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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. Mathius

    It will be a great day when someone investigates SNAP. None of their members are Catholics, they support anti-Semitism, they received funding from Westboro Baptist Church. Three members are convicted child molestors, and they do nothing when it comes to outside groups who are accused with creditable proof of abuse. As the AP, CNN, and others have reported, the highest rate of abuse are among public school teachers but nothing is done.

    September 13, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Suzy

      Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. There are SNAP members who are Catholic. Where are you getting your "information"? Anti-Semitism? You have got to be kidding. SNAP has embraced people from any religious group-including Jews-who have suffered abuse. Westboro Baptist Church? That's just crazy talk. No way would they accept funding from those hate-mongers. SNAP saves lives and protects children. Their leaders are among the most compassionate, intelligent people I know.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  2. MrM

    @OkyDoky
    I agree with you 100%

    September 13, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  3. MrM

    @PRISM 1234

    why in the wo-rld are you typ-ing – in betw-een eve-ry wor-d -?

    September 13, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Are you one of the few whose post never got rejected because "offencive " words that trigger what used to be a dreaded "Your comment is awaiting moderation" sign above your post, and no one sees it but the one who has posted it... but now they just "eat" your post, an you don't find it anywhere....
      That's why I'm doing it, in case that some of the words, or parts of the words trigger their their automated "filter" .
      Hope that clears it for ya!

      September 13, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  4. MrM

    Whomever abuses children should hang upside down until death, simply put, but the pope was didn't do it although they cover it up there are strict punishments for any priest that does such thing (although not a harsh enough punishment).
    The Catholic church is more powerful now than it ever was, and i tell you they will never fall, whole nations are behind them.
    Christianity has grown so much that there start to creep in bad people from bad countries and taint the goodness of the church.
    One last thing, the catholic church educated and civilized all of your forefathers, they brought education to all the old nations past, it wasn't islam or judism, They have always been above you and will always be, whether by love, peace or by war and the sword.

    CHEERS from Heaven.
    Dante Alighieri says hello.

    September 13, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • OkyDoky

      "Whomever abuses children should hang upside down until death"

      Have you even looked into DHS (Department of Human Services) there are thousands and thousands of cases of adults abusing children in the US. It's funny how a few priests get people all upset but their oblivious to the abuse in their own neighborhoods. Time to wake up now, take off the rose-colored glasses and educated yourself.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  5. PRISM 1234

    @gesposito
    You say that if those priests are guilty, to punish them....But then you say "But I have not seen or read about many confessions or admissions of guilt. Just supposed victims stories"

    Are you really that naive?!

    Do you really believe that those conscience-less perverted men, who have their posit-ion of authority over the people, being seared to the point of allowing themselves to abuse and degrade God's little ones who come to them in trust, using them like pieces of tra-sh to satisfy their le-wd urges... do you actually, really think that they will co-nfess and admit commit-ing them, unless their deeds are exposed, being themselves caught red handed?! Do you think that they will have repentance and come out and admit what they did?
    If they are so sea-red to keep commi-ting those shameful deeds against another human beings which God ahs created, do you REALLY think they have consciences to confess them and admit them, of them?! No, tehy will not do it, unless they repent wholeheartedly befor GO, but then, they will come out and confess on their own, hiding nothing, because they KNOW, that without open guilt acknowledgement, their sin will remain....

    Know your history friend. Read abut it. They Are NOT ALL lies against the "holy mother church" to ruin her "good name" . They are facts, and do-cu-mented ones.

    So, in this case it is the cry of the victims and their long, silent sufferings and destroyed lives that are the tes-tim-ony against those per-verted, heartless rep-robates.
    Do you think that those victims, they are all liars, set out to gain money from innocent "mother church" ?
    Many of them already com-mit-ted suicide, not being able to bear the shame and burden they have carried, knowing if they went to ex-pose those thugs' deeds, they would have been branded as crazy, and would have been ex-co-m-municated from the church. If you are Catholic, then you must know WHAT IT MEANS for a Catholic to be ex-co-m-municated. So, they live with their shame, silent in their torment and agony.

    You see, friend, I KNOW about those things. I was in this RC church, untill God took me out of it, showing me it's corr-uption. What I'm saying here is no hear-say. I've seen it with my own eyes, understood it with my intelect, dis-cerned it by the Spirit of God who showed me all this.

    But this is something you, and all those who will defend the "holy mother church" need to understand : God knows the de-pths of darkness that dwells in the midst of it.... He will ex-pose it, He will pu-rge it, and show what they are made out of... He also sees the suffering and the tears of those who have been wounded by the evil that dwells in it, he hears those tears falling in the secret of their crushed lives, and those who have caused those tears will NOT ESCAPE. Their jud-gment will be much worse then what the human courts would give them.
    And I, if I were you, would not be so bold to say what you said, lest I find myself guilty before Almighty God of siding, justifying and pro-tecting the workers of in-iq-uity which satan planted in God's vineyard to steal, kill and destroy God's little lambs for which Christ has died !
    This is my advice to you and all others who think it's nobble to stand with the "holy mother Roman Catholic church to the end, hoping for extra graces and some "ind-ulgences " for it. Those things are no stranger to me either....
    Good day to you

    September 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  6. A Theist

    Hitler didn't kill any Jews by his own either! Maybe we shouldn't have gone after him!

    Permission or enabling to commit a crime is the same as passively committing it yourself.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • A Theist

      *own hand

      September 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  7. hlopez

    I don't agree with this because instead of healing the wounds and going on with their lives, now they want to go back and live their pain again. CNN should publish the names of the persons and the attorneys that are pushing for this, maybe its only for cash that they are interested in. Why go after The Holy Father? Let me ask you this. If your son or daughter that are adults commit a grave mistake or crime, do you think it's just for the victims to go after you even though they know you are innocent? I think the world is going in the wrong direction. Now the guilty are innocent and the innocent are guilty.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • J.W

      If someone who commits a crime and you know about it and you withhold information that is a crime as well. And if he is so holy why would he allow for it to happen?

      September 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • A Theist

      If I knew what my child was doing and I didn't stop them or turn them over to the law, I would expect to be punished for crimes as well. Standing by to let a crime occur is the same as passively committing it yourself.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • J.W

      So if the pope allows pedophilia does that mean that it is holy?

      September 13, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • A Theist

      It's certainly "set apart!" (what Holy literally means). But it sure isn't godly!

      September 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • So

      "I would expect to be punished for crimes as well. Standing by to let a crime occur is the same as passively committing it yourself."

      So you turn people in when you see them talking on their cell phones while driving, speeding down the highway, running a red light, etc.... It's part of our culture not to intervene in many instances. I have even come across men beating their wives while people stood and watched, parents beating their children in grocery stores, etc... People are not as courageous as you think in their daily lives. I bet you're one of them all talk and no action.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • A Theist

      @So Are the drivers on the cell phone put under my responsibility? Do I claim to be affiliated with drivers who talk on cell phones? If I had a kid and they were talking on the phone while driving, I'd be certain that proper consequences be put in place, and if they were caught red-handed, I'd allow the justice system to carry out their method.

      I definitely don't let things go by when I feel it is necessary to act. But it's cute that you attempted to make an assumption about me from the little you can derive over the internet.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • A Theist

      Plus, you aren't seriously equating child molestation to a driving infraction, are you?

      September 13, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • So

      "If I had a kid"

      Do you know how many parents allow their kids to do illegal things? Smoke pot, drink, have sex, drive without a license, skip school, etc.... Only when people feel it's necessary by their limited viewpoints do they intervene or try to make the effort, but most simply keep going on with their lives, choosing to ignore what they feel they cannot change, without even making an effort. It's the greatest excuse in society, it's not my problem, I don't feel it's necessary, it doesn't matter one person can't make a difference.....excuses, excuses, excuses....

      September 13, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • So

      "Plus, you aren't seriously equating child molestation to a driving infraction, are you?"

      Breaking the law is breaking the law, or do we get to pick and choose.....

      September 13, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • A Theist

      Do you know... ...excuses, excuses, excuses....

      Right, so you're in agreement with me then! The Church should be tried because they're making excuses! Justice needs to be served because the leaders are silently protecting the guilty, and are therefore silently committing the same crime.

      Breaking the law is breaking the law, or do we get to pick and choose.....

      You're absolutely right, and I may decide not to tell on the cell-phone driver or the pedophile, but if they get caught and it turns out that I knew what they were doing but didn't report it, guess what, I can legally be tried too!
      So yeah, I may not be a Johnny-do-good because I only stand up for things that I think matter, like molestation or wife beating (I would have stopped that guy right in his tracks), but I'm still responsible for crimes that I excuse. So is the Catholic Church. Thank you for proving my point.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • So

      "So yeah, I may not be a Johnny-do-good because I only stand up for things that I think matter, like molestation or wife beating (I would have stopped that guy right in his tracks), but I'm still responsible for crimes that I excuse. So is the Catholic Church. Thank you for proving my point."

      The point is everyone is guilty in their everyday lives of turning a blind eye to those that are breaking the law. You can scream for justice regarding the church but it also makes you a hypocrite every time you turn a blind eye around you. If you truly want justice – then live for justice – don't just pretend. Many posting here....are pretending in their daily lives. It's easy to point the finger, it's another thing to actually get of your butt and have the courage to do something about it. So next time you should have spoken up and didn't you're just as guilty as the pope.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • A Theist

      The point is everyone is guilty in their everyday lives of turning a blind eye....
      Yeah, and if we're caught, we're responsible for it.

      You can scream for justice regarding the church but it also makes you a hypocrite every time you turn a blind eye around you.
      It would make me a hypocrit if I demanded that I not be put on trial for not speaking up, but I told you that I accept the guilt for not speaking up if it comes to that.


      If you truly want justice – then live for justice – don't just pretend. Many posting here....are pretending in their daily lives. It's easy to point the finger, it's another thing to actually get of your butt and have the courage to do something about it.

      I do live for justice, which is why, among many other things, I'm not Catholic. I look for opportunities to stand up for those that are oppressed, which is why I demand Justice on the church.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • A Theist

      So next time you should have spoken up and didn't you're just as guilty as the pope.

      Ok, So, the next time I hear about someone committing se.xual abuse and do nothing about it–especially when they are under my authority, I'm as guitly as the Pope. Thank you for confessing that the Pope is guilty, and once again establishing what I have agreed with from the get-go, a failure to speak up is a passive comittment of a crime.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • So

      "Ok, So, the next time I hear about someone committing se.xual abuse and do nothing about it–especially when they are under my authority, I'm as guitly as the Pope"

      Nice twisting of the wording you must be christian. You originally said crime not sex abuse, you're only trying to save your own as now just like the pope. 😉

      September 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • So

      "The point is everyone is guilty in their everyday lives of turning a blind eye....
      Yeah, and if we're caught, we're responsible for it. "

      To funny but your god is watching so you are caught.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • A Theist

      Boy So, I guess you don't know what "accepting guilt" means. I told you I accept it, to God, to the police, whatever you want.

      Twisting of words you say? Ok I'll rephrase, the next time I omit mentioning a crime, I'm as guilty as the Pope. I can promise you I'll never let something like se.xual abuse slip by. And the Justice System speaks for itself. Not all crimes are created equal. I may be as "guilty" as the Pope for excusing a cell-phone driver, but it doesn't merit the same punishment or demand for action. I must be Christian? The way you're defending the overseer of pedophiles, I'd say you sound Catholic...

      September 13, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  8. batchoftruth

    If he is guilty he belongs behind bars like everyone else!

    September 13, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  9. *frank*

    Kill him with fire.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  10. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    Why did today's pope, prelates, preachers and rabbis, so focused on society's se-xual sins, lose sight of clerical se-xual sins?
    "
    FEAR, SHAME and GUILT and COVER IT ALL UP!!!

    Obviously ordination in any religion is not assurance of good behavior !!!!!

    Neither is coronation!!! e.g. Henry VIII, King David.

    Neither is marriage as 50% of those men convicted of pedophilia are married.

    Neither is being elected president of the USA!! e.g. Billy "I did not have se-x with that girl" Clinton, John "Marilyn Monroe" Kennedy"

    Neither is possessing super athletic skill!!! e.g. Tiger "I am so sorry for getting caught" Woods.

    Neither is being an atheist or pagan since pedophilia is present in all walks of life.

    If someone is guilty of a crime in this litany of "neithers" they should or should have been penalized as the law dictates to include jail terms for pedophiliacs (priests, rabbis, evangelicals, boy scout leaders, married men/women), divorce for adultery (Clinton, Kennedy, Woods), jail terms for obstruction of justice (Clinton, Cardinal Law, B16?) and the death penalty or life in prison for murder ("Kings David and Henry VIII).
    ============================================================================
    ------------------------------------------------

    September 13, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  11. RightTurnClyde

    I think the Roman Catholic church is coming to an end. The end of it began with Vatican II (1963) and God knows they needed to "revise" their ways but the changes were empty formalities (ended the Latin vernacular - and that was not the problem). NOW it is very clear what the problems were (plural) and they were not a lot different in 1500 when the Reformation took place. The hierarchy (bishops and cardinals and the pope) do not want to dispose of themselves. So they refuse to face facts. As a result they are about finished.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  12. McJesus

    Why not go higher up the tree and put God on trial? The invisible magical man himself doesn't even have the hairy sphericals to show his face!

    September 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • hippypoet

      well, god is kinda on trial everyday... another thing i hate about this country, when in court you swear on the bible... more exact, the catholic bible... unless you deny, then and ONLY then do you get the book of law!

      September 13, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Normon

      It must depend on the state or county you're in. I've never seen a Bible used.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • msmith

      you're a jerk

      September 13, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Hmm.. I don't know. What's the statute of limitations on unrelenting mass genocide?

      September 13, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  13. hippypoet

    for any interested... Born in 1094 A.D. at Armagh, Ireland, Saint Malachy is also known as: Maolmhaodhog ua Morgair; Maol Maedoc; and Malachy O'Morgair. He died as he himself predicted, on November 2, 1148 at Clairvaux, France. Malachy was canonized the first Irish Saint in the Catholic Church by Pope Clement III in 1190 A.D.

    read his words carefully, they are riddled with very creepy truth! yet the church doesn't not believe in predictions, of any kind, as they are a sign of pagan ways and should be done away with. another interesting fact!

    September 13, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • McJesus

      I think the Leprechauns had something to do with it. And the fairies.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • hippypoet

      see, i only bring it up because if this goes to the way it appears to be headed, then it could spell the end for the church as we know it anyway... that would fall into the realm of what Malachy was seeing in his vision... "the last pope"

      September 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Normon

      I would think that ones own death is the one thing one could make sure one got right. Once.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Well, Norman, have you got the date and time and place of your own death figured out? Can you share it with us so we can verify if you are correct? And please tell us a little about your method.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  14. Sandapple

    @Awkward Situations
    Thank you. That I can understand.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  15. va7fu

    It is about time for them to be brought to justice !

    September 13, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  16. gesposito

    I never disagrreed with you. I just think that this needs to be taken slow because peoples reputations are at risk. If the catholics are foun d to be guilty then I think Italy should reclaim the land the Vatican sites on. And I also think that some of these allegations where made to make a quick buck.

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

      Granted, some may be gold digging, but some of the victims were as young as FOUR.

      As for the Pope and his cohorts reputations, I believe justice for the children MUST come first.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  17. hippypoet

    @ william demuth...

    the enemy of all rational men is religion and it telling its followers how to live , i do agree with near everything you post, but as always – the rational opinions will differ somewhat from time to time.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Yup

      All is cool Hippy!

      But read " My Struggles" by Hitler, its hard to find in English, but provides great insight into the man

      September 13, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Manifestos in general are good for a light bed time read.

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

    sorry. ment to say am not defending rapists

    September 13, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  19. gesposito

    Demuth – see, there you go again. Running off with the mouth. I am defending any rapist but one who thinks logically has to question the motives of those bring these crimes so many years after they occur. What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty???

    September 13, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  20. gesposito

    Demuth – so there is one example and I think he got what he deserved. One out of how many??

    September 13, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • William Demuth

      So we finally agree.

      Don't the other victims deserve an inquiry.

      I believe 28 priests have confessed to the state, and hundreds more were considered guilty by the church it self.

      Do you believe the government should investigate? It seems like a step towards Justice, and a step the church fights as if its life depends on it.

      Serious investigations estimate almost 5000 priests are involved.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:09 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.