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. Jeff

    I still don't get where in the BIble it says that any man is the ultimate interpreter of Scripture. Anyone? I'm at a complete loss on how this is Biblical. Also... if the Pope was really trying to be Christ-like...why isn't he living more like Mother Theresa? Why is he sitting on a throne in gaudy outfits and parading around waving his hand? I'm just at a loss. The only time Jesus was paraded around was on Palm Sunday...only to be crucified a short while later.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Puppet

      I do not know what to tell you, as I do not know what is behind the questioning. I do know that none of these posts bring me closer understanding of the heart of the man but reveals much of what lays at the heart of the poster. We reveal so much about ourselves in how we view others.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • msmith

      Who said Mother Teresa was holy? Did you ever meet her?

      September 13, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Ceri

      As a pastor, I agree with you Jeff. I'm not about to start bashing Catholicism just because they are different to me, but I personally find the way they do things far outside my understanding of what it means to be the church. As the ordained minister in my church, I make every effort for people to see me as just one of them – but one who happens to have a particular job.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  2. RAM05

    Next, these poor victims will be asking to prosecute God for letting the abuse happen. I'm kind of surprised none of them are blaming Jesus

    September 13, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Alex

      Their just blaming the people responsible.
      Btw Ratzinger was directly involved. He is a monster

      September 13, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Mrs. Williams

      Are you a priest that has been raping children? That's what you sound like, pervert.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • William Demuth

      If he were real I would be calling for his death.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  3. Andy

    This is the Perfect thread for the rants of idiots

    September 13, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Puppet

      Finally...someone who uses their brain.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Liz

      idiots like you...you sound like you are a rapist yourselft...anyone defending these rapists are one themselves

      September 13, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Sun

      Do an article against Christians and you are sure to see these crawl out of the woodwork.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Mrs. Williams

      Anyone defending the Catholic "priests" are disgusting; you are defending pedophiles and you should be prosecuted along with the priests. I hope God has as much mercy on you and your child-abuse supporting ways and you have on the priests. Actually, no I don't. That you can support pedophiles is disturbing and I hope you burn in Hell.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Sun

      Mrs William you will burn in hell for bearing false witness!

      September 13, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Mrs. Williams

      How is this "bearing false witness"? Anyone supporting the pedophile priests (no, not all priests, just the pedophiles) is bearing false witness in claiming that they are sanctified by God. This is what the priests are doing. Look into the case of Monsignor William Lynn...Reverend Avery...the priests in the Philadelphia parishes were passing a 10 year old boy around taking turns raping him. They blamed the boy for seducing him. Anyone looking at this evidence and crying foul is not 'bearing false witness'. All of you defending the pedophiles are disturbing individuals and I hope God has sterilized you. You do not belong around children.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Condem

      Our heart goes out to all those children who were truly hurt and may justice be served.

      We hope those that are woefully using this an excuse to make money will repent of their sins.

      God you know the truth and we know that you will bring Justice to every kind of SIN.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Puppet

      Hmmm... looks like Andy proved his point.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Sun


      Well said!!

      September 13, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  4. prophet

    athiests are abusive towards those who believe in God, at least the atheists that write on here their abusive comments so if someone doesn't understand this then maybe it again shows what is being said.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Colin

      We do some good. For example, your spelling appears to have improved in the course of writing your sentence, based on feedback by atheists.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • William Demuth

      Try English next time.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • BRC

      The spelling is better, but it still doesn't actually say anything. I tried to help, but got no response.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Alex

      No, chruches mistreat Atheists.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  5. mofo

    The Catholic church could help themselves by not trying to cover up these horrible offenses and taking action on the sick men that abuse children. Instead they hide it and continue to take poor peoples hard earned money so the Pope can walk around in a suit of gold. How is that religion? Your church gives religion a bad name.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Alex

      Religion gives Religion a bad name.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  6. us1776

    Ban all these "Invisible Being" cults.


    September 13, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Jeff

      Sure...throw freedom of religion out the door. Along with it, why don't you throw out any other silly little books you deem as "irrelevant". Since there is no factual proof of evolution, can we throw Darwin out (since it is obviously irrelevant as well) as well? I mean, really...don't scientists have anything better to do like cure AIDS or world hunger?

      September 13, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  7. Junggg

    I guess it'd be more acceptable if they were first married to the children before raping them, eh Imams?

    September 13, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  8. Dirtybird

    Are they trying to reignite the reformation wars? I don't think that Catholics would allow the pope to be dragged off to Holland, a protestant country, to be prosecuted. This is ridiculous.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • William Demuth

      The Catholics allowed their Pope to meet with Hitler and bless the Third Reich.

      They are sheep by nature, and indoctrinated to the max.

      They shall do as they are told.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  9. Brandon

    Really? That is like prosecuting me for what my students do on the weekend.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Boskoo

      Well, prosecute Obama for not putting a stop to it – he is partly to blame too. Why didn't he round up every priest in the country and have them executed.

      Ninety nine point nine percent of these "victims" were never touched by anyone but greedy trial lawyers.

      September 13, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Chaching

      Give me some money and I won't bear any false witness.

      September 13, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • William Demuth

      If you assist your students in raping someone, you should expect prosecutuion.

      And execution if we are lucky!

      September 13, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • michael

      Well Brandon you should have known what those little tykes were doing when not in your direct vision over all those weekends of hard homework and playing around......they scewed each other and now it's your turn to pay the piper......lol

      September 13, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Chaching

      Hmm. sounds like some blood money to me and be a lawyer these days...big money and lots of lying.

      Justice-buh bye....

      September 13, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • OJ

      No, This is like your employee molesting someone, but instead of reporting it to the police you pray for them, then maybe have some counseling, then transfer them to Boise. Lather, Rinse, Repeat for DECADES. Until one of these victims actually goes to police instead of reporting it to the church.

      Then suddenly the catholic church is "investigating" these reports. I'm sorry, but if someone goes to a priests boss and says "this person molested me", they need to pick up the phone and DIAL THE POLICE. They haven't done that in the last 50 years.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  10. Pope Mobile

    Not sure the ICC is the place for this issue. I agree the pope and his leadership could have and should have done more once they became aware of the extent of the problem. Not just for the victims but for the church itself. They lost me largely because of it.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • pat carr

      thanks colin for your long and excellent reply

      September 13, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Colin

      Actuall, Pat, congratulations to you. It would take a lot for somebody brought up in a fundy household to get above the dark superst.itions that haunt their family. Often, this involves being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had to have the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  11. Colin

    A dozen signs you are a Catholic – one for each apostle!!.

    1. You believe that the pope has personal conversations with God (that nobody else ever hears) and is infallible when he elects to speak “from the chair” on matters of Church doctrine. You then wistfully ignore the fact that Church doctrine changes and that former popes therefore could not possibly have been “infallible”. Limbo, for example, was touted by pope after pope as a place where un-baptized babies who die go, until Pope Benedict XVI just eradicated it (or, more accurately, so watered it down as effectively eradicate it in a face saving way). Seems all those earlier “infallible” Popes were wrong – as they were on Adam and Eve v. evolution, heliocentricity v. geocentricity, immaculate conception, and a host of other issues that required an amendment of official Church doctrine. You also ignore the innumerable murders, rampant corruption and other crimes committed over the centuries by your “infallible”, god-conversing popes.

    2. You reject the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours. You are blissfully (or intentionally) blind to the fact, that had you been born in another part of the World, you would be defending the local god(s) and heralding the incorrectness of Catholic beliefs.

    3. You begrudgingly accept evolution (about a century after Darwin proved it and after accepting Genesis as literally true for about 2,000 years) and that Adam and Eve was totally made up, but then conveniently ignore that fact that your justification for Jesus dying on the cross (to save us from Original Sin) has therefore been eviscerated. Official Church literature still dictates a belief in this nonsense.

    4. You disdain native beliefs as “polytheist” and somehow “inferior” but cannot explain (i) why being polytheistic is any sillier than being monotheistic. Once you make the quantum leap into Wonderland by believing in sky-fairies, what difference does if make if you believe in one or many?; nor (ii) why Christians believe they are monotheistic, given that they believe in god, the devil, guardian angels, the holy spirit, Jesus, many demons in hell, the Virgin Mary, the angel Gabriel, thousands of saints, all of whom apparently make Earthly appearances periodically, and all of whom inhabit their life-after-death lands with magic-sacred powers of some kind.

    5. You bemoan the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don`t even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees or the 3,000 Israelites killed by Moses for worshipping the golden calf (or the dozen or so other slaughters condoned by the bible). You also like to look to god to for guidance in raising your children, ignoring the fact that he drowned his own – according to your Bible.

    6. You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that God impregnated Mary with himself, to give birth to himself, so he could sacrifice himself to himself to “forgive” an ”Original Sin” that we now all know never happened.

    7. You criticize gays as sinners, but have no problem when Lot got drunk and committed father-daughter in.cest (twice) or offered his daughters to a mob to be gang ra.ped, or when Biblical heroes, time and again, offered their wives to save their own skin.

    8. You believe that your god will cause anyone who does not accept your Bronze Age stories to suffer a penalty an infinite times worse than the death penalty (burning for all eternity) simply because of their healthy skepticism, yet maintain that god “loves them”.

    9. You will totally reject any scientific breakthrough that is inconsistent with your established doctrine, unless and until it is so generally accepted as to back you into a corner. While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you of the deep inanity of your silly faith, some priest doing magic hand signals over bread and wine is enough to convince you it is thereby transformed into the flesh and blood of Jesus because of the priest’s magic powers (or “sacred powers” to the extent you see a difference).

    10. You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to Lourdes, Fátima and other magic places and prayers in general. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. The remaining 99.99% failure was simply “god moving in mysterious ways”. The fact that, if you ask for something repeatedly, over and over, year after year, sooner or later that thing is bound to happen anyway, has not even occurred to you. A stopped clock is right twice a day.

    11. You accept the stories in the Bible without question, despite not having the slightest idea of who actually wrote them, how credible these people were or how long the stories were written after the alleged events they record occurred. For example, it is impossible for Moses to have written the first five books of the Old Testament, as Catholics believe. For one, they record his death and events after his death. In fact, the chance of the Bible being historically accurate in any but the broadest terms is vanishingly small.

    12. You regard mind-reading claims by back alley shysters as foolishness, but believe that, when you pray, god reads your mind (or "hears your prayers" as you call it) and inefers in what would otherwise be the course of history, to suit your whims.

    Heavens, I could not fit them into ten.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Stu

      Dang Colin. Must have had a lot of time on your hands for that one.

      September 13, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Mike R

      I gotta laugh because your 12 "signs" are weakly based on actual Catholicism, but I award you points for at least trying to be humorous, despite your obvious intellectual disabilities. Thanks for the laugh Colon.

      September 13, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Carrie

      Nobody is going to waste their time reading your novel. I might agree with you, but I don't know because I recognized it as a rant immediately.

      September 13, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Colin

      Actually, Mike R, they are based directly on Catholic doctrine. It's just when you strip the faith of its self-serving nomenclature and call a spade a spade, Catholic beliefs pretty soon reveal themselves to be supernatural nonsense.

      Feel free to tell me what I misquoted.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • BRC

      @Mike R,
      Seems pretty spot on to most. If you have any correction syou'd like to make or points that you can prove he missed the mark, I'm sure Colin would like to hear it.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Yawwwwn

      Too many words.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • John Richardson

      @Colin Maybe you should come out with a picture book version for people like Carrie and yawwwn?

      September 13, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Colin

      Good idea JR, now if only I could learn how to do the ghostbusters red circle on here – that would be a usefull tool!!!

      September 13, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • George

      You have made an excellent argument for being a non-religionist and I accept your comment. One thing you, the Catholics, or any other religion cannot do however, is to eliminate God. I might also mention that God surely is not a religious being.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • Bvar

      Only one statement by a pope has been made under the tenet of papal infallibility. Google it. All the rest you say in point 1 is not related to papal infallibility. In point 2, you fail to realize that all the other religions also hold their god(s) to be the true god just as Catholics do. In point 3, you fail to realize that riginal sin is not tied to a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis. It revolces around the fact that man is inherently flawed, regardless of how he was created or evolved. In point 4 you show a total ignorance of Catholocism. A parallel analogy would be to state that anyone who believes that there is one President is crazy since there are other politicians as well. You aren't grasping that all the others persons you name are not equal to God in any way. I could go on with the rest, but I think that if you give my remarks a fair open minded reading, you will immediately realize your profound ignorance and your need to read up before you sound off.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Awkward Situations

      @Colin: Fantastic lists 😉

      Darwin-u akbar!!! Darwin-u akbar!!!

      September 13, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Yawwwwn

      Hah – Colin you assume you are an interesting person. You assume too much.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • msmith

      Sorry, Colin.
      1) You're wrong
      2) You're mistaken
      3) You're a dude
      4) You're a goof
      5) You're wishing you did believe in this God
      6) You're wishing you had something as strong to hold on to as this God.
      7) You're wishing you could reverse the thinking of all these 'claims' you have.
      8) You're wishing for forgiveness for yourself.
      9) You're wishing for some meaning to your own life.
      10) You're wishing that someone could explain this religion to you
      11) You're wishing to become a follower of Jesus Christ in this very religion
      12) You're wishing to become an "Apostle" yourself!

      Just let the light in..... let it shine, let it warm you..... Jesus Christ still loves you no matter how much hate you have inside yourself. Remember, JESUS CHRIST STILL LOVES YOU. I will pray for your conversion. I will never know until we meet in heaven. If the god you 'prize' within you is YOU? ... May the light of the Son enrich you with real love. You wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Him. You just can't figure it all out. We don't have to... He didn't ask us to... but only TO BELIEVE.

      God bless you and take care of your soul.. you never know how long or short it will be before you are standing at the Pearly Gates. Will you be a sheep or a goat????????? It's up to you.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • BRC

      CNN filter is killing me today. VERY short response. Your comments all look at Colins pioints from one very specific angle, and while the may change the effect of some of his points, they generally make the case for Catholicism even weaker (ie. if original sin isn't about Adam adn Eve, then "God" simply made everyone flawed. how is that better?).

      September 13, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • agnostic man

      Colin, Very smart. Most of your replies will be attacks with no merit, no intellectual feedback only blather. How can anyone deny what you say? Good job.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  12. Mahhn

    While their at it, how about officially inditing the taliban?

    September 13, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • William Demuth

      Actually I see your point.

      We shouldn't indict the Pope, we should bomb the Vatican in rubble, and collect all its loyalists for reeducation

      September 13, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  13. Michael

    This is beautiful. Finally, the cracks are appearing. Soon the world will see the beast for what it is. A new era is dawning, and the dark is being banished!

    September 13, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  14. Byermine

    Nothing may come of this case with the ICC, but the effort is worthwhile in the interest of child protection. There is a saying that 'the upholder is worst than the thief". The Vatican was aware of these 'crimes to humanity' and their only response was to cover up and relocate the priests which only facilitated the spread of the abuse. So in fact the Pope and the position thereof, and the Catholic Church aided and abetted the criminal behaviour.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:51 am |
  15. right on


    September 13, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Yep

      right on = moron who can't spell

      September 13, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  16. hippypoet

    still no proper answers to my very simple questions.... very sad, religious folks,... you people believe in something you don't even understand!!!! truly sad.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Carrie

      A LOT of people believe in science they don't understand. For instance, the laws of physics – I'm not physicist, but I believe in those laws.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • claybigsby

      yes carrie, because those are LAWS proven by FACT, not speculation.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  17. eamon

    If the pope and the catholic church really believe in the existence of a god,what have they to fear? I mean,in the end their god will deal with all of us who do not believe.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • William Demuth

      Perhaps prison is what they should fear.

      Child rapists are not well recieved.

      One was beaten to death in a Boston prison a few months ago.

      His skull was crushed by repeatedly slaming the cell door on his face, and then his genitals were mutilated while he bleed to death.

      I like it!

      September 13, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  18. Robert

    I do believe that if you commit a crime you should pay for it regardless of social status.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Taylor

      Agreed. Punishment should be given to the ones who deserve it. No matter the social status.

      September 13, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  19. nutley

    Organized religion is the biggest crime of all time perpetrated on humanity, it is just a control and power mechanism. The pope is nothing more than the head pedophile and power monger.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • jc

      Nowhere in the doctrine of Christianity does it teach pedophila. Pedophila is all around you. Perhaps you know this from first hand experience. Does attacking the church make you feel better?

      September 13, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • pat carr

      i know firsthand from being molested in a lutheran church by the "bible school teacher" and scoutmaster. but please feel free to stick your head back into the sand

      September 13, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • William Demuth

      pat carr

      Stay strong. You may finally see justice yet.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  20. aaron

    Lets not forget all the members of the Protestant churches. After all, there are more cases of abuse

    September 13, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • William Demuth

      Agreed, but the RCC is on the ropes.

      Lets kill that one, and hunt the remains later!

      September 13, 2011 at 9:48 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
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.