The International Criminal Court has rejected a request by clergy sex abuse victims to investigate former Pope Benedict XVI and Vatican cardinals for possible crimes against humanity.
The tribunal, based in The Hague, told attorneys for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests on May 31 that it did not have jurisdiction over what the survivor’s network claimed.
Attorneys for the victims had argued the global church maintained a “long-standing and pervasive system of sexual violence” despite promises to swiftly oust predators.
The Toledo survivors organization argued that rape, sexual violence and torture are considered crimes against humanity as described in the international treaty that spells out the court’s mandate. The complaint also accuses Benedict and Vatican officials of creating policies that perpetuated the damage, constituting an attack against a civilian population.
But the court wrote in its letter to victims’ attorneys that it can only investigate crimes committed after the tribunal was formed and can only examine “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
“It appears that some of these preconditions are not satisfied with respect to the conduct described,” the court wrote. “Some of the allegations described in your communication do not appear to fall within the court’s temporal jurisdiction, and other allegations do not appear to fall within the court’s subject-matter jurisdiction.”
Vatican officials and church leaders elsewhere have apologized repeatedly, clarified or toughened church policies on ousting abusers and, in the U.S. alone, paid out nearly $3 billion in settlements to victims and removed hundreds of guilty priests.
However, Barbara Blaine, a leader of the Survivors Network, argued that Catholic officials “are still knowingly enabling predators to harm and endanger children across the world, while concealing these heinous crimes even more effectively.”
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