Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Abuse victims seek international court case against pope

Clergy sex abuse victims upset that no high-ranking Roman Catholic leaders have been prosecuted for sheltering guilty priests have turned to the International Criminal Court, seeking an investigation of the pope and top Vatican cardinals for possible crimes against humanity. The Vatican called the move a "ludicrous publicity stunt."

The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based nonprofit legal group, requested the inquiry Tuesday on behalf of the U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, arguing that the global church 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. more