Vatican: Groups ask Hague court to prosecute pope over sex abuse

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13 September 2011

last update: September 13, 15:11

The Hague, 13 Sept. (AKI) – Two groups have jointly asked the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute Pope Benedict XVI and three top Vatican officials accusing them of acts that “tolerate and enable the systematic and widespread concealing of rape and child sex crimes throughout the world.”

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and lawyers from the human rights organization the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) have submitted to the the court in the Hague an 80 page complaint as well as more than 20,000 pages of supporting materials to back up their case, the groups said on Tuesday.

“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, ” said CCR senior staff Attorney Pam Spees in a statement.

The complaint names Benedict in his current job as pontiff, as well as in the capacity of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was led the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith- the Vatican watchdog responsible for tackling sexual abuse by priests. He led the Congregation for around 25 years starting in 1981.

Also named are the former and current Vatican secretaries of state, Angelo Sodano, who held the office from 1991 to 2006, Tarcisio Bertone, who was appointed Sodano’s successor; and former archbishop of San Francisco,Cardinal William Levada who was appointed by Benedict to succeed him as Vatican Congregation prefect.

Lawyers familiar with the ICC said it was unlikely that the case would fit into its mandate of going after war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. But even an examination of the issue by the prosecution office would appear to serve the plaintiffs’ goal of getting international attention for the case, the New York Times reported.

The Vatican – which didn’t immediately comment on the case – has made historical apologies for acts of priests but defended itself by saying it could not take responsibility for such a large and decentralized global organization that relies on the decisions of local bishops for much of its administration.

The Church has been accused of covering up sex abuse by moving priests to different dioceses.


Pope accused of crimes against humanity

The Pope and top Vatican cardinals have been accused of possible crimes against humanity for sheltering guilty Catholic priests, in formal complaints to the International Criminal Court.

Belfast Telegraph

2:51PM BST 13 Sep 2011

By Our Foreign Staff

Pope accused of crimes against humanity

Pope Benedict XVI Photo: AFP/GETTY

The Centre for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based non-profit legal group, requested an ICC inquiry on behalf of the Survivors Network, arguing that the global church has maintained a “long-standing and pervasive system of sexual violence” despite promises to swiftly oust predators.

The Vatican said it had no immediate comment on the complaint.

The complaint names Pope Benedict XVI, partly in his former role as leader of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which in 2001 explicitly gained responsibility for overseeing abuse cases; Cardinal William Levada, who now leads that office; Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state under Pope John Paul II; and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who now holds that post.

Lawyers for the victims say rape, sexual violence and torture are considered a crime against humanity as described in the international treaty that spells out the court’s mandate. The complaint also accuses Vatican officials of creating policies that perpetuated the damage, constituting an attack against a civilian population.

Barbara Blaine, president of the US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by priests, said going to the court was a last resort.

“We have tried everything we could think of to get them to stop and they won’t,” she said. “If the Pope wanted to, he could take dramatic action at any time that would help protect children today and in the future, and he refuses to take the action.”

The odds against the court opening an investigation are enormous. The prosecutor has received nearly 9,000 independent proposals for inquiries since 2002, when the court was created as the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal, and has never opened a formal investigation based solely on such a request.

Instead, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has investigated crimes such as genocide, murder, rape and conscripting child soldiers in conflicts from Darfur to this year’s violence in Libya. Such cases have been referred to the court by the countries where the atrocities were perpetrated or by the UN Security Council.

Also, the Holy See is not a member state of the court, meaning prosecutors have no automatic jurisdiction there, although the complaint covers alleged abuse in countries around the world, many of which do recognise the court’s jurisdiction.

The prosecutor’s office said in a statement the evidence would be studied. “We first have to analyse whether the alleged crimes fall under the Court’s jurisdiction,” it said.

The Survivors Network and victims are pursuing the case as the abuse scandal, once dismissed as an American problem by the Vatican, intensifies around the world. Thousands of people have come forward in Ireland, Germany and elsewhere with reports of abusive priests, bishops who covered up for them and Vatican officials who moved so slowly to respond that molesters often stayed on the job for decades.

Vatican officials and church leaders elsewhere have apologised repeatedly, clarified or toughened church policies on ousting abusers and, in the US alone, paid out nearly $3 billion in settlements to victims and removed hundreds of priests.

The Vatican is fighting on multiple legal fronts in the US against lawsuits alleging the Holy See is liable for abusive priests.

Those prosecutions also could form an impediment to the ICC taking the case. The tribunal is a court of last resort, meaning it will only take cases where legal authorities elsewhere are unwilling or unable to prosecute.

Also, the court does not investigate crimes that occurred before its 2002 creation. A study commissioned by the US bishops from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York found abuse claims had peaked in the 1970s, then began declining sharply in 1985, as the bishops and society general gained awareness of the problem.

8 Responses to Vatican: Groups ask Hague court to prosecute pope over sex abuse

  1. Sylvia says:

    The second article from the Belfast Telegraph is informative in that it gives us an idea that chances of the ICC acting upon the complaint are slim. According to the article, although the sex crimes transpired in countries around the world, it may be problematic that the Vatican is not a member state of the court. Also, the court does not investigate crimes committed before the court’s creation in 2002. Regarding the latter, I don’t know then how the court would deal with allegations of present-day cover-up and protection of a priest (hence endangerment of children) if the priest was molesting and known to be a molester 10, 20 or 30 or more years ago?

    We shall see. It’s certainly worth a try.

    • JG says:

      So, let me get this straight…this is an “informative” article because it confirms that the “set-up” has gone full circle…The abuse has been on going for ever because the church used its “canon law” to justify their actions….or lack thereof.
      Now that this is all out in the open, there are limits as to what action can be taken…first the “offender” would have to be a member but there is as well a time limit beyond 2002…Our Laws have self imposed limits and that explains everything…that’s just how it is!…Pathetic!
      How about “our leaders”providing everyone with a bottle of chloroform for those moments in our lives when we would dare ask that there be no limit on our “collective conscience”…
      “They” will probably have a study on that as well and we will find out we were wrong about what our conscience “is”…”was” or should be from now on??!!
      “You can have one BUT…”

      Whatever it takes to save the next child needs to be pursued. Otherwise we are letting the “gorillas” take over our “Planet of Apes”.
      Our “evolution” is far from over.

      • Sylvia says:

        No, JG. I meant that the article is informative because it tells us what we did not learn elsewhere, specifically that there are limitations on what the court will or will not investigate and what those limits are.

        I know little about the ICC. However, if there’s a chance that it can bring to justice those in the Vatican and/or around the world who have continually and willfully put children at risk I am all for it. However, from what I read of the ICC limitations the chances are slim that it can or will do so. We can hope, but let’s not hold our breath waiting.

        • JG says:

          I know what you meant and I did not intend to question you! I was paraphrasing …and piling on!.. I don’t agree we should always accept the limitations
          that should not be tolerated or accepted. Rules and regulations should serve everyone and not the other way around. We can’t explain away or tolerate any bureaucracy that doesn’t place all its energy in protecting children. THAT is the only concern I have about any rule or limit or what we can or can’t accomplish. Our “conscience” should prevail and guide all the “rules” we will “tolerate”… Mostly the rules we are asked to believe in are handed down to us by the “people in power”(wherever!)…to protect, preserve and benefit their own…For that reason maybe more of the “established “rules are meant to be broken…
          When anyone says “We can’t do it!” the only reply should be: “WHY?”
          Wear “them” down as they are trying to do it to the victims. All “conscience” and a lot less “report writing”…and excuses.
          That’s all.

          • Sylvia says:

            Understood JG. Perhaps, despite all restrictions regulations, we’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that the ICC will take a sniff at the complaint?

  2. prima facie says:

    These crimes conspired and committed against human beings are so heinous and severe in nature, that many of the faithful are simply unable to accept them as fact. These “devoted faithful” followers, unfortunately and unknowingly, become major enablers to the accused and “their agents“. While attempting to confront the “abuse” and become an activist for victims, many of the “devoted faithful” begin to question their own belief system. They feel shame and guilt for “questioning”. “The devoted” vigorously attempt to preserve their own faith and their own belief system.
    In as far as challenging “their system” and “the Church”, the “devoted faithful” will only go so far and then retreat or pray for divine intervention. They intellectually rationalize and explain away the abuses and cover-ups, asserting they will pray and wait for reports or inquiries to conclude, expecting-but not really expecting, that the problems will be remedied by the “powers that be“ or God. “The devoted faithful” say they want facts revealed but, depending on the facts, maybe they really don’t. They feel they are betraying God and their “Church”. “The devoted” cannot allow themselves to even think that their “system” is broken. As an analogy, at some point you could actually wave a red flag in front of their faces and they would swear it was white.

    God has not committed heinous and despicable crimes against human beings, nor has God designed cover-ups….The “will” of man has. Man has also chosen to provide loopholes so that heinous crimes can be conspired and designed and acted upon with impunity…..out of the reach of many courts or even World Courts.

    Relating to the “Church”, man has chosen a method to follow when managing allegations of sexual abuse. Many of the “devoted faithful” have chosen to pray and hope that everything works out well. Other people have chosen other methods to express their cries for justice. Some people view each others approaches to be too moderate, too indifferent or too extreme. Some people believe that those “devoted faithful” who want to wait and see are actually denying themselves the right to see or refuse to look at what is directly in front of them already.
    I am certain of one thing. That is, for decades now, there have been allegations of widespread sexual abuse in various “Religions”. For some reason, more and more horror stories of sexual abuse, exploitation and cover-up are being told. World opinion strongly supports the belief of cover-ups leading to the highest levels.
    I thank God for giving me the “will to choose” and I give Thanks to God that my choices in life, although giving me some hardship, have been positive and helpful to most of the people I have met.

  3. Sylvia says:

    You are right prima facie in that those who refuse to accept the reality of clerical sex abuse and accompanying cover-ups become enablers. Why they become enablers I have no idea. I spend countless hours trying to understand and always fall short.

    I acknowledge that I personally did a lot of soul searching before I posted the data base of “Accused.” My concern was that rather than helping rectify the sex abuse problems in the Church I would be providing information which could lead Catholics to wash their hands of the Church. I know that many do not understand this, but I can not imagine life without the Sacraments of the Church and have no wish to drive people away from them. However, I concluded that I could not sit on information which might protect children from recycled molesters while simultaneously and hopefully educating the public as to the magnitude of the problem and the damage done to every child who falls prey to a clerical molester.

    You say that “Many of the ‘devoted faithful’ have chosen to pray and hope that everything works out well. Other people have chosen other methods to express their cries for justice. Some people view each others approaches to be too moderate, too indifferent or too extreme. “

    Very true. It all comes down to tactics doesn’t it? Most agree on the problem but will diverge when it comes to solutions and tactics.

    I think there is room for a variety of tactics. Each serves a purpose and hopefully takes us closer to seeing justice done.

    I think that each of us probably has a tactical line which we will not cross. I have mine. You probably have yours. Others have theirs. But barring crossing those lines there is no reason we can not fight the good fight side by side as best we know how.

    I have said over the years that this horror of clerical child sex abuse is like a huge octopus with multiple tentacles. It truly is. There is the manner in which Church officials have covered up for , protected and recycled known molesters. There is the kid gloves treatment awarded molesters by the judiciary. There are the legislators who fail to enact laws which reflect the horror of child sex abuse. There are law enforcement officials who still do not understand the adult victim who finally summons the courage to come forward. There are the defence lawyers whose end-justifies-the-means-defences are permissible in defending the indefensible. There is the issue of convicted child molesters roaming the streets, their past unknown to neighbours, parents and children. There is the dearth of understanding in the general populace of the devastating and long-term impact of clerical sexual abuse.

    We have a problem. It is impossible to get into this issue of clerical sex abuse, follow cases through the courts and read media coverage and legal documents without realizing that we live in a society which is at the very least ‘soft’ on all molesters and, as unbelievable as it once would have been, at times even championing their rights.

    Perhaps I err in saying “society”? Did we collectively choose this? I would like to think not and that, rather, it was imposed upon us? I suppose we could argue that one out?

    Anyway, here we are.

    As you say, more and more horror stories are coming to the fore world-wide. I see that as a good. Not only is it usually a positive step for the victim, it is only by victims courageously speaking out that we can grasp the magnitude of the horror and accompanying cover-up (s). Slowly but surely we can all put the pieces together to understand how both the Roman Catholic Church and a presumably civilized society have come to this. And slowly but surely, and by the grace of God, we will find ways to ensure that children are as safe as is humanly possible and that the sex abuse of a child is viewed at all levels as the perversion and horror that it is.

    How do we get there? That’s the question we all struggle with. Where is the jugular on this beast? Where is it, and how do we strike it?

  4. JG says:

    …quote from above:….”The Vatican – which didn’t immediately comment on the case – has made historical apologies for acts of priests but defended itself by saying it could not take responsibility for such a large and decentralized global organization that relies on the decisions of local bishops for much of its administration.”…

    Am I reading this right??…”The Vatican” no longer runs the “one and only” church…we are now conveniently “decentralized” and “relies on decisions of bishops”…and now it is a question of “administration”…so it is no longer about Heaven and earth, good and evil, salvation, generosity, humility, …and so on!
    It is plainly about “administering” the “organization”…

    The spirit seems to have walked out of the building and the “beast” is showing its “jugular”, very close to the “head”, as usual… The representatives(sic) of Christ “cannot take responsibility”… Think about this one!….
    Can “they” sink any lower??…or are they still just repeating, again, 2000 years after:
    “We do not know HIM!”

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