Clergy Sex Abuse Victims File International Court Case Against Pope
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Clergy sex abuse victims upset that no high-ranking Roman Catholic leaders have been prosecuted for sheltering guilty priests went to the International Criminal Court on Tuesday, seeking an investigation of the pope and top Vatican cardinals for possible crimes against humanity.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based nonprofit legal group, requested the inquiry on behalf of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, arguing that the global church [cult] has maintained a "long-standing and pervasive system of sexual violence" despite promises to swiftly oust predators.
The Vatican's U.S. lawyer, Jeffrey Lena, called the complaint a "ludicrous publicity stunt and a misuse of international judicial processes" in a statement to The Associated Press.
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.
Attorneys 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 U.S.-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 told The Associated Press. "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 U.N. 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 recognize the court's jurisdiction.
"Politically, people do not want to look at this," said Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pam Spees before walking to the court with victims to hand prosecutors boxes full of documents.
But Spees conceded she was "not hopeful" the court would launch an investigation.
The prosecutor's office said in a statement the evidence would be studied. "We first have to analyze whether the alleged crimes fall under the Court's jurisdiction," it said.
Attorneys for the Survivors Network argued that no other national entity exists that will prosecute high-level Vatican officials who failed to protect children.
In the U.S., no Roman Catholic bishop has been criminally charged for keeping accused clergy in parish jobs without warning parents or police. Within the church [cult], only the pope can discipline bishops. The few who have been publicly punished by the Vatican have been sanctioned for molesting children, not for negligence in supervising priests.
"When a church [cult] has been left to its own devices it does nothing. It wouldn't even have the reforms it has now if these cases hadn't begun to bubble up and erupt in the public outside the confines of what the church [cult] can control," said Spees.
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. [This is because they are mostly all homosexuals and are behind the homosexual agenda and same-sex marriage movements world-wide.]
Vatican officials and church [cult] leaders elsewhere have apologized repeatedly, clarified or toughened church [cult] policies on ousting abusers and, in the U.S. alone, paid out nearly $3 billion in settlements to victims and removed hundreds of priests. Bishops insist they fully grasp the devastation that molestation causes to victims and the limits that dioceses must impose on abusive clergy.
However, the scandal is far from resolved.
The Vatican is fighting on multiple legal fronts in the U.S. against lawsuits alleging the Holy See is liable for abusive priests. Just last month, the Vatican was forced to turn over internal personnel files of an abusive priest to lawyers representing a victim in Oregon.
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 doesn't investigate crimes that occurred before its 2002 creation. A study commissioned by the U.S. 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.
But Blaine said the abuse continues and she wants church [cult] leaders to face justice.
"These priests and church [cult] officials live by some other law," she said. "Somehow they're not held accountable like every other citizen of a nation. That would be horrific in and of itself but what must end is shattering the innocence of even one more child."
Comments by Pastor Alamo:
The government should take all of the children of those whose parents allow them to go to those churches (cult compounds) and put them in foster care. Also, put sex-offender signs on all of their properties. Sell all the parents’ properties, all of their church (cult compound) properties and close them down. The Vatican is the Nazi, communist, socialist parties who’ve been attacking us and our church when we are absolutely innocent.
The federal government headed by the Vatican gave me 175 years in prison for something I DID NOT do. The Vatican is busy trumping up false charges on pastors of powerful protestant churches. They want to destroy all churches that are not Catholic.
We should do unto them as they have done to us.
As I said, they have sent me to prison for 175 years, I’m 77 years old, blind, with heart trouble and diabetes. They are selling all of the property of our church members. They have taken our children and are hunting the ones who are hiding from them.
So they say people who have been in our church must leave the church and their homes or they will adopt their children out to others. What is good for us and other protestant churches doesn’t seem to be good for Catholics. The children of people who let their Catholic children go to that child-molesting, homosexual cult should be adopted out; the child-molesting priests must all be given 175 year sentences. All Catholic cult compounds must be sold, and sex-offender signs posted on their front and back doors. No one is above the LAW! The Pope and all Cardinals must all be jailed along with the priests! What’s good for us must be good for them, however, they are guilty and we are NOT! They are a CULT, we are NOT!
Center for Constitutional Rights: http://ccrjustice.org/
Zoll reported from New York. Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield contributed to this report from Rome.