Abuse victims accuse pope, Vatican officials of crimes against humanity
Pope Benedict XVI appears at a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in Plebiscito square in Ancona, Italy, on Sunday.
September 13th, 2011
07:27 AM ET

Abuse victims accuse pope, Vatican officials of crimes against humanity

[Updated at 8:40 a.m. ET] 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," said the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and the Center for Constitutional Rights 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.


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Filed under: Church Abuse • Religion • Vatican
soundoff (207 Responses)
  1. Lol...lol

    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’s, 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.
    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 8:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Benjamin

      The parents should be held accountable even when they did not know that the recently transferred priest was taken from his old parish because he was molesting children? Remember the church is out to protect its own image first, and deal with the victims later.

      September 13, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      These crimes do occur but keep everything in context. If 1% or 2% of Priests are corrupt that does not describe an entire church.

      September 13, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Tkenley

      Too bad I can't meet you in person. I have never read an article so accurate, you said it all. Great job! You should "POST" it on every media out there. I commend you for responding in such a brave manner.

      September 13, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
    • jjb1313

      wow, where to start with this trash you posted. so by your logic every tax paying American should be held accountable for those on welfare who commit a crime, we are in fact supporting the govt by paying taxes... this is an individual issue with some burdern being held by thos who supervise dioceses once they knew there was a problem. just because one moronic person commits a crime you can not hold all those associated with them responsible, for if that were the case you would be in jail assuredly...

      September 13, 2011 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Lol...lol

      @Tkenley...thanks. I hope we all re-examine our position on these issues, stop excusing this organizations and take responsibility for our actions. These religions have been given too much power; time to take this power back!

      September 13, 2011 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Lol...lol


      Thinking people would anlyze my comments and see the deeper meaning. Perhaps you may need to read it twice or even three times to get it.

      September 13, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
    • HA25

      @jjb1313 you cannot extend an argument against a voluntary private organization to the gov't. People don't have the (practical) choice to not belong to a gov't; pay taxes.
      Better comparisons are to KKK, Westboro Baptist Church, a Fraternity or maybe the Boy Scouts. People do vote with their attendance and pocketbooks and continued participation, without active efforts for change, is tacit approval for the actions of the groups leaders.

      September 13, 2011 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mr. Stiles

    The Catholic church has committed more crimes against humanity than most dictators have. If we're going to bring them down why not cite their history of violence, abuse, and corruption dating back 1000 years.

    September 13, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      When 99% of a people are good and 1% are bad whether talking about Priests or Police Officers or others is not a fair evaluation of an entire group. I personally grew up in Philadelphia with a large Catholic population and we as a general were taught Christian values and had significantly lower crime rates and performed well in the community compared to the children that went to Public school.

      September 13, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      I'm with you, CJ

      September 13, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. duke5343

    Follow the MONEY

    September 13, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • SCAtheist

      I really think that's it. It's not going to the poor they pretend to protect. They don't pay taxes.... sounds like a good gig to me.

      September 13, 2011 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      DUKE sucks

      September 13, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  4. mahdeealoo

    About time!!!

    September 13, 2011 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. SCAtheist

    The humble Pope........who lives in the Vatican

    September 13, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  6. Brad

    Who cares, F the church and F it's followers!

    September 13, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  7. Allie

    This isn't right vs. Left, democrat vs. Rebuli an. If the ICC finds it in the Jurastricion and evidence can be shown, than it should be tried. If not it shouldn't simple as that. Since when does Obama and bush have a thing to do with this, grow up people. If don't like something try and change it.

    September 13, 2011 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  8. orangey

    Many of you saying mean things about the church sound like mormons. Mormons or scientologist.

    September 13, 2011 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  9. abcdef12345

    Shut down the Vatican, the most criminal organization in the world. The abuse of power at the Vatican makes the US Senate look like members of the Amish community.

    September 13, 2011 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      You are very intellectual. NOT!

      September 13, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      I see much bigger criminals outside the Catholic Church. Our Country has a large Catholic Population and we have had 1 Catholic President and he was Assasinated and 5 short years later his brother was very close to getting elected and he was assassinated as well. There has always been a large Anti-Catholic setiment in the United States. The 1% of Priests who did these horrific things should be punished but do not judge and entire church.

      September 13, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
    • whitesox1


      September 13, 2011 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. Just Me

    Oh yes... lets single out the Catholic Church for crimes against Humanity. While you're at it, why not attack every world power through out history. It's amazing how many autrocities are overlooked or forgotten or simply re-written by the victor. I'm not dismissing the crimes by individuals, or the cover-ups by those in power. It's just that people are niave to think this sort of thing doesn't exist or occur in any governing power.

    September 13, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
  11. Epidi

    The burning times of the witch trials, systematic enslavement/genocide of Native Americans, and the Inquisition come to mind of Catholic church backed crimes. However, not all Catholics should be lumped into this mess. There are some very fine priests and nuns out there. This coming from a Pagan like me. If your child has become fearful or withdrawn, you need to find out why and get to the bottom of it. Talk to your children – don't just assume life is a field of flowers and carefree for them!

    September 13, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Allie

      You have an excellent point. It is also there parents responseabilty too. Every organization has a dew bad apples.

      September 13, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. joe zummo

    Follow the duct tape....

    September 13, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. Kazan

    Religion is man-made . All religions must be forbidden, religions killed more people than drugs.

    September 13, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Where did you come up with that statistic?

      September 13, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Epidi

      Sounds a bit like Mao Tse Tung, hmm?

      September 13, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  14. Chaos

    >>>what about the DNC? They owned slaves why are not the great grandchildren of slaves suing them?<<<

    Uh, U.S. history 101: Democrats back then were anti federalist conservatives and Republicans the opposite. The roles reversed since then. Did you miss that day at school? So by you comment, conservatives owned the slaves. Also, child molestation victims are not descendants. They are direct living victims. Boy, you are REALLY bad at analyzing issues.

    September 13, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  15. john doe

    The catholic religion is real deal. Everyone who is catholic will be saved.....

    September 13, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
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