In a landmark effort to bring Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI, to account for crimes against humanity - the widespread and systematic sexual violence perpetrated by the Catholic Church, a case has been filed with the International Criminal Court. Shareen Gokal reports .
" Based on some estimates it is thought that there around 100,000 cases of sexual abuse by clergy just between 1981 and 2005; if cases from Africa, Latin America and elsewhere are added, the worldwide total is likely to be many times higher.The case presents 22,000 pages of supporting testimony, case studies, declarations, letters, statements, photographs, and grand jury reports. It also includes the findings of multiple commissions, such as the Cloyne Commission, the Hughes Inquiry.http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/shareen-gokal/taking-pope-to-court
Ironically, the centralized and hierarchical nature of the Catholic Church, used so effectively in cover-ups, also provides the strongest evidence of violations. The case establishes that high-level Vatican officials either knew or should have known about the brutality being perpetuated by its members. During the period in question, current pope Joseph Ratzinger headed the “Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith” (CDF) the entity to which all sexual violations within the Church must be reported.
As the CDF head, Ratzinger is accused of ordering, encouraging, facilitating, or otherwise abetting the cover-up of credible claims of sexual violence. The cover-up included obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, “priest-shifting”, refusing to cooperate with civil authorities, victim blaming, rewarding cover-ups and punishing whistleblowers.
The complaint also names Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who is on record as saying that bishops should not be obliged to report offending priests to civil authorities: “(Civil society) must… respect the ‘professional secrecy’ of priests… If a priest cannot confide in his bishop for fear of being denounced, then it would mean that there is no more liberty of conscience.”
The evidence includes correspondence over many years in which it is alleged that Ratzinger and Bertone repeatedly refused to authorize bishops to remove or defrock offending priests This was despite compelling evidence which includes one priest whose ritual of abuse was described by one victim as having a “satanic quality.”
Cardinal Angelo Sodano is also named in the case for preventing accountability for Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ religious order. Maciel had been denounced to Pope John Paul II for rape and sexual violence of members of the order as early as 1989. Yet the Vatican took no action until the scandal began to emerge more publicly in 2004. Even then, proceedings were stopped by Sodano with the approval of Pope John Paul II.
The case argues that self-regulation through “zero tolerance” policies on sexual abuse has failed miserably. A US Grand Jury investigating the Philadelphia Archdiocese found that, despite adopting such a policy in 2002, 37 priests credibly accused of sexual violence were found to be actively serving in the Archdiocese in 2011.
An 18 month investigation of the Boston Archdiocese by the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office revealed accusations of sexual assault of minors "so massive and prolonged that it borders on the unbelievable". The Boston report concluded that perhaps most tragic of all much of the harm could have been prevented". But nothing was done despite top church officials being aware of the offences.
In 2001 French Bishop Pierre Pican was sentenced to three months imprisonment for failing to report the rapes and sexual assaults of ten boys by a priest in his diocese. Afterwards, Pican received a letter writen by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, with the approval of Pope John Paul 11, telling him that he had "acted wisely", and that he was "delighted to have a fellow member...who...would prefer to go to prison rather than denounce his priest-son."