In the most substantial effort yet to hold the Vatican's feet to the fire for clergy sexual abuse, human rights lawyers will file a complaint today asking the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute Pope Benedict XVI and three top Vatican officials for crimes against humanity. According to the filing, prepared by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the officials covered up the abuse of children. The Vatican, however, has said that the church is decentralized and that accusations of abuse are handled by bishops, reports the New York Times.
The lawyers and victims bringing the case, however, say that the cases brought against priests thus far have not stopped the abuse from continuing. There’s a “larger systemic problem here” that needs to be dealt with, says one lawyer. However, international law experts doubt the court will prosecute the case, due to questions over whether it truly fits the court’s criteria or is within the court’s jurisdiction. Even so, notes the executive director of the International Bar Association, “the filing does something that’s important. It raises awareness. Ultimately the plaintiffs will elevate this in the public eye and it will force the court to respond.”