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Vatican insiders urged to speak out about clergy sex crimes

September 21, 2011

The following article was published in the Daily News:

Vatican insiders must speak out: sex abuse victims

Rome: A support group for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy on Tuesday called on Vatican insiders to speak out if they know of corrupt priests, to back a legal complaint against the pope for crimes against humanity.

“I wanted to make an appeal to anyone in the Vatican… a special plea for those who work in churches or used to work in them, to come forward with the evidence,” said Vincent Warren from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).

“If a security guard or a secretary has any information… they have to hand it to the ICC,” Warren said, to add to the documents already submitted to the International Criminal Court as part of the motion filed last week.

Experts doubt the complaint against high-ranking officials for crimes against humanity will be successful, in part because the Vatican state has not ratified the Rome statute and therefore does not recognise the ICC.

The Holy See has refused to comment and commentators have dismissed the complaint as a publicity stunt.

But lawyers for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which is behind the motion, are still confident their case has a chance of being heard.

CCR attorney Pam Spees said the pope and other officials had responsibility for the abuse cases under the doctrine of superior liability as well as in cases where they failed to act on reports of rogue priests.

But while the decision over a possible trial could be years in the making, SNAP said they hoped the Vatican would be spurred into taking legal action against paedophile priests.

“What we really hope is that Vatican officials will be shaken and finally start taking real action,” said Barbara Blaine, SNAP president.

Minnesota student Megan Peterson, 21, who was abused aged 14 and 15 by a priest, said that when she contacted church officials to tell them she was being raped, “they hung up the phone on me”.

“The Church hasn’t changed, it hasn’t made a zero tolerance policy against those who commit abuse and those who cover it up,” she said.

In a unprecedented move last week, the hard-hitting organisation called on the ICC to prosecute 84-year-old Pope Benedict XVI and three other officials for “direct and superior responsibility for the crimes against humanity of rape and other sexual violence committed around the world”.

“Diocese are compiling criminal evidence around the world and sending it to Rome,” said SNAP founder and abuse victim Peter Isely.

“They say they have over 4 000 cases and what are they doing with it? It should be handed over to law enforcement officials immediately. The pope could make the world safer for children with the stroke of a pen,” he added.

The Roman Catholic Church is struggling to deal with rising anger and a string of lawsuits following thousands of child sexual abuse claims in Europe and the United States.

Benedict has expressed shame and sorrow over the clerical sex scandal and has called on bishops around the world to come up with common guidelines against paedophiles by May 2012.

The pope is travelling to Germany on Thursday for a four-day trip and the Vatican said it has not ruled out a meeting with abuse victims during his visit. – Sapa-AFP 

The press conference can be viewed by clicking on the following link:

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