

      So far, I am winning, and they are going down for the count!

      September 13, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Martin T

      Intellectual Conversation and Christian in the same sentence? Are you MAD man?

      September 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • claybigsby

      believe it or not...there are christians that respect others beliefs and indulge in intelligent debate on the topic. Though I dont agree with them, at least few have the decency to listen to the argument and rebuke my views.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  18. Rae Ann Pointer

    Curious if anyone knows whether Webster's entry for bigotry has qualifiers for Catholics, Whites etc.? Seems some people just don't understand bigotry isn't one sided. One hundred years ago, simple minds such as yourselves would be hating Jews, blacks and gays, the very groups you think you are defending. You people really are no different – hate on a whim and enjoy it. Welcome to the Klan.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Skep

      So you admit to being a member of the Klan? Pathetic.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Normon

      @Rae Ann Pointer,
      Are you comparing the condemnation of systemic abuse within an organization to the degradation and dehumanization of entire races and peoples?

      September 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Catholics

      You act is if that is not an aquired trait.

      If I dislike someone for a quality they can not change, I might be a bigot.

      But rest assured, Christians like other indoctrinated poeple can change.

      Thus like any other racist or egocentric philosophy, they can be held accountable.

      It is called Justice.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  19. Observer

    Skep,

    I guess you missed the questions asking you to support your mindless charges.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Skep

      What mindless charges? That your very active attempts to hide and protect known criminals makes you an accessory to these crimes. That's not a mindless charge. That's very real and obvious as hell. You're a criminal who is probably a molester yourself. Only another molester would work as hard as you do to cover up the molestations of others.
      You are disgusting.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  20. Edwin

    "The criminal aberrations of the Catholic clergy threaten the physical and moral health of our young people." – Joseph G.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:02 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.