Trying the Pope at The Hague For Human Rights Violations – It’s About Time!


VaticanI believe that the prosecutor at The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) should investigate Catholic Church officials including Pope Benedict XVI for crimes against humanity related to the widespread systematic concealment and cover up of sexual abuse of children.

According to a statement from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR),

“There is, and has been systematic and widespread practice of concealing rape throughout the world, tolerated and enabled by the Vatican,”

These two American advocacy groups, have filed an 80-page complaint as efforts to hold the Pope and the Vatican responsible for sexual abuse committed by priests, shifting part of the culpability on the Catholic Church. We say BRAVA.

In its filing with the ICC on Tuesday, September 13, 2011, SNAP and CCR alleged that”Crimes against tens of thousands of victims, most of them children, are being covered up by officials at the highest level of the Vatican. In this case, all roads really do lead to Rome,” CCR lawyer Pam Spees said.

“The high-level officials of the Catholic church who failed to prevent and punish these criminal actions,” the complaint says, “have, to date, enjoyed absolute impunity.”

The filing, on Tuesday, cited five cases in which priests have been accused of abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the United States; the priests in these cases are from Belgium, India and the United States. When a priest is charged with child sexual abuse, it has been the policy of the Church to conceal the evidence, transfer offending priests to other states, countries, and to deny, deny, deny.

The groups asked prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo to investigate “high-level Vatican officials.” The ICC is the appropriate forum given the magnitude and global reach of the crimes, the groups wrote in a filing dated May 19. They said there’s evidence that church officials, including the pope, knew or should have known of widespread sexual violence by priests and others in the church and either ignored or concealed it.

The Vatican has said that between 2001 and 2009 there were 3,000 accusations of sexual wrongdoing by clergymen, of which 60 percent could be categorized as “same-sex,” while 30 percent were heterosexual. The remaining 10 percent concerned serious claims of abuse of minors. Priests in the U.S. represented 80 percent of those currently under investigation by the church.

Florence Olara, a spokeswoman at the court announced the prosecutor’s office would examine the papers, “as we do with all such communications” and explained the prosecutor’s office will now have “to analyze whether the alleged crimes fall under the court’s jurisdiction.”

The new complaint is set to bring the sexual abuse of children by priests to the forefront. The ICC’s decision will be scrutinized by victim’s groups and activists alike, particularly as new details showed the court had already received complaints about the Vatican and childsexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests.

Rev. Federico Lombardi, the spokesman for the Vatican, said he had no comment but Vatican officials have in the past denied the Vatican’s responsibility by insisting decisions linked to priests accused of abuse are left in the hands of bishops.

Lawyers and abuse victims for the U.S. and Europe have insisted on the need to take up actions against the Vatican during a news conference they held Tuesday, explaining the investigations and prosecutions of sexual abuse by Catholic priests that have taken place various countries would not prevent institutions insiders from continuing the crimes and cover-ups.

Two of the victims decried a system of protection of priests. “The Church simply movesthe offending priest to another school, state, or even to different countries and these pedophiles are still in ministry working with children, despite church superiors knowing about the abuse,” said one victim.

Along with Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state; Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the previous secretary of state and the current dean of the College of Cardinals; and Cardinal William J. Levada, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, have been included in the complaint.

While the court now has to determine whether the case fits the court’s jurisdiction, experts have warned the prospect of Pope Benedict XVI being tries at The Hague is unlikely.

This Bloggers Opinion:

I heartily support SNAP’s brave and courageous battle to save children from sexual abuse. Give the victims their day in court.

Accountability is the goal, and I say, the I.C.C. makes the most sense, given that it’s a global problem.

And to all you survivors out there, you are not alone.

Shari Karney, Esq.