RSS
Catholic priests and child abuse: Time to prosecute the Pope?
Victims' advocates charge that the Vatican is guilty of crimes against humanity. Is there any chance the International Criminal Court will get involved?
 
Human rights activist are calling for criminal action against Pope Benedict XVI for the Catholic church's history of child abuse.
Human rights activist are calling for criminal action against Pope Benedict XVI for the Catholic church's history of child abuse.
Alessandra Benedetti/Corbis

Human rights lawyers are asking the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute Pope Benedict XVI and three other Vatican officials for crimes against humanity, saying they covered up "long-standing and pervasive" sexual violence against children. The Vatican's U.S. lawyer called the complaint — filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) — "a ludicrous publicity stunt." Is it — or could Vatican officials really be prosecuted?

This is offensive to the Vatican and to victims: The ICC was established to handle genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, says Michael Sean Winters in the National Catholic Reporter. "Does anyone really believe the analogy between Pope Benedict and Slobodan Milosevic holds water?" The hierarchy's coverup was shameful, but equating that with real crimes against humanity, such as the slaughter at Srebrenica, is "outrageous."
"Shame on SNAP's lawyers"

This actually isn't as crazy as it sounds: SNAP isn't the only group that wants Vatican leaders punished, says Nick Jardine at Business Insider. The ICC has received 9,000 requests for an inquiry into the abuse scandal. Most legal observers think it's a longshot, as the Vatican isn't even a member state of the court, but the ICC could decide it has jurisdiction "since the abuse occurred in countries around the world."
"Pope accused of crimes against humanity by sex abuse victims"

This is nothing but a publicity stunt. And it worked: I don't believe the "abuse scandals constitute a 'widespread or systemic attack directed at a civilian population,'" says Julian Ku at Opinio Juris. But it hardly matters. The Center for Constitutional Rights lawyers are "very good" — and while they'd have to be miracle workers to get convince the ICC to get involved, they've already won plenty of media coverage and public awareness, which is probably what they really wanted anyway.
"Can the Vatican be subject to ICC prosecution?"

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week