"Regarding the ICC, chin up!"

Two words of advice to anyone who might feel down about the news about our International Criminal Court complaint: “Chin up.”

This is a bump in the road. It’s far, far, far from the end of the road.

The ICC isn’t like US courts. We can, have and will go back to the ICC, submitting more and more proof, for however long it takes. At any point, the prosecutor can say “Now, we’re opening an investigation.” We are still very confident that, at some point, this will happen.


At the beginning of this historic, uphill struggle, when we filed the case (along with the superb attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights), we said over and over again that this would be a long-term effort, that we’d be back time and time again with more and more evidence, that the court couldn’t take action on crimes before 2002, that much of our documentation is designed to show a long-standing pattern of protecting predators and hurting children. . . .

The Associated Press notes that “the odds against the court opening an investigation have been enormous. (The ICC) prosecutor has received more than 9,700 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.

We would add, however, three things

--that the harm being done by the Catholic hierarchy is also “enormous” and

--that the ICC has likely never been asked to investigate a global monarchy like the church, and

--that the history of this movement has been riddled with developments that were often preceded with the word “never.” (Never before 2002 was a set of bishops compelled to adopt a nationwide abuse policy. Never before 1997 did jurors award $119 million in a clergy sex abuse and cover up case. Never before 2012 was a US bishop criminally convicted of concealing child sex crimes. Never before 2002 was a bishop forced to post names of credibly accused child molesting clerics on his website. Never before 2003 was a civil ‘window’ opened that let victims abused at any time expose their perpetrators in court. Never before 2011 did a nation’s prime minister publicly denounce top Catholic officials. Never before yesterday did a pope admit “corruption” in the highest levels of the Vatican.)

Twenty one year old Megan Peterson of Minnesota is one brave survivor whose experiences are recounted in our ICC complaint. (Her perpetrator fled overseas to escape prosecution and is now wanted by Interpol. When he made it back to India, his bishop put him in charge of overseeing schools.)

Here’s what she said in 2001 when we filed the ICC complaint and when Megan spoke publicly of her abuse for the first time:

"When at age 15 I called the diocese to report the rapes they hung up on me."

She called on the ICC to "take this case seriously and do the right thing.

"I don’t want any more kids to go through what I went through," she said.

Here’s what Megan says today about the ICC case:

“We survivors are resilient. We take the long view. We know the institution that enables and conceals these horrors is ancient and well-entrenched while the institutions that can investigate and expose these horrors are relatively new and somewhat overwhelmed. And that’s why we will keep pushing.”

So again, this is just “round one” of a long fight. And there are other arenas, nationally and internationally, where we can pursue justice, prevent crimes and expose cover ups. We’ll certainly pursue those as well.

Finally, please be reminded that through this effort, we

--are reaching hundreds of survivors across the globe, most of whom previously felt dreadfully alone.

--have started and are starting support groups in more countries.

--have held and are holding Skype support meetings for isolated survivors scattered across the planet.

--are reaching millions of Catholics, many of whom are slowly beginning to “re-frame” this on-going crisis in a more accurate way – as a truly “from the top down” pattern of recklessness, callousness and deceit (and not as the work of “a few bad apples”).

--are stimulating a real, long-overdue debate among lawyers, judges, journalists, experts and others, a debate over how best to stop clergy sex crimes and cover ups in the world’s largest and oldest and historically most immune monarchy.

--are educating governmental authorities and NGOs across the world about the continuing committing and concealing of heinous sex? crimes by clerics.

And ultimately, more truth will be exposed, more justice will be achieved, and more children will be spared.


(Want other examples of successes that started out looking like losses? Check out these examples from our blog in January:

More often than we can count, smart church officials and observers pooh-poohed our push for a national church abuse policy. “That will never happen,” we were repeatedly told. “That can’t happen. The church isn’t structured that way.”

Now, there is one.

More often than we can count, smart people laughed at us when we began, years ago, insisting that bishops post the names of proven admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics on their websites.

Now, 30 bishops have done this.

More often than we can count, smart people scoffed when we began, years ago, pushing the suspension of statute of limitations deadlines for a year or two.

Now, four states have done this.

We could go on and on and on.

Our point is simple: if you’re serious about protecting kids, you won’t accept the horrific status quo.

On the state and local level, we’ve seen similar progress and achievements that few would have ever thought possible:

--In Massachusetts, a predator priest was prosecuted under a law passed in the 1800s.

--In Ohio, a predator priest was nailed on one count of providing alcohol to minors.

--Dozens of predator priests have been captured in remote places and extradited to face justice back in the nation where they assaulted kids.

--A number of predator priests were given probation and are now behind bars because they violated the restrictions they were to honor.

Yes, these are predator priests, not complicit bishops. But even some members of the Catholic hierarchy have been prosecuted for concealing child sex crimes – Bishop Robert Finn in Kansas City, Msgr. William Lynn in Philadelphia, and Bishop Pierre Pican in France.

As kids, many of us were told by our perpetrators, “If you speak up, nothing will happen.”

Yet as adults, many of us have spoken and are speaking. As a result, thousands of predator priests have been exposed, suspended, charged, convicted, jailed and defrocked.


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  • Tim Lennon
    commented 2013-06-14 10:54:20 -0500
    While we have had a set back in this battle we are winning the battle against clergy sex abusers. No longer can church authorities or faithful parishioners hid their knowledge of wide spread abuse.
    No longer are bishops believed that they say they are doing everything to protect children. Survivors have SNAP as a champion to take on those who would harm a child. We have proven there is hope for future recovery and we have welcomed many voices to shout, ‘I am not alone.’
    SNAP has a role to play in the world wide struggle to protect children.
  • Annette Kissell Nestler
    commented 2013-06-13 19:40:50 -0500
    Thank you David and Megan. We shall continue the good fight. I like what you said, David, about all the “NEVERS”, unprecedented strides for victims/survivors and their families. With each passing year, more and more documents and evidence will come into the light!

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