A campaign to hold former Pope Benedict XVI responsible for crimes against humanity floundered on Thursday as the International Criminal Court in The Hague threw out a case filed by victims of clergy sex abuse.
The case had been presented in September 2011 by SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, accusing the pope and other senior Vatican officials of failing to stop abusive priests.
According to a SNAP statement, the court’s prosecutor’s office said on May 31 that the file presented against leaders of the Roman Catholic Church does not meet the “preconditions of the court” and thus “do not appear to fall within the (court’s) jurisdiction.”
Court officials could not be reached for comment, but The Associated Press reported that the court letter said it can only examine “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
“I never doubted this would be the response (of the ICC), given the total groundlessness of the accusation,” said the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.
After Benedict’s resignation in February, the Vatican said he would continue living within the Vatican, which would provide him with diplomatic immunity from prosecution, according to a Reuters report.
“We’re neither deterred nor discouraged by this news,” said SNAP President Barbara Blaine, who said the victims group will continue to collect evidence on the Vatican’s record on child abuse.
David Clohessy, SNAP’s national director, said the ICC decision dismissed the case but not necessarily the pope’s culpability for abuse.
“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,” he said.
Alessandro Speciale has been covering the Vatican since 2007 and started writing for Religion News Service in 2011. Born in Rome, he studied literature at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy, and journalism at City University, London. He has appeared as an expert on Vatican affairs on CNN, BBC World and Al Jazeera English. Via RNS.