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

    at least warren jeffs is bangin' chicks. why are all catholic priests gay pedophiles? ...yes, i said "all".

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

      Better yet, why are the majority of them white men? I think that is a better question to ask.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • William Demuth

      If you love bread become a baker.

      If you love little boys behinds become a priest

      Its their dream job.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • James

      "gay pedophiles"

      Those are two different terms with two very different interpretations. You might want to look them up so you don't look like such an idiot.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Pope Benedict XVI


      September 13, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • James' Dad

      Look at my poor, pathetic son's response. kinda sad that i have to admit that i raised this kid.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  2. erich2112x

    Nuclear war, contraception, abortion, gay marriage,..........but on the issue of pedophilia, they stonewall.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  3. OJ

    The catholic church needs to stop believing its THEIR job to discipline/treat/counsel these offenders.

    If a crime is reported, contact the police, THEY are the higher authority. It's their job to investigate. Stop sweeping it under the rug for decades by "counseling" and praying and transfering these offenders to another city/state/country.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  4. brett

    According to the latest FBI reports. 23 percent of all child abuse occurs in social services, 27 percent occurs in public schools and 29 percent by other family members, less than .001 percent from clergy.

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

      remember these are reported statistics....many of the occurrences by the church are never reported.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • William Demuth

      You're a liar.

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

      claybigsby... So are many in social services, school and family. statistcally speaking these still prepesent the vast majority of cases, not the clergy ones

      September 13, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  5. Andy

    This thread is a joke , according to the latest FBI reports. 23 percent of all child abuse occurs in social services, 27 percent occurs in public schools and 29 percent by other family members, less than .001 percent from clergy. So the where are the screams to prosecute the real culprits. This is just a feeding frenzy for the liberals and those who are devoid of the real facts.

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

      Abuse by authority figures is worse than familial abuse. There is a breach of stewardship when a priest acts this way that destroys a community and is a far worse crime because someone elses child is always innocent.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • lucullus

      Standard right wing rant Andy boy, blame liberals. The fact is that the Roman church is riddled with pedophiles, it has been for decades and they, including the current Pope were well aware of it. They not only did nothing about it, they actively covered up these crimes. I am so sick and tired of right wing jerks blaming everything they don't like on liberal hatered.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Andy

      lucullus... Then stop speaking like a ill informed idoit

      September 13, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  6. Andy


    September 13, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  7. angry jack

    these hypocrites have hurt so many throughout the years. they make a mockery of the god they worship. personally, i am an agnostic. i believe something very cool and beautiful is going on and i don't pretend to have figured it all out. it may or may not be revealed to me when i finally die. and if there is a god, i got a few choice words for him before he sends my ass to hell. i agree with the victims. the pope is the biggest hypocrite of all of them. burn all the churches, i say.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  8. boogietime

    Prosecute the Pope? Good one. He can declare diplomatic immunity as a head of state.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • William Demuth

      He can also be bombed into surrender as a head of state.

      Just like we do to the camel jockey countries.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Guest

      Incorrect, international courts do not stop at diplomatic immunity.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  9. Andy

    Rants of the mindless

    September 13, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  10. Peter Q Wolfe

    I say throw them in jail and perhaps the death penalty in this specific case is warranted for the multiple years this has happened. I used to want to be a catholic just no longer can defend this anymore or any religion. All religions are fake and God isn't real time for humanity to deal with that fact. I realize it and I'm blind, so can you sing along if you will.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  11. Mark in Chicago

    Is the Pope a pedophile?

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

      Is the Space-pope reptilian?

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

      doesn't matter...he covered up for pedophiles...makes him just as guilty

      September 13, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  12. Robert

    What did the Pope do? Somebody tell me, because I honestly can not understand why he should be held accountable for felonious priests. It would be like saying the President should be prosecuted because a Governor does something wrong. It doesn't make sense, yet secularists don't even pretend to attempt to understand Canon Law, which is something like civil law as far as due process. But hey, why understand the issue when you can hate something good?

    September 13, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Jake


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

      Robert, do some reading.

      He was personally involved in the cover up in his previous Vatican job.

      Perhaps he PERSONALLY has to get canned, and then we might back off.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Mark in Chicago

      Robert, I barely even follow this story, but even I know that the Pope has known.. the Vatican has known, of these cases, for generations... Where's your head??... They've been moving criminals around the world for decades!... they've had full knowledge of what they've been doing... THAT is why he is responsible... Duh!

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

      During the period when the majority of the abuses were happening, he not only knew it was transpiring but actively aided in the relocation of these priest-criminals to new parishes where they could start their assaults against the children anew.

      He aided and abetted the crimes and made it possible that thousands of children could be put in harms way because he put the wolves with the sheep.

      Cardinal Ratzinger is stained, and no amount of gilded white robes and pointy hats can ever get him clean.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Diana, Erie pa

      The pope did not do it him self but him as well as the whole upper catholic church has help cover all the abuse to protect there fallen religion.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • php5001

      i read a cnn article a few months ago stating that when the current pope benedict was a cardinal? (not sure of catholic church hierarchy) he was aware of a priest abusing a child and did nothing even after he became pope. lots of hate spewed in those article comments! i don't know if these charges will stand. can't he claim diplomatic immunity?

      September 13, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      diplomatic immunity means nothing under international law and technically speaking the Vatican is not a state

      September 13, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • boogietime

      Technically speak the Vatican City is a state.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  13. madagascar11

    If the priests commied crimes, lock'em up...

    September 13, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  14. Sam

    tolerate and enable ? It's a lie.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  15. John Richardson

    @William You have such an insipid "us vs them" mentality that you appear not to have noticed that I have been posting for many months now as a non-believer. As for the rest, you don't have to be bloody to be violent, Forced re-education is violent. But of course, you don't have any problem with being downright bloody. Tell me, what exactly is WRONG with the world that will be made RIGHT by having one more group of violent, bloody marauders running amok in the name of their "enlightened" belief, forcing those beliefs on others by whatever violent means are deemed necessary? How is what you propose different from how the Taliban ruled?

    September 13, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • John Richardson

      This was a reply to William Demuth's endorsement of violent, even bloody methods of eradicating religion.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • William Demuth

      John Richardson

      I am aware of your lack of belief, and I commend you.

      But just as we are learning in Afghanistan, you can't fight a NICE war.

      We will leave as losers there, and if we are unwilling to fight fire with fire, we will end up with a theocracy HERE.

      God is dead, and the war has begun.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Erik

      Sorry William, but this war won't be fought with guns, but with the mind and science. Do you know why it is so easy for us to believe in a Godless Universe? It's because there is a ' Science + Magic (Religion) = 100% ' equation and the more we learn about Science the less we need some mystical nonsense to explain things.

      Bring wisdom and the light of science to the far corners of the world and the glimmer of the religous zealots will be overpowered as the sunlight overpowers a flashlight.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • William Demuth


      Tell that to the witches they burned for their chemistry.

      They will bury you and indoctrinate your children if you don't deveolop a spine.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • William Demuth

      John Richardson

      As far as reeducation being used, what would you call creationisim?

      Many want to FORCE my children to study lies as if they were reality!

      How is my wanting to FORCE their children to study reality rather than lies any worse?

      It isn't.

      All is fair in war.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • John Richardson

      You're right, Erik.

      William, let's agree that burning witches is a bad thing. Now, is it bad because people are being burned or is it bad because the wrong people are bring burned? Very simple question whose answer is critically important.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Les

      The Pope is a head of state and bears secular responsibility as the "King of Rome". The US or any other government has absolutely no right to lay the indiscretions of his citizens on his shoulders. They have no right to disrupt the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. Period. Especially when the accusations are being made by crazy hysterical children who figured out a way to not have to go to church. What we need to do first is weed out the attention seeking nrug rats,, then proceed from there.

      While there are cases actual abuse, the sudden surge of thousands of "complaints" clearly indicates that this is a witch hunt not dissimilar to the insanity that resulted in the Salem witch trials. I bet that many of the "children" involved have been coached, filled with false memories, or misinterpreted a pat on the shoulder or back because of adult influence. Give a child a reward and that child will sing whatever tune they think you want to hear. And, BTW, a good many supposed cases involve individuals from times when the age of consent was 14-16in most states. Those cases are may have involved "sin" but were, at that time consensual". BTW, how ,amy evangelicals are exposed every day for s-ex-u-al indiscretions?

      Sin is sin. There is absolutely no precedent in the Bible that makes one sin worse than any other. So, whether you commit premarital se-xua-l sin or commit mu-rde-r God does not see the difference. In fact, the Bible says God sits on his throne and laughs at our iniquities". How dare his freaky followers act any differently!

      September 13, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • William Demuth

      John Richardson

      I feel your position, truly I do, but what I see can not be denied.

      Religion is not a minor ill, it is a truly horrible creation of man, that is dragging us closer to the end.

      At some point, each man chooses to either fight, or role over.

      Perhaps you haven't seen that moment yet, but I have.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  16. George

    When the pope was asked why he didn't do something about the priests who behaved as vermin he replied. "Well, I couldn't spend all of my time zinging rats."

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

      Wow you are so funny ! what grade are you now, kindergarden ?

      September 13, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • *frank*

      You should be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court for abusing us with that joke.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  17. Robert

    "William Demuth

    Agreed, but the RCC is on the ropes.

    Lets kill that one, and hunt the remains later!"

    Anti-Catholicism is REAL!!!!!! People want to kill the Pope and the Church! And this reference is allowed on CNN!?!?! What an outrage.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • William Demuth

      A cult is a cult.

      They defraud little old ladies, they bugger little boys and they rip off society under the cloak of a madman worshiping an imaginary savior.

      The RCC is going DOWN.

      You shall finally taste the bitterness you have thrust on other for centuries.

      If your beloved Jesus intends to return for his church, he better do it soon, or all he will find is ashes.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  18. MollyBee

    I am all for this.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  19. George

    Perhaps 2012 is the end of Catholicism. Ireland appears ready to toss it out. The church has the power to make great things happen for the world, but has failed miserably because power corrupts.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  20. Alex

    Throw the book at Ratzinger.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:14 am |
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