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. DamianKnight

    I tend to personally agree. Let those involved, including their superiors and let them have their day in court. If they are innocent, then we can move on. If they are guilty, then let the law punish them according to the crimes they've committed.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • William Demuth

      Nice to have you on board

      September 13, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • chief

      a real court, not that pig circus of men in dresses that have made up their own rules outside of society.....

      September 13, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • DamianKnight


      I've never not been on board with this. 🙂 I've always said they should be tried and if found guilty, face the consequences of those crimes.


      Agreed. Let it be a multinational, multireligious (including those with no faith at all, i.e. athiests) and have them tried based on facts and evidence.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • William Demuth


      Your willingness to go up the food chain is a good sign.

      I sensed a hesitancy in some of your previous postings.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • DamianKnight


      I apologize if I gave that idea. I think anyone involved should be prosecuted and let the justice system sort them out. I view this in any hierarchy. For instance, let's say two police officers horribly abuse a suspected criminal, and the shift sergeant provided them a secluded room to do it. Even though the sergeant wasn't directly involved, he should be prosecuted because he provided a way for them to do it.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Mrs. Williams


      September 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  2. humtake

    This is the generation where everyone focuses on the negative, so of course they will ignore the fact that 90% of the priest population are good people. It is much more enjoyable to pay attention to the sensationalized few.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • chief

      if the cathoilic church would round these clowns up and turn them over to the police instead of harboring them, that 10% wouldn't have and continue to molest kids over and over.... but then again its easier to not look at the problem and pretend it doesnt exit... thats the GREAT MYSTERY OF IGNORANCE

      September 13, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • William Demuth


      They ALSO continue to recruit deviants and turn them loose.

      They need priests desperatley, and if they can get them by offering up little boys butts, they wont hesitate for a second.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • A Theist

      If 90% are innocent, then they will have no problem being included in the trial and then charged innocent. If anything it will shed a positive light if there really is a high number of innocent priests. If not, well then at least justice has been served.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • CC

      I believe the opposite is (or was at its height) true. There's no way this could have gone on unless 90% of priests were either engaged in such activity, actively concealed others' behavior or turned a blind eye. Regardless, they should all be punished. No non-religious organization in the world would survive after such a scandal.

      Maybe if people stopped believing in fairy tales and were just nice without fear of retribution the world would be better. Or maybe if the Vatican sold one or two pieces of art, there would no longer be hunger in the world. Just a thought.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • nightsun2k7

      this isn't the generation of the negative, this is the generation that is going to expose the negative and finally set it right

      September 13, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • silverback

      Sure, let's let the 10-15% criminals get away with abusing the law of the land because most of us are good. What a stupid comment, just go back to sleep in your dream world.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  3. Jackola

    It seems like many have convicted the pope already. I say the guy is innocent until he is proven guilty but there is overwhelming evidence to bring him to trial by the Int'l Criminal court where he will either be exonerated to convicted based on facts. Yes they should do it.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  4. Religion

    Religion – the downfall of man.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Andy

      You're another ill informed individual. Factually more people have been harmed and killed by atheists

      September 13, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Ummmm

      "Factually more people have been harmed and killed by atheists"

      LMAO! Now that's ill-informed.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Ez2say

      Andy, site your source or you're a troll.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • Andy

      Ez2say OK. Hope you can read

      According to University of Hawaii political scientist Rudolph J. Rummel,[1] the total number killed in all of human history is estimated to be about 284,638,000. Of that number, 151,491,000 were killed during the past 100 years. The single largest killer in all of human history is, by far, atheistic Communism with a total of 110,000,000 over 1/3 of all people ever killed! If we add to that number just two other regimes where religion of any sort was strongly discouraged, Nazi Germany and Nationalist China, the number rises to 141,160,000. Almost 50% of all the killings in human history were committed in the past 100 years by regimes that either actively promoted atheism or strongly discouraged religion. We have not considered the over one billion abortions

      Mass murders by Atheistic Regimes

      61,911,000 Murdered: The Soviet Gulag State
      35,236,000 Murdered: The Communist Chinese Ant Hill
      20,946,000 Murdered: The Nazi Genocide State
      10,214,000 Murdered: The Depraved Nationalist Regime

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


      Your argument has no merit.

      To remove religion and forcibly introduce a new one in the cult of personality with Marx and Lenin is NOT to promote rational thought.

      To worship ANYONE, be they Christ or Marx or Che, or Fidel or Putin begs for abuse.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • nightsun2k7

      to Andy, so if 50% were killed by atheists, who killed the other 50%?.....hhhmmm, i'll give you a hint, it's the ones that have thou shalt not kill as one of their commandments....isn't hypocrisy great

      September 13, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Anthony

      Andy, what happened 10 years and 2 days ago?

      September 13, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • chief

      you people can polish your swords or recite statistics all you want to divert.... kids have been and will contuie to be abused at the hands of some priests... this is a problem that can be fixed... you defenders are accomplices to the crime via your denial

      September 13, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Jake

      Andy -

      The fact that you think Hitler and the Nazis were atheists shows just how misinformed you are. That view has long been discredited.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • CC

      Good reply William. Andy - What was the Vatican's policy on the Nazis?

      September 13, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • silverback

      So what you’re saying ANDY is that because Atheists’ have killed more people we should not convict or search out "religious criminals" and prosecute them because atheists have killed more. Is that correct? If not then what difference does it make who committed more crimes? Atheist, religious, white, brown, yellow, poor rich or whatever. They committed crimes, search them out and prosecute!

      September 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  5. DaveinCincy

    The catholic faithful demanded the removal and prosecution of each and every person involved.
    Pedophiles should pay for their crimes....but we are still Catholic faithful and our faith in Christ shouldn't be attacked by faceless cowards on a website. C'mon...you atheists can and should do better.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • William Demuth

      So you have called for the Popes resignation?

      If not, why not?

      It is well known he was DIRECTLY and personally involved in the cover up.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • NoReDumdlicans

      It's not just atheists that are making comments on here. And let me point out that it is the religious right that consistently and publicly voices it's negative opinion on other religions, such as Muslim, and about gays ALL the time. When the heat is put back on them they use the "this is our religion" defense to justify the hateful things they do and say. C'mon Catholics....you should know better.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • silverback

      Do better you say, than who? The high church? The lweak eaders of the high church? Do better than who?

      September 13, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • flower12

      Not an atheist, but the Catholic Church is an abomination on the face of the earth. Do some research, buddy.

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

      i think its funny to call people faceless that are disguested with so-called men of God abusing kids for 300 years....

      September 13, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • nightsun2k7

      unfortunately your religion has caused world wide hurt and opression for decades and decades and we're sick of it and its' hypocrisy....btw just because i might not be catholic don't assume i'm automatically an atheist

      September 13, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • DianeD

      Thanks for sticking up for us good Catholics!

      September 13, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  6. hippypoet

    if the MAN knew then he is at fault... being he is the dude who controls them... just like any other corp. if the ceo hires a kid touchin perv then he is at fault as well as the perv for touchin kids while at work from that point on... simply, not rocket science... oh no, did i say science!!!!

    September 13, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  7. Fair and Balanced

    Jesus would not approved of the many acts that so called "Christians" were/are doing around the world for the past 2000 years.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Tonyd0311

      Thankfully he died 2000 years ago or I MIGHT have to take into consideration how he feels.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  8. Mrs. Williams

    So those of you who are defending the priests...if this weren't the Catholic church, say some other organization that you don't belong to, would you still be defending the perpetrators? Or would you be calling for accountability and at least an INVESTIGATION of what happened?

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

      Your seem to be defending teachers (23% of abuse cases) , Social Servies 27%, family members(29%) So whats your excuse

      September 13, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • BRC

      she's not defending anyone, she's saying that everyone should be held equally accountable.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • bsitz

      How is he defending anyone? Schools, families and social workers dont have bosses who help cover up the molestation of children. Your argument is horrible.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • chief

      re andy.... of your statistics.... name the ones that have abused 100's at a time, or have been moved from one school disctrict to another,,,, or have been put in club ped facilities like the cath church has done.... all the ones you named are in jail or are part of a registered list... but no, not the the almighty ped protecting cath church.... just keep moving them...

      September 13, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Andy

      As usual more excuses for the ill informed

      September 13, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • BRC

      And what is our misinformation? I didn't attack the church (what happened is horrible, but it happens just as often in the rest fo the population), I merely pointed out that another commentor had said there should be equall protection for children enforced on all. A sentiment I agreed with.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Mrs. Williams

      The only people I am defending are the abuse victims. Those that cover up abuse need to be held accountable for perpetrating the abuse, they are almost as bad as those offending. Whether they're the Pope covering up the crimes of his priests, principals covering up abuse by teachers...mothers/fathers covering up abuse by their spouse...ALL need to be held accountable for staying silent about abuse they knew was happening.
      What is there to argue in this logic?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  9. artrain


    September 13, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  10. lanceg

    the prosecute every president and political leader as well for allowing a system of evil to survive as well.

    Total sympathy for the victims, but eventually you've got to speak with reason... not emotion. Obviously, this idea wasn't well thoughtout

    September 13, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • lanceg

      terrible sentence structure on my end, lol

      September 13, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  11. Johan

    After reading the related Rolling Stone article, I don't agree with the headline, "all perps" should be convicted and have there urethra's seared shut with a hot knife, including the Pope. Sick pigs! as time goes by more and more people that were molested are coming out, it just goes to show that people have been using religion for there own sick power, if I believed in any of this fairy tale crap I would be sure Satan resides in the Vatican.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • chris R

      Religion isn't the problem. People are the problem. People are evil regardless whether they are affiliated with religion or not.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • chief

      re chris R.... religion is made by man..... your comment is stupid and wrong

      September 13, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  12. George

    Hmm uh oh...

    September 13, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  13. PC

    Prosecute the Pope ? RIDICULOUS !! First, did ANY of the violations occur on this Pope's "watch" ? Second, would you prosecute Obama for a "war crime" commited by a soldier during the Gulf War ? I can't believe the mentality, or rather the lack of any mentality, of some people who would even suggest such an idea. Are people just so P.O'd that they blurt out nonsense such as this ?

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

      Well actually, many might put George Bush the lessor on trial for Abu Ghraib.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • claybigsby

      do some research...he did have a hand in covering up these malicious acts by relocating priests who committed these crimes so they can repeat their sick ideology. Read something other than the bible

      September 13, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • nightsun2k7

      to PC..."Prosecute the Pope ? RIDICULOUS !! First, did ANY of the violations occur on this Pope's "watch" ?"...umm, considering the crimes are still happening, i would have to say yes!

      September 13, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • pattysboi

      Most definitely prosecute benny. He's nothing but a perpetrator himself, having helped to cover up his crimes.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  14. Heidi

    Prosecution of the pope is long overdue..
    He is aiding & abetting these criminals!
    What's the hold up?!

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

      @ Heidi: OK so you want to prosecute a Pope...any Pope, just cause you think it's overdue. Are you going to charge whichever Pope you prosecute with authorizing a Crusade , or what ? Exactly what are you going to try and prosecute a Pope for, just being a Pope ? Du bist eine IDIOT, Heidi.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  15. 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?

    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 10:37 am |
  16. ConfucianScholar

    Ratzinger, the corrupt, and always the cold and calculating Cardinal and then Pope who in order to keep the image of the Church pristine, helped abscond child rapists for decades, in effect enabling their continuing victimization of the most innocent, should be Punished on the international criminal court for crimes against humanity.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  17. Frank

    @prophet – I find it most interesting that you smack your own religion in the face by declaring yourself a prophet. Is this not a sin against man/god/and religion? You are in essence a false prophet, so if I believed as you would want me to believe I would believe that following your word or wisdom will doom me to hell. Following the words of a false prophet being a cardinal sin.

    So stand on your soap box. For believers you are the devil a false prophet and a lie.

    For athiests you are just another religious whack job proving their point

    You lose on all fronts.

    You are no prophet you would of forseen your ignorance and chose a different name.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  18. DaveinCincy

    Maybe our time would be better served filing suit against Islamic leaders who knowingly and willfully allow support and applaud terrorism.
    @William DeStupid- I'm going to chalk up your tirades to schizophrenia. You should try stepping out of your shanty out in the woods and attend a church service.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • William Demuth


      Actually I live at the shore, and if I do attend a church service soon, it wont go well for the church.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • claybigsby

      thats very "christian" of you...bhahahaha

      September 13, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • DaveinCincy

      @Willy.........You're clearly psychotic...get help.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • William Demuth


      You believe in a religion with flesh eating rituals, virgin mothers, reanimated corpses and demons, and I am the wacko?

      September 13, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  19. don't delete my comment cnn

    1. The Catholic Church is not solely responsible for the criminal acts of its priest. The parents who expose their kids to these priests should be held accountable too. If parents opened their eyes to the pedophiles in their midst, we wouldn't be talking about this. Also those who continue to fund this church should be held responsible; if you have continued to give money to this church you should also be held responsible. If you are still a member of this church you too are responsible because you have said to these priests, it is o.k. to abuse children; just go ahead and move the priest to another community and let him victimize even more kids and when he can no longer do that give him immunity by sending him to the vatican where he cannot be touched by the law of the land. You have paid a blind eye to these criminal acts for centuries.

    2. In Africa priests are having affairs with married women and fathering children who end up in orphanages; they never get to know their fathers. The list of crimes committed by priests in all religions is endless, yet people continue funding these criminal organizations then turn around and cry fowl. Wake up and see the true nature of these pastors, priests etc.
    Religion is supposed to provide spiritual guidance, a kind of a service that no other organization can provide but the success rate is pathetic. If a private enterprise had the same success rate as today’s religion they would have been out of business a long time ago.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • James

      "If parents opened their eyes to the pedophiles in their midst,"

      You're an idiot even the cops have a hard time catching these people.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • don't delete my comment cnn

      Welcome to the club...

      If at all you analyzed my comment, you would see the deeper meaning to it but obviously you are just like me an idiot!

      September 13, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Chris

      "In Africa priests are having affairs with married women and fathering children who end up in orphanages; they never get to know their fathers. The list of crimes committed by priests in all religions is endless, yet people continue funding these criminal organizations then turn around and cry fowl. Wake up and see the true nature of these pastors, priests etc."

      Have you look at the other issues facing Africa? The genocide, the starvation, the wars, etc... By your shallow analogy you would blame that on the priests too.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • James

      "If at all you analyzed my comment, you would see the deeper meaning to it but obviously you are just like me an idiot!"

      Thanks for proving my assessment about you was correct.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • don't delete my comment cnn

      You ignorance is overwhelming!

      September 13, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • don't delete my comment cnn

      You have nothing else to add... right. Just another catholic idiot and enabler of the criminal acts of religion. Religion adds nothing but trouble to our world. Look around you you idiotic catholic....

      September 13, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • PC

      You seem to assert that ALL are guilty when, in fact, relatively few are. By your logic, perhaps we should prosecute all Muslims for being terrorists, or all Jews for being crooked bankers, or all whites for being slave-masters.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Peter

      "Religion is supposed to provide spiritual guidance, a kind of a service that no other organization can provide but the success rate is pathetic."

      That's why it's a multi-billion dollar industry. You're an idiot.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • Thin The Herd

      Yup, lets play blame the victim.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • carolyn

      Since you singled black priest in Africa- I thought I should point out that almost all of the priest have been white men assigned by the Catholic hierarchy raping hundred's of thousand's of children in the US, (ALASKA< NEW YORK< PHILLY, Tennessee, Texas etc) the Phillipines, Canada, Haiti, Ireland, Italy, South America Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Rumania, Georgia. the netherlands etc. Seems to me it's moslty a white man's thing.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Gort01

      wow....you are obviously not qualified to be a parent, juror or .....well go away

      September 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Lanfear

      To the original poster: Ding ding ding! We have a winner...

      Agree 100%

      September 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Lanfear

      carolyn, are you stupid? Who said anything about race? (other than you)

      September 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  20. boogietime

    Good! Good! Let the hate flow through you.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:32 am |
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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.