For now, Vatican officials will not face criminal charges
ICC prosecutor may reconsider with 'new facts or information'
SNAP: “We’ll keep bringing forward proof of church complicity”
A prosecutor at the International Criminal Court has determined that, for now, no charges will be filed against top Catholic officials for “crimes against humanity.” But victims of clergy sex abuse say they’ll continue to collect evidence and “build the record” of “ongoing child sex crimes and cover ups” by bishops across the globe and are confident the ICC will eventually investigate and prosecute the church hierarchy.
In September 2011, leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and CCR, the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed a formal, 71 page complaint –– supported by more than more than 22,000 pages of supporting materials - with the ICC.
The complaint charges four Vatican prelates – Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, former Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith head Cardinal William Levada and the now-retired Pope Benedict - with “enabling and concealing sexual violence worldwide.”
In April 2012, in a separate filing, the groups submitted several thousand more pages of documentation to the ICC.
But in a two page letter, dated May 31, the prosecutor’s office says some of the alleged (offenses) do not meet the “preconditions of the court” and thus “do not appear to fall within the (court’s) jurisdiction,” though the office may reconsider this decision in light of "new facts or information." In the letter, the prosecutor suggests that SNAP also consider approaching courts in individual countries.
“We’re neither deterred nor discouraged by this news,” said Barbara Blaine of SNAP. “We are confident that the ICC will see sufficient evidence that high ranking Catholic officials are still knowingly enabling predators to harm and endanger children across the world, while concealing these heinous crimes even more effectively.”
“We are honored to represent survivors who have shown extraordinary courage for so many years," said Pam Spees, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (212-614-6431, PSpees@ccrjustice.org). "We will continue to work alongside SNAP to build the evidentiary record to bring an end to the culture of impunity that still prevails around these crimes. Ensuring there is justice for survivors and accountability for those responsible for perpetuating this abuse is critical to protect children around the world from rape and other forms of sexual violence. "
“We are heartened that no one at the world court is suggesting that somehow, the pope automatically has immunity before the ICC or that the widespread and pervasive wrongdoing we have documented isn’t serious enough to be considered by the court,” said David Clohessy of SNAP.
“From the start, we knew that some of church officials’ crimes are outside the time and jurisdictional parameters of the ICC,” said Clohessy. “But we included those crimes and cover ups in our submission because they conclusively prove how extensive are the Catholic hierarchy’s long-standing and still-prevalent practices of cover-up, priest-shifting and enabling of rape and other forms of sexual violence.”
“The Catholic hierarchy remains a powerful, secretive and largely self-serving monarchy that protects its reputation, clout and wealth instead of protecting children,” said Barbara Dorris of SNAP. “In recent years, it’s done a terrific job of talking about child safety. But it refuses to take any but the most minimal steps to actually ensure child safety. That’s why this international effort to achieve secular justice is so crucial.”
SNAP leaders say that the overwhelming majority of Catholics “live in the developing world where church officials exploit their power, wealth and other factors to hide child molesting clerics’ crimes even more than they do in the developed world.” So the group cautions against “the tempting assumption that the worst of this scandal is somehow behind us.”
Blaine notes that in May 2011, the Vatican asked all bishops to draw up internal guidelines on abuse, a move she calls “a minimal, belated and utterly ineffective response to decades of stunning scandal.” But last year, the Catholic News Service reported that “Most of the bishops around the world” had failed in even this minimal task. That includes the new pope, when he was Argentina’s highest ranking Catholic official.
“Even in the US, where the crisis erupted into public view more than 20 years ago, bishops still put proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics around kids,” said Clohessy. (See recent controversies involving Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn, Newark Archbishop John Myers and others: http://blog.nj.com/njv_guest_blog/2013/05/fugee_case_isnt_an_anomaly_in.html)
“The ICC has been around 11 years. SNAP has been around 25 years. But Catholic officials have been committing and concealing crimes against children and humanity for centuries,” said Blaine. “This always has been and will always be a long, uphill struggle. As Martin Luther King said ‘The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.’”
SNAP is represented in this effort by the Center for Constitutional Rights, a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.