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International court declines case against Vatican.

A prosecutor of an international court has opted not to pursue a case against multiple Vatican officials for crimes against humanity related to the widespread clergy sex abuse of minors within the Catholic church.

Two U.S. groups, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), brought the case to the International Criminal Court at The Hague in the Netherlands in September 2011. SNAP made the prosecutor's decision public on June 13.

In a 71-page complaint accompanied by more than 22,000 pages of supporting materials, the two organizations sought charges brought against four Vatican prelates for "enabling and concealing sexual violence worldwide": Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone; former Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano; Cardinal William Levada, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

According to the letter, dated May 31, the prosecutor determined that the case fell outside the court's jurisdiction, as it did not satisfy several preconditions necessary for examination. Those included issues with "temporal jurisdiction" and "subject-matter jurisdiction."

The International Criminal Court's governing rules, known as the Rome Statute, limit the court to exercising jurisdiction over crimes committed after July 2002, or since the court's establishment. Additionally, its scope is limited to "the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole," specifically genocide, war crimes, crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity.

"From this analysis, I advise you that the matters described in your communication do not appear to fall within the jurisdiction of the Court," the letter read, indicating the decision could be reconsidered in light of new evidence.

Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said he "never doubted this would be the response [of the court], given the total groundlessness of the accusation," according to Religion News Service.

Barbara Blaine, SNAP president and founder, said that though she had hoped the case would go further, she was not surprised at the outcome. She said she was happy the prosecutor didn't indicate the Vatican officials named were "somehow immune from prosecution."

Pamela Spees, a senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights who brought the case to the international court, said the court identified several jurisdictional hurdles and "left the door open to reconsider" its decision.

"We obviously knew going in that the ICC is supposed to be a court of last resort. But we said it's the only institution that is really set up to deal with the global nature of these crimes, and no one national system can realistically have the capacity to deal with the actual breadth and scale of this system," she told NCR June 14.

"We'll continue until there's some form of justice and accountability, and the system changes," Spees said.

Blaine said that SNAP will continue to compile additional evidence from across the globe in hopes the court will eventually take up the case. Spees indicated they could turn their attention to national judicial systems for a ruling before revisiting the International Criminal Court.


Read more about this case on the NCR website at
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Title Annotation:WORLD
Author:Roewe, Brian
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Jul 5, 2013
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