Clergy Sex Abuse Victims Ask Hague to Investigate the Vatican

Holding signs and childhood photos at news conferences outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and the Vatican Embassy in Washington DC, leaders of an international clergy sex abuse victims support group and a human rights organization  announced this afternoon that they are urging the International Criminal Court to investigate high-level Vatican officials allegedly aiding and covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests.

The U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and the New York City-based human rights organization Center for Constitutional Rights filed an 80-page complaint with the International Criminal Court today asserting that the systematic, widespread and on-going global practice of concealing rape and abuse was tolerated and enabled by the Vatican.

“The detailed complaint will assert a systematic and widespread practice of concealing rape throughout the world, tolerated and enabled by the Vatican,” according to a statement from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

The Survivors Network and the Center for Constitutional Rights are calling for the investigation and prosecution of four high-level Vatican officials for their alleged roles in the on-going protection of perpetrators, hiding of crimes and the enabling of rape, sexual assault, and torture of thousands of individuals around the world.

Vatican officials named as defendants in the case include: Pope Benedict XVI, both in his capacity as pontiff and former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a church entity that oversees pedophile priest reports; Cardinal William Levada, current head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals and former Vatican Secretary of State.

The Vatican press office has declined to comment on the complaint so far.

The jurisdiction of the ICC names rape, sexual assault, and torture as crimes against humanity. It also provides for individual criminal liability for those with superior responsibility over those who directly commit such crimes. If the ICC launches the investigation, it would mark the first time an international court asserts jurisdiction over the Vatican for crimes committed by its agents worldwide.

A few particularly egregious and recent predator priest cases are highlighted in the complaint, including a case involving a Belgian cleric who molested children in the Congo and now works with kids in Rwanda, and another regarding an Indian cleric who raped a Minnesota girl and is now back in India.

Earlier today, outside The Hague in the Netherlands, a similar news conference was held. There, eight adults who were abused as children by priests in four nations delivered 10,000+ pages of evidence and documents to the International Criminal Court. The victims were from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the U.S.

Victims say the goal of the complaint is to expose, punish and deter widespread and systematic sexual violence. The complaint will be posted online this evening at CCRjustice.org and SNAPnetwork.org.

The sexual abuse scandal erupted in Boston in 2002. A recent wave of disclosures in Europe and the U.S have led to increasing scrutiny of Pope Benedict and his actions while a he was a bishop in Germany and later a cardinal who headed the Vatican’s bureaucracy.

Back in 2002, the The Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton, which includes Princeton and other Mercer County parishes as well as churches in Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties, found that a total of 24 diocese priests had been accused of sexually abusing minors over the past five decades.

As recently as last month, the diocese paid more than $1 million to five men who said they were molested by the Rev. Ronald Becker while serving as altar boys at Incarnation Church in Ewing during the 1970s and 1980s.

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