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. total nonsense

    The pope should be fine at least 1 billion PER priest's abominable crime. This should be a good way to shut down this cult, who members are known to be extremely simple minded (only a pure idiot will believe in god) and most of them should be committed for the general public protection. Religion is an outdated concept exclusively used to control the masses with lies. Religion (any of them) has never contributed a single (selfless) good deed for humanity and it is time for it is officially declared a mental illness.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      How do you pick a number out of the air and call that "just." We who do not do DUI might think it only fair if your finer were your house. Do you think it would be fair to seize your house and sell as your fine for DUI? For smoking pot? For taking meth? What about running a red light (camera arrests you) .. you could kill somebody so it is only fair to take your house and your savings. What about road rage? It would be fair to take all of your money sing you can cost others their lives. What about spouse abuse .. only fair to take all of your money and your income for several years. You want to be fair ... don't you??

      September 14, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  2. Pbsat

    Just as a Mayor of the city cannot be prosecuted for a cop's crime on duty, a President of a country cannot be prosecuted for the crimes of some members of armed forces and a school district superintendent won't get fired when a teacher abuses children, so is the Pope cannot be prosecuted for crimes of priests, as long as he is not condoning it. Granted, there are larger systemic and spiritual issues in the Catholic Church, but it's silly to bring up prosecution argument.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • In Memory Of Frank Garrett

      I think the 20,000~ pages of evidence would make your statement null

      September 14, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      The priests have already been prosecuted and sentenced to prison for many years and their various dioceses are paying millions in judgments .. millions directly to the victims. So the crimes against the state have been adjudicated and the injuries to victims have been compensated but the vengeful detractors aren't satisfied. They want to extinguish all churches.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  3. cj

    He should be held responsible simply because so little has been done in teh past to truly stop this abuse...something needs to change.

    September 14, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  4. Ra367

    Making the Pope pay for what the priests do is like making the President pay or be responsible for what the senators or congressmen do. Not a real solution.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:58 am |
    • Lean6

      Well not quite...the President isn't getting the pyramid-scheme-CEO-type kickbacks that happens in churches. You might want to look at the business side on this....

      September 14, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • chief

      its more like making the godfather pay for the crimes of the mob bosses

      September 14, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • total nonsense

      the real solution? OUTLAW RELIGION. it serve no legit purpose of any kind any way.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Notice how after Abu Graibe prison (woman soldier has POW on a dog leash .. NOBODY was responsible. The woman General could not be responsible because she was a woman (and that would anger feminists) and those above could not be responsible because she did not report it to them. The ones below her said they were doping as ordered .. right down to the sergeant ... so the only one who went to prison was the girl in the picture ... slippery when wet.

      Same for Gitmo - 2 presidents, several AG's, several DOD secy, numerous generals ... still open, still in operation and nobody is accountable. Same for the border. Same for BATF selling guns to Mexican cartels. Nobody knows who did it.. nobody is accountable. Like how Obama didn't know the Illinois governor. Never met him.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • saopaco

      It is a start.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  5. Novi

    I am catholic and these horrific events have tested my faith. Though i am saddened by all this, I will not commit spiritual suicide on account of these sick pedophiles who target the church for their own wicked and sick agenda's. Instead of focusing on these men, i have chosen to focus on the the many more that have died and those that continue to work, preach and love Christ.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:18 am |
    • chief

      if people like you wanted to, you could do something about it instead of deflecting the truth...... you are an accomplice as far as i am concerned....... you say its not the church but the priests...? so i wonder what the victoms think?

      September 14, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • Focus

      @Novi-You are right on! Good Post!

      September 14, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • Focus


      Every devout Catholics heart I am sure is broken over this scandal, be reminded it is not ALL priests that have committed this heinous crimes againt children.

      God is a God of justice and he will deal with those that betrayed the trust of a little child. It is very mean of you say someone is an accomplice because they are not jumping up and down on this board like you.

      Remember every devout Catholic is hurting and am sure wants to see justice brought to those little children that were hurt by Priests.

      September 14, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • Rainbow

      @Focus –

      let us not forget all those priests and nuns who have truly lived a life of pure sacrifice unto the Lord and did his will and served humanity until the end of their time,

      May God bless each one of them that sacrificed and served him in Truth!

      September 14, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      The continuing attack upon your church is very complex and various sources have varying motives. The atheists (which are many on this board) would not like the RC church even if there were never any deviate priests (so they'd never say the RC church is good). Lawyers do not "like' the RC church because there is money to be made (politicians too). Some non-Catholic Christians have negative feelings about the RC church (it is part of their church to not like Catholics). Non-Christians automatically dislike the RC power centered in Rome and Latin Christendom. None of the preceding has anything to do with the actual faith (belief in God .. in Jesus and the Trinity). So you have to dismiss them as malcontent detractors. They do not have your interests in mind ever.

      September 14, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • Ben & Jerry


      Oui! Oui!

      September 14, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      @ RightTurn Clyde
      You name different groups citing the motives against Roman Catholic Church... You left out one that may shed more light on the problem then any other group you named.... I wrote some posts on this page and previous one. It may enlighten some to read them....

      ***This is a double post. I reposted because it was posted on wrong place(on next page).

      Way to go, CNN! Your blogs are cheaply designed, disorganized and they reflect your status as NEWS network!

      September 14, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  6. ColoredMountains

    Why do Westerners hate the Christian Church lately so much? They are so evil, these former-christendom nations. Europe got nothing good without Christianity and America would not have existed without Christianity.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:18 am |
    • chief

      you need to take your head out of the dark area and get some air....

      September 14, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Europe has not been actually Christian for many decades .. perhaps the beginning of the 20th Century. Europe is socialist and communist. Socialism is god-less (atheist). Hitler's godless extermination camps are not the only instance of ethnic cleansing in Europe. Mass graves have been filled all over Europe by socialist and communists. (they are well known and numerous). The socialists here in the US have the same perspective but are more constrained for the moment.

      September 14, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Familliarwuf

      But hey look Canada's doin just fine, without its faith based origins/politics/ect.

      Also people take religion way too seriously. To have beliefs is Faith to have Religion is to control.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  7. ColoredMountains

    These victims are crazy. They should decry against Hindu temples instead of Pope. These "victims" just maliciously want to destroy the Catholic Church. International Court should prosecute all rich nations' governments for ransacking poor nations, all poor nations' governments for abusing their people, Hindu leaders for keeping Dalits as slaves, Muslim leaders for oppressing women, and the Buddhist leaders for burning the churches. Everyone in power must be prosecuted. Catholics are the few good ones among mankind.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:15 am |
    • chief

      great point if i were a complete moron..... i'd like to see you tell 1000 kids and their parents one at a time that they shouldnt be concerned with what happened, they should look at other attrocities against man.... against man, not kids..... fool

      September 14, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  8. bob oh

    Should Obama be held responsible for his agents permiting Mexican drug cartels to but gus in the US and the subsequent killing of US boder patrol agents with said guns?

    So what if it was a violation of international gun trafficing laws, Obama is balck and the president. He is the LAW!

    September 14, 2011 at 4:17 am |
    • JohnR

      How many white presidents have been prosecuted for anything done by underlings? They're indemnified.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Fred1

      No, it’s a different situation; but, Nixon was impeached for what his political agents did (remember Watergate?).

      September 16, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  9. Duong Nguyen

    Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) said: He who reads eccleciastical history reads nothing but the roguery and folly of bishops and churhmen.

    September 14, 2011 at 2:45 am |
  10. popeye1128

    Churches do what they want with immunity in most parts of the world. Sad but just a fact.
    Doesn't matter the flavor or the country.
    More powerful than any mob, gang or political party.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • MrM

      And your proof for these incredible statements is??

      September 14, 2011 at 3:58 am |
    • Jason


      Read the history of the churches involments in WW I & II, the spanish civil war in the 1930's. Read about the horrible things the popes have done. The New Catholic Encyclopedia even admits many of the faults.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:03 am |
  11. Rod C. Venger

    Not possible. As a sitting head of State, he's immune from prosecution and that's pretty much the end of the legal argument. He'd have to step down, be overthrown from within or conquered from without, then arrested, before any court on the planet could touch him.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • Jason

      Well then bomb the hell out of the Vatican, like with Saddam Hussein. Problem solved.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:00 am |
  12. bob

    Just get rid of the whole thing, we as humans can not progress as a race, until we stop basing life on fairytales. I know someone will come back with a quote from some old book to prove this wrong. but how can you achieve wisdom and knowledge when there are rules about what you can think about and what you can not. ( not to mention these "rules" where written by insecure human males 1000's of years ago and it shows.

    The day all people can be moral without fairytales, is the day we have world peace

    September 14, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Rod C. Venger

      You can't even be moral without fairytales, so what's your point?

      September 14, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • jkmorris

      I agree with you, but unfortunately, most people are very emotionally attached to their fairytales.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:21 am |
  13. Reality

    To the nitty-gritty:

    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?

    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 14, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  14. QuietStormX

    When I first heard this I said "What". No way. I don't see it this way. I feel maybe some after years might not be real or that as some profess. I have a problem with these men and gay men praying on children. But I feel maybe it's time that we are aware of this ,we should let our children know of this and that about people period. No one really knew about this untill reports of incidents years ago. I feel some are looking for a payout or something. To let it effect them now, please get over it and live your life.

    September 13, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  15. In Reason I Trust

    Imagine if a principal moved around teachers that were raping children to different classrooms to cover up the story. That principal would be in jail in a heartbeat, and the Pope belongs in jail too.

    September 13, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
    • MrM

      So how many priests has he moved around? And where is your proof?

      September 14, 2011 at 4:01 am |
  16. Patricksday

    As a Catholic I cant defend my faith from Evil that permits betrayl of innocent Children, and those entrusted as Orphans or Mentally Retarded that had no voices or parents to hold these monsters accountable. Let the Pope stand Trial, how could Jesus take over the Catholic Church with so many Secrets, something of the Light has no need for secrets. Its Clear and Honest with Integrity. I have known many wonderful Priests and Nun who truly do serve God in their work with the Poor and Needy, but they must speak out against corruption too, we cant have the silent nun who says "yes Father".

    September 13, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Patricksday, you've got it right! God bless you and strenghten you to stand against what is evil!
      May the love of truth always sustain you!

      September 13, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • Dood

      I understand and here lies the problem. In Christianity, there is a thing called "forgiveness". I think the "old school" clergy didn't have a clue about how to treat pedophilia. They trusted too much in the theory that moving a pedophile priest to a different parish would "cure" him. And of course forgiveness is what our faith is based upon. It's only as of late.....and way too late that we know that pedophiles must be taken out of the picture and away from children. There are steps now in place in parishes that protect children that weren't here a decade ago.

      September 14, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  17. all hail the king

    this would be like prosecuting Obama for senator wiener's en devours.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • spiralbrain

      Not even close.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      yeah, not remotely...

      September 13, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • *frank*

      No, it would not be like that in any way. Do you have any more of your anencephalic similes for us tonight, or are you all out?

      September 13, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • all hail the king

      its the catholic church not the mob. this guilt by association RICO stuff will never work. im not a catholic but this is just another media scandal, to rub the churchs nose in the dirt. and all you finger pointers are falling for it.

      September 14, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  18. BK

    Anyone that remains Catholic after all this is either an idiot or a monster.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • Patricksday

      We Love the service aspect of being Catholic and helping the least of us, without making people join the church before we continuing to serve them. Dedicated GOOD Priests and Nuns who serve where others fear to go. Its a beautiful faith, but the ugly Roylaty and Pomp of arrogant Old men who serve darkness rather than the Light is what we are against and will speak out against. its our church not The Pope's. Prophecy says one more Pope before the Fall.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • HotAirAce


      Please provide support for your claim that one more pope has to fall before the end.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • Rebecca


      Patricksday is refering to the prophecies of St. Malachy. To put a long story short, in 1143 he was granted a vision by God of the 112 popes that were to serve from then till now. Pope Benedict is supposedly the last pope on that list. The prophecies have been fairly accurate, I have heard St. Malachy refered to as the Nostradamus of the Catholic Church before. He was granted visions of the good and the bad popes.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:44 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      I would rather say that they are deceived... But some of the people stay there out of fear, in spite seeing the truth, becaue it is ingrained by indoctrination into them that only thru RC church one can be saved, and all those who leave, leave the true church , as well as other Christians who don't' acknowledge papal supremacy as the vicar of Christ, are heretics....
      That's how any every cult keeps it's followers in bondage. *** But God sets us free unto Himself, it is Him that we look to, and answer to. That does not mean we don't' need church, the body of believers and we are to honor those who are set in leadership, but we are to sift every teaching and every doctrine and everything we hear, by the Spirit of God who gives to each TRUE believer a discernment to be able to know whether things are of God or not. Jesus said my sheep hears , knows and recognizes my voice. So they will not follow impostor.

      There is an awakening in Catholic church, and many are comming out from among them. True believers who love God more then the pleasing feeling of false security RCC gives them will come out, God will see to it , although it is a painful process.... The rest of them will just go deeper into deception.... But be sure of that, God will sift, and separate wheat from the tares.....

      ***RC church can't be classified as cult, because it differs from other cults in that it's core beliefs are true and Biblical. But it's the things that they add: the unbiblical, unfounded by the Scriptures that makes them cult-like. There is an attraction to to deep and mysterious that keep many in there.They are deceived into believing that this is the way OG operates.... They often shun away from writings of Paul who warns against such practices and attachments to them. RC Church has practically thrown out the writings of Paul in Epistle to Colossians. They wont tear the pages, but they mind as well!

      September 14, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      What I posted above is in response to BK who said "Anyone that remains Catholic after all this is either an idiot or a monster"

      September 14, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  19. Dr.K.

    He should be tried like any other man in a position of power. If he knew and didn't do enough about it, he is partly responsible. Worse yet, if he knew and facilitated it through hiding it or moving problem priests around, he is directly guilty. It is certainly worthy of full, objective legal investigation (i.e, outside of the church).

    September 13, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • spiralbrain

      Either way, an investigation in the church should happen.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  20. Jimble

    There's only one way to cleanse the church of its crimes. The pope must offer himself to be crucified.

    September 13, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • A Theist

      He will die for the Church's crimes, and the only way to become a Super Catholic is if you accept the Pope's death as a part of your salvation into the Catholic Church. It also requires another year of education before you can take Communion. (jokes)

      September 13, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • David Johnson


      Oh, hell no! It would only create yet another martyr. The Catholics pray to enough idols as it is.


      September 13, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
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About this blog

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.