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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. agnostic man

    The biggest crime of religion is they steal the spirit. There is a wonder and beauty to our existence. These guys claim it is because of their owning the "true" way. They put their name on the glory of our beautiful lives. Open your heart and mind and spirit, there is no need to believe in fairy tales.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  2. Just Saying

    Just make it easy......make any organized religion an immediate capital offense.
    It is 2011 people.... why believe any of this crap?
    Just think how much nicer the planet would be without religion.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Skep

      It would be much better if we didn't go around killing people. Get rid of religion, yes, but do it gradually so no one is harmed.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  3. Veritas

    500 Years ago, almost the whole world did NOT believe that the world was round. Almost the whole world did NOT believe that the sun was the center of the solar system, but the Earth is.

    They shouted and demanded for "PROOF" of such Truth. At the time, science lacked the tools and methods to "PROVE" these truths.

    So called Atheists demand for PROOF of God's existence and scream since there are no PROOF, God must not exists.

    Before the 21st century, humanity did not know Black Holes, Dark Matter, Dark Energy existed. Since you could not see them or "PROVE" their existence before the tools became available to you, does that mean they do not exist?

    September 13, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • agnostic man

      Thanks , now I can believe in Bugs Bunny.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      and unicorns, tooth fairies and whatever.

      First grader level fallacy

      September 13, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Skep

      Veritas has been drinking the vino again.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Hey at least he gave me a capital 'A' – see if you can get there Mr. Agnostic.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Veritas

      Such clever and witty responses. Yes, the earth is flat and we are the center of the universe. Some truths are self evident and will be revealed with time.

      As a child, your view of the world was finite and absolute – hopefully this changed when you grew up and mature.

      So is humanity. We are but still in our infant stage. One small step on the moon does not equate the maturity of a specie.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Me

      (chuckles) Now that is some twisted logic. That these men have turned the mysteries of life into a business, where the goal is to manipulate the lives of others, is reason enough to reject the premise that their speculations. For an atheist to announce that he "knows" this is no god, is as silly as announcing that one "knows" there is a god.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Veritas

      @ME: Jesus was a Jew and Buddha was a Hindu. Yet none of them threw out the baby with the bath water.

      Gandhi did not seek to do away with the caste system in India, yet you look up to him and admire him as a great person. There will always be the Bad with the Good – Absolute thinking is not the way to Truth. Night exists with Day and Death with Life.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  4. Skep

    How much you wanna bet Mark Ellis is a Catholic? I would not put it past the CC to infiltrate every international lawyer association for just such an eventuality.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Can't tell if he's catholic, but he looks legit

      September 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Skep

      He's soft-pedaling the charges and trying to make it sound like nothing wrong has been done. That sounds Catholic to me!

      September 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  5. Lauren

    The problem with you people is that you take a group of evil men and women that claim to be religious and blame EVERYONE that is part of that religion for the wrong doings of only a few. It's just like in school, when 1 kid does something wrong the entire class gets punished. These people obviously do these disgusting things and use religion as a shield, but if an apple calls itself an orange isn't it still an apple? They can claim to be godly all they want, but when they commit these heinous acts they will have to answer to God on judgment day – not all of you.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Satan's half brother

      Every person that believes in God has something wrong with them. I agree, that doesn't make them evil, just delusional.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Skep

      You're trying to shuffle off the accountability to "never", which is pathetic. There is no justice after death. There is only a person's lifetime in which to hold them accountable for their crimes.
      Too many use religion to give a free pass to every crime. Your post disgusts me.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Guilt by association is not only reasonable in certain contexts, it is REQUIRED.

      Just as we learned at Nuremberg, many will claim to be innocent of collective guilt and we can judge those that truly are by how the swing on the end of the hangman’s rope,

      Almost Christian in its simplicity don't you think?

      Furthermore, I would gladly hang him myself!

      September 13, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      NOT ON THIS!!! We have laws to ensure that monsters like this and other pedophiles are punished while they are still alive.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Lauren

      I'm not saying the people guilty of the crimes shouldn't be punished here on earth for what they've done, but you can't blame every Catholic for the sins of the few that do these horrid things. That's my point. And yes, in the end, even after being punished on earth, they WILL be held accountable by GOD.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Skep

      Who's blaming every Catholic? I don't see that anywhere. Why would you say that? Did you help a priest bugger a boy or hide the evidence or something? Are you just trying to cover your ass?

      September 13, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Lauren

      Skep, Let me quote:
      "How many people have the Catholic church hurt/killed/molested."
      "So, speaking the truth against the Catholic church is "anti-Catholic?""
      So, I'd say that these people are blaming all Catholics, and the Catholic church. Now, regarding your immature comments about me helping the abusers, I sincerely hope you eat your words considering my brother has been a victim of abuse and i know first hand how it affects a child's life. I hope you can shed some of that ignorance some day. God bless!

      September 13, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  6. Satan's half brother

    Time to eradicate the Pope, the bishops and all of the parishioners. After that, lets take out all the Mormons as well.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • George Clooney

      How about getting rid of you!

      September 13, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Skep

      They all need to be investigated and charged with any crimes.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  7. Judas

    God Bless America!

    September 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Satan's half brother

      You might be better off having something real bless america instead of the tooth fairy's brother.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Judas

      Hey, the tooth fairy's brother works for me. These are very hard times my friend!

      September 13, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • agnostic man

      God 'if you exist, bless everyone not just the usa

      September 13, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Judas

      Satan Bless America
      Sponge Bob Square Pants Bless America
      Snoop Doggy Dogg bless America

      September 13, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      At least Snoop Dogg is real. I'll go with Snoop bless America.

      September 13, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  8. a2rjr

    If you go by this groups foolish logic Obama should be charged with crimes against humanity by the world court for slavery. After all he is the current President of the United States.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Yes, and we have no slaves.

      Are you claiming the buggering has stoped?

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

      They will take little boys until the cult is broken.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Were you born like that?

      September 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  9. Patti

    Lock his a$$ up and throw away the key!

    September 13, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Me

      Amen! This type of evil trash should never be free to walk the earth. When the reputation of the corporation is more important than the safety of the children of your very clients, what does that say about the respect you have for your clients?

      September 13, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
  10. Chazbo

    How anybody with an ounce of sense can believe any of the silliness put out by these religions is beyond me. How can grown people continue to believe in the tooth fairy, mother goose, jesus whoever, allah whoever. Just because you are scared of dying. Come on folks, time to grow up and come out of the dark ages.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Tony

      I do not believe in god, and acknowledge the crimes committed in the name of religion, but comments like this are silly and reductive, usually made by people with little grasp of the tenets of major religions. How much do you really know about the religions that espouse the beliefs you condemn? What does faith mean? Belief? Is faith the same as belief? You believe in the meaning of your life. Is that belief or faith? Please do not fall prey to dismissing faith on the basis of what the members of small, anti-faith groups of zealots say. People will always find ideological support for their crimes and prejudices.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  11. Neda

    This supposedly religious dress pope should be charged with a crime against huminity. It was a global crime. That he kept going for years. He knew it was wrong and hid the facts. It ruined thousands of childrens lives. He is a pig (oh darm, I shouldn't have insulted the poor pig) in a white robe. Actually there is not bad enough decribption for what this poor excuse of a pope has done.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Lulu

      Neda, I couldn't agree with you more. It is shameful that these monsters have hidden under the cloak of religion for so many years and the Vatican knew what was going on the entire time and provided all of them with a safe-haven. I hope the Pope IS prosecuted and anyone else involved in this monsterous machine called the Vatican.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  12. Frank

    Why we comfortably forget countless heinous war crimes by politicians (democratic) and rulers? It is a targeted attack on Catholic Church. If you are a critic, analyze both the good and the bad. Church has apologized for it past mistakes and has taken steps not to repeat it.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Like what?

      Leaving the most corrupt in charge?

      Threatening those who speak out?

      Buying off prosecution?

      September 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • A Theist

      Did we forget the Holocaust? Somehow I remember that there was an international trial against those who committed crimes against humanity.... This isn't a singling out, this is a call for appropriate consequence. The Church is grown up, it can handle a little roughing up.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      They apologized?

      How about turning over the evidence of abuse to the cops?

      September 13, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Skep

      They have not apologized but have only said they were sorry that it came to light and that they got caught.
      And they have done NOTHING to ensure that it won't happen again. It is still happening!
      Don't you read the news? THIS IS STILL GOING ON!!!

      September 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • sickened

      This is to Frank and all other's that think like him. You sound like the typical (Republican) blaming everyone (and this current President) for everything but never look at yourselves! God forgives but what goes on in the Catholic church is outragous! These priests (rapists) didn't care from day one when they even DECIDED to become a Catholic Priest and knew what they were doing and WHAT they wanted to do as a CP! This Pope and all Popes of past should be held accountable for RUINING the lives of innocent children! The grow up and end up being disfunctional adults and parents. When a CP gets caught, what happens? They get transferred to another church to continue his crimes on other children! It's obvious that I'm not Catholic but my vote is to abolish the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, that will only force the CP's to live overseas and abuse third world children. Oh my bad, they already do that!!! I know I sound harsh but enough is enough!

      September 13, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  13. william welch

    'BOUT TIME A SPADE IS CALLED A SPADE!

    September 13, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  14. disgusted

    so thankful that some people actually take action and bring awareness to the crimes committed in the name of God by religious leaders and their followers.. am glad this will be recorded in history instead of hidden from history..

    September 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  15. Marc Benarrous

    I hope they find him guilty but offer a class action settlement to everyone who has accused the church of wrongdoing, thereby ordering The Pope to liquidate all assets in the Vatican, so that each person would get 1/4 of a cent.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Marc

      Leave the counting to those who can.

      Just New York real estate alone makes your figure silly.

      Then we have all the art they stole from the Jews during the Holocaust, and an additional hundred billion in Gold and rare jewels.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Some tax receipts would be nice.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Skep

      You think they can just buy everyone off and get away with it scot-free? That's pathetic.
      This is not a civil suit but a criminal case. Punishment might include restltution, but prison terms is what we all need to see here.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  16. Mel

    Is churning out story after story against a religion, slurring all who belong to it, an act of incitement?

    September 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I certainly hope so!

      Why don't you Jesus freaks storm the CNN headquarters, and have your preachers bugger the reporters?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Dodee Fayed

      Weclome to ajl jajjera network!!!!

      Turn to Islam today.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • 1under

      maybe that's a sign the said religion has issues? perhaps? LOL. i don't think you ever imagined being a victim of priest molestation, and what that might feel like. this is news, and CNN is simply report it. for the most part of this article, it interviewed someone who said it's not likely to be prosecuted. did u even read the article?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Jam

      Just because some people take advance of a good name doesn't mean the whole bunch is bad. No matter what organization, charitable or not anyone can take advance for their own motives. Stop witch hunting!

      September 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Where

      Whre is your contribution to ground zero mosque.

      I took so much pains to put that article up on 9/11

      September 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • chief

      re mel ... if the catholic church or the sheep that follow it would do something about the priest ped issues, then it wouldnt be a problem.... i dont see it as an attack on Christian people, just an attack on ped priests.... i wish it was front page

      September 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Jam

      Stop witch hunting? That disrespects THOUSANDS who were killed by your cult.

      One of this rapists predecessors INVENTED witch hunting.

      It was the sport of Popes for centuries

      September 13, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • All Jajjera

      WE cover so many Christian articles

      1) Speak Christianese??
      2) Can Christianity stop pone?
      3) Ground Zero mosque
      4) Ofcourse articles on Catholic Church today.

      STOP complaining, read these articles.

      wink, wink we think you are IDIOTS....

      September 13, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Rick

      Only if those who belong to that religion take it that way

      September 13, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Me thinks you is a fake.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      that is for All Jajjera, sorry Rick

      September 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  17. Nacho1

    May as well prosecute ALL the ministers and ALL the Rabbi's along with him.........Evangelists included..............is anybody who heads a church or a religion innocent 100% of the time...............probably not!

    September 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • William Demuth

      One cult at a time my freind, one cult at a time

      September 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  18. vinny

    does this mean were also going to Mecca to round up some holy clerics just because a few nutjobs want to wear a dynamite vest and blow some innocent people up? Get a grip people. The Pope will not be going to jail, find something more productive to do with your time

    September 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Allah

      Yes.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      Yes, let's do that. Religion itself should be on trial here.

      September 13, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  19. Anton LaVey

    Good for these people....its a start. While it most likely will fail...perhaps we will see countries take matters in their hands and put a warrant out for him.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • William Demuth

      The Irish will slit his throat given half a chance!

      September 13, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • shinden

      If the Irish do that to the pope I commend them. Makes him finally pay for the sins he committed.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  20. Descarado

    CNN is going big time today with its usual anti-Catholic, anti-Christian diatribes.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Anton LaVey

      And the supporters of child r a p e are doing their part to downplay and protect the catholic church.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • 1under

      @Descarado. you fit the stereotype of a catholic/christian nutjob to a T. your little mind can't tolerate any news that's not to your liking. jeez, where did you get baptised? how many boys did you molest and got away with?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Dodee Fayed

      Weclome to ajl jajjera network

      Turn to Islam today.

      Can you contribute to the ground Zero mosque as well?

      September 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Manumission

      So, speaking the truth against the Catholic church is "anti-Catholic?" We just put Warren Jeffs in prison for life for molesting young girls. If it can be proven that the Pope, or any other high-ranking Catholic official, covered-up child abuse then they should be arrested, tried, convicted, and sent to jail.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • DianeD

      Yeah....not all of us Catholics and Christians are pedophiles or, for that matter, any other type of bad people!

      September 13, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • xtopher

      Na, just anti-child mollestation done by priests and catholic figures.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Jaub

      Don't you think it's about time to start thinking for yourself and stop defending the church rapists. How many people have the Catholic church hurt/killed/molested. All in the name of god. And people like you still defend them.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:13 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.