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September 13th, 2011
07:22 AM ET

Sex abuse victims ask International Criminal Court to prosecute pope

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN) - Victims of abuse by Catholic priests asked the International Criminal Court to charge Pope Benedict XVI and other top Vatican officials with crimes against humanity, a victims' group announced Tuesday.

The pope and other church leaders "tolerate and enable the systematic and widespread concealing of rape and child sex crimes throughout the world," the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a joint statement.

They filed more than 20,000 pages of documents with the international court in the Netherlands to support their charges, they said.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told CNN he was aware of the filing but had no comment.

The International Criminal Court did not immediately respond to a CNN question about whether it believed it had jurisdiction to prosecute the pope.

But Barbara Dorris, the president of SNAP, said it was the natural venue for the case.

"We are convinced this is the proper jurisdiction," she told CNN. "Who else can investigate violent crimes of a global magnitude? The ICC was created to deal with widespread systematic violent crimes against humanity."

The executive director of the International Bar Association, on the other hand, said it was unlikely the international court would find there was evidence of crimes against humanity.

"This requires a government policy, a plan, a widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population," Mark Ellis said.

"Not to suggest that victims were not harmed, but to meet the level of crimes against humanity you really have to show that there is a policy or a plan to initiate this," he said.

People can be held responsible for crimes if they knew - or should have known - they were occurring, Ellis said.

But the blind eye victims accuse the Catholic Church of turning to abuse of children by priests does not rise to the level of crimes against humanity, he suggested.

"They are crimes and they are serious, but within the jurisdiction of the ICC you have to be very specific. I don't see that you would be able to tick the boxes necessary" to bring a prosecution, he predicted.

That the defendant is the pope - along with three senior cardinals - also raises "jurisdictional hurdles," he said.

But simply filing the request will force the prosecutor to look at the case, Ellis said.

It "might be beneficial to the plaintiffs to force the court to respond," he said, saying the filing was more than just a publicity stunt.

"It raises the profile of these issues," he said.

In addition to the pope, SNAP and the CCF want prosecutions of Cardinal William Levada, the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State; and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Dean of the College of Cardinals.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI • Sex abuse • Vatican

soundoff (1,157 Responses)
  1. Burbank

    Having also been a victim of priestly pedophile abuse I think this is the best idea I have heard! I guess they think it must be OK because the 10 commandments don't mention anything about "Thall shalt not covet thy parishoner's child." On top of everything else, the Church still promotes the BIG LIE (isn't lying supposed to be a sin too?).

    The truth about the BIG LIE is that Mary was not a virgin., That was decreed by political decision at the Council of Nicea and has been promoted as the "gospel truth" ever since! It was all done to control and oppress women.

    Protestant churches without knowing any better picked up the lie and spread it. Now with modern communication they do know better but still continue to spread the BIG LIE anyway! Why anyone would want to belong to a manipulating, controlling, LYING Christian Church, especially women, is beyond me

    Evil! Evil! Evil! In the name of good. I hope they all rot in Hell right next to the Lawyers!

    September 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Thor

      The really big lie is that Martin Luther and Calvin compounded the Papal big lie even further. They refuted the basis for Catholicism yet continued to perpetuate the worship of a God that is still based in mysticism. ALL religion is simply a means to control the masses ......

      September 13, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  2. vinny

    You have a better chance of Al Sharpton being elected President than you do of an indictment against the head of the Church. Not only is he head of a sovereign nation, but doing so would set off a tremendous amount of violence. I think we have enough of that going on. Its not the Pope's fault that some people take the cloth who are clearly not fit for it. After all, these are human beings and humans are imperfect and sometimes terrible. Trying to go after the Pope would be suicide

    September 13, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Your probably correct, but we can always hope for assasination.

      They usually die at the hands of the faithfull.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      From what the lawyers are saying it doesn't have a prayer.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • fred

      The Catholic church and others have done real damage to innocent lives, some of which were actually seeking God. However, the truth always prevails and God turns this evil into good for those who believe. The Bible reveals the truth about God and how the church of Christ is to reflect the glory of God. The Pope must know this yet has not taken the steps to put Catholic Churches right. That speaks volumns. I know the Bible says that if these bad priests repent

      September 13, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Lee Anne

      It's not that the pope committed the abuse. It's that he covered it up and let priests go on abusing children by not removing them from positions where they had access to children. These priests should be prosecuted.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  3. steve basler

    So how many of y'all just hate the papists and now you can justify it? What other groups of people do you hate? I am not catholic.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      checking......checking......No I don't hate them even though they haven't been too nice to my subgroup over the centuries. I think they need to turn over evidence they have on the abusers for prosecution though. They just can't seem to do that though, can they?

      In the mean time I will allow myself to have a little fun with it.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Turning Texas Blue

      {a hand is raised over here...} and I didn't need this headline to justify it. If there is any obvious case of insidious corruption of power it is the perversion of the Catholic "church". Martin Luther is my hero. How do destroy a strong, but erroneous symbol? Same as the Berlin wall, one or two bricks at a time.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  4. AGuest9

    Thin the Herd. I wonder about the wedding at Cana. Why did Jesus feature so prominently? Was it actually Jesus' wedding, slightly edited? Also, how did Mary know that Jesus could make wine appear? Did he regularly perform these tricks at home?

    September 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      His 1st and greatest miracle.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Ali Honger

      I wonder if the paint chips you ate as a child still cause you to hallucinate? Or was it all the glue you sniffed in school"

      Just wonder'n...

      September 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Paint chips and glue? Let's talk about the opiates that "John" was likely on when he dreamed up "Revelation"

      September 13, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  5. diggadubdbu

    I don't believe in stories that are made up. Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and your beloved god. Lets get this clear! I don't appreciate people sticking up for people who touch little kids. It is unacceptable and they should be punished for there crimes. People take there kids to there schools and it's not safe. Parents shouldn't have to worry about a person of trust violating there rights. LOCK EM ALL UP AND THROW AWAY THE KEY!

    September 13, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Thor

      Do not you believe in me?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Lisa

      Believing in God and accepting this horror of the Catholic church are two quite separate things. Don't try to equate all this will everyone who believes in God.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Thor

      Catholics? Only Catholics were bad? Wait.... what about the Hugonots?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  6. Mike Wiggins

    As long as the Pope stays in Vatican, which is a sovereign nation, no one can touch him (except for our Navy SEALS, of course!).

    And this behavior has been going on for CENTURIES!! Only now, in the Information Age, are their shenanigans being uprooted and broadcast worldwide. Yes, this means that even John Paul II, a pontiff I highly admired, HAD to know this was going on.

    With any luck, the Catholic Church will eventually collapse under the weight of ITS sins.....both past and present.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  7. Turning Texas Blue

    I didn't make this up, I cut and pasted it – – Matthew 23:9 "And call no one your ‘father’ on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.... & FYI, I recommend reading the entire chapter – – especially if you think Jesus was some ole "softy".

    September 13, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      It's all fairy tales, but I like your moniker.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Turning Texas Blue

      Thanks, SCA. Feeling pretty bummed, and hopeless right now, though.....

      September 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Tough job, but somebody needs to do it (I'll be 6' under)

      September 13, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • Thor

      ...but you copied it from a bible. ... not original text!

      September 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  8. ThePopesD1ck

    By Sharon Olds

    It hangs deep in his robes, a delicate
    clapper at the center of a bell.
    It moves when he moves, a ghostly fish in a
    halo of silver sweaweed, the hair
    swaying in the dark and the heat - and at night
    while his eyes sleep, it stands up
    in praise of God.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Turning Texas Blue

      (fingersnaps) Lol!

      September 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Tina

      Well-written poem. I couldn't have said it better.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • hilarious

      hahaha!

      September 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  9. jordan

    I agree that they should be held accountable for these crimes and they should also be forced to open their secret world war two archives.they have denied entrance to these archives and for good reasons for them !!!
    google yugoslavia and the church in world war two for one example.
    google the church and escaping nazi war criminals for reason two
    google the church's silence in world war two as my relatives were gassed in auschwitz and millions of christians were imprisoned as well as other religions,peoples,etc.

    The Church is nothing to me but a business of HATE !!! For 1500 years they have put others down and I say it is time for them to answer for their crimes and sins against humanity.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Ali Honger

      Too true. The church is bloodguilty beyond belief.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  10. smukers

    Finally, finally, the people are awakening to the fact the Pope is just another ordinary man, capable of crimes against humanity, and not some sky daddy descendant.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      The wonderful popes have a rich history of mass murder and other crimes.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  11. Carmen

    Why should the Catholic Church not be held accountable for its crimes? Raping children is not a “sin”; it is a felony!

    September 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • boogietime

      First, the Pope himself is not accused of this. Second, he is a head of state and has diplomatic immunity unless the International Court wants to call this a crime against humanity, which it will not as they would have to prove that these preistal abuses were explicitly condoned and encouraged.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Religious sects

      The Pope doesn't need to have molested the children, anyone who knowingly covers up a crime &/or protected a criminal IS guilty of a crime. Diplomatic immunity is a crock O'Shyte for ANY head of ANY state.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  12. chef dugan

    The Pope is an anachronism at best and an enabler of child abuse at worst. The catholic church is disgusting and evil and it should be abolished. But then, what would replace its easy ticket to heaven with confession then sin, or is it sin and then confesssion. Either way, it doesn't make any sense.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  13. boogietime

    Unless this is construed as a crime against humanity (which is a stretch) then the international court has no legal jurisdiction in the matter and the Pope can deal with his own court, God.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Like Osama got judged by Allah?

      Send in a hit team, do it quiet, and blame either the Jews or Muslims.

      Stir up the pot pretty good I bet!

      September 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  14. destruk

    NATO will be bombing the vatican, and the Pope is charged with "crimes against humanity'

    September 13, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • boogietime

      NATO? Unlikely. Italy would not cooperate and allow the use of their airspace.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • chef dugan

      Now that's a great idea! How do we get NATO interested?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Can I get some of those jewels first?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • AGuest9

      @chef – Tell NATO that there is sweet, light crude under the Vatican, and they aren't letting Italy have it. That's what happened to Libya.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  15. ron

    I don't know why. They always have referred to "Vatican City" as a country within a country. Then treat them as such. Nearly every one of these dozens of articles has said that the abuse was common knowledge at many levels within the church. ie moving problem priests from parish to parish, or re assigning them to 'other' duties. And, there is credible evidence that several recent popes were aware of wide spread problems, BEFORE these world wide criminal complaints were made.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      It is a sovereign country – you didn't know that?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Eclipser

      Wow.. Really... Get a map! It IS A COUNTRY.. It even has it's own money...

      September 13, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • AGuest9

      It's actually what's left of the ancient Roman Empire.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  16. Dodee Fayed

    Ah yes, back to the all jazeira network for some real news and views about religion.

    People turn to Islam TODAY!

    September 13, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      You win the prize – the greatest fairy tale on the planet. Thanks for your contribution to world peace.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Why

      Sure, tell me how I can contribute to the ground zero mosque.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Sure, Why. Here, wear this heavy belt and this big jacket. Now, pull THIS when you get inside.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  17. CK

    It's tough to penetrate the hallways and privelege of patriarchal power, so I wish these folks luck in finding justice. The wealth, untouchability, and status bestowed upon the corporate, military, political, and religious leaders in this world are quite breathtaking and dangerous, as "power corrupts," so I applaud these folks' efforts to address the deep, dark corruption of the Catholic machine.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  18. Truth

    The Catholic Church is not christian and never has been. It's a counterfeit of Christianity. And most protestant churches follow in their harlot mother's footsteps. Babylon the mother of harlots Revelation 17; anitichrist of Thessalonians that's the system of catholicism. There are good people in that church and God says: "Come OUT OF HER MY PEOPLE!"

    September 13, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      So old Johnny boy came to you in a dream, and told you he was referring to Catholics?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • AMAU

      All Jesus believers share the same false premise and belief. To try to distinguish one flavor of falsehood from another is a waste of time.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Eclipser

      It must be hard to know that the first christians are the catholics. They believe that Christ is the son of God so well hate to break it to you but that is all it takes to be a Christian. Everything else is simply secular dogma.. Baptist, Evangelical, Catholic.. all Christian.. Different Secs and dogma..

      September 13, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Actually, the first christians were, well, jews. There are passages in the Acts of the Apostles of how the process of admitting gentiles into the church would proceed.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  19. Thor

    Well, I think man will use whatever history he wants. Let him perish as he chooses. However, in the "christian" bible, it is said that this man, Jesus Christ, found vendors in the temple. This man Christ went off and fashioned a whip made of cord, returned to the temple, and drove the merchants out. ..... all of them. ... one man. Now, the point is not so much that Mr Christ was a brave and strong man with a streak of violence, but, that man can be held accountable for his transgressions here on Earth. Although Mr Christ states that he can be forgiving and can forgive souls to enter heaven, however, give to Caeser what is Caeser's... not just the coin, but his due. In other words, if man commits a crime against the state, he must pay the state what is due. Let the charges be filed against the church officials and let the accountability fall on the shoulders where they must....

    September 13, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • correction

      It's not MR. CHRIST. Christ is not His last name.

      He did not drive out the vendors because they were simply selling the animals to be sacrificed in the temple. He drove them out because they were in the outer corridor of the temple (the proper name for this location escapes me at the moment) and this is where the poor were to come and worship. By the vendors being there it prevented them from coming to worship and guaranteed that only the wealthy had access to God. They were also gouging people when exchanging money and over-pricing their wares, but primarily they were preventing all who wanted to worship from doing so.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • AGuest9

      This is different than selling tickets through Ticketmaster for the High Holy Days services?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  20. thes33k3r

    Good. Read 'The Case of the Pope' by G. Robertson.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.