'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

September 16, 2011

Prosecuting the Pope for Crimes Against Humanity

Chain The Dogma

Prosecuting the Pope for Crimes Against Humanity

If the systemic rape and abuse of children is not a crime against humanity, then what is?

by Perry Bulwer

A complaint recently filed  with the International Criminal Court (ICC) asking it to investigate crimes against humanity by Pope Benedict and three top Vatican officials faces some hurdles, but as a last resort it is a creative legal strategy. As Barbara Blaine, president of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which initiated the complaint, stated:

We have tried everything we could think of to get them to stop and they won’t. If the Pope wanted to, he could take dramatic action at any time that would help protect children today and in the future, and he refuses to take the action.

Catholic apologists will take issue with that statement and insist the Pope personally, and the church in general, has taken action to protect children, but considering the actions taken in the U.S. and Ireland in that regard they are clearly insufficient, ineffectual, and undermined by the deception of bishops and directives from the Vatican. Long before Benedict became Pope,  he was well aware, as was his predecessor John Paul II,  that clergy sex crimes against children was an on-going problem for decades. But instead of doing the moral thing to protect children by exposing and reporting crimes by priests, Vatican policies were intended to protect the church by covering up abuses and transferring criminal priests to other parishes or countries, which led to many more children needlessly abused because of that institutional neglect and deception. That is the basis of the complaint to the ICC, as explained by Pam Spees, attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR),  which filed the complaint along with SNAP:

The Vatican officials charged in this case are responsible for rape and other sexual violence and for the physical and psychological torture of victims around the world both through command responsibility and through direct cover up of crimes. They should be brought to trial like any other officials guilty of crimes against humanity.

However, given some of the legal obstacles the complaint must overcome before the ICC agrees to take on the case, Spees "conceded she was “not hopeful” the court would launch an investigation." That does not mean the complaint has no chance. There are various arguments that can be made to overcome some of the obstacles that might prevent the ICC from taking the case. Herman van der Wilt, professor of international law at Amsterdam University, identified two reasons why he thought the complaint does not stand much chance: crimes against humanity must be perpetrated by a State or state-like organization, and the ICC has no mandate to investigate crimes committed before July 1, 2002.

As a professor of international law, van der Wilt is probably smarter and more knowledgeable than I am on the subject, but it seems to me that the Holy See, which "refers to the composite of the authority, jurisdiction, and sovereignty vested in the Pope and his advisers to direct the worldwide Roman Catholic Church", does have international recognition as a sovereign state.

So too does Vatican City,  which meets all eight criteria  used to define an independent country. By that definition, Vatican City is also a sovereign State,  so either way the systemic crimes against children within the Church do qualify as crimes against humanity committed by a State, so I'm not really sure what the professor was thinking on that issue.

As for the obstacle of time, the fact that many of those crimes occurred before the ICC's mandate began in 2002 is a tougher one to overcome, but not impossible. Civil statutory time limitations for initiating sexual abuse claims  have worked mostly to protect the Catholic church from lawsuits, while denying victims justice. However, courts have sometimes suspended those time limitations temporarily in some jurisdictions to allow victims to sue within a specified period, or ruled them invalid in the case of some individuals with special circumstances. I am not suggesting the ICC has a mechanism for overcoming its prohibition against investigating crimes prior to 2002, just that clever arguments can be made to overcome that prohibition.

The scandal in Philadelphia  comes to mind as an example of how clergy crimes that occurred before 2002 could still be investigated by the ICC, indirectly. A grand jury report details how the Philadelphia Archdiocese allowed 37 priests credibly accused of child abuse to remain in ministry, and failed to inform the local and national review boards set up by the U.S. bishops to help keep them accountable. The head of the Philadelphia review board, Ana Maria Catanzaro,  said the archdiocese pre-screened which cases they reviewed, hiding problem priests, because it was more concerned about lawsuits and liability than protecting children. Although many of the crimes committed by those 37 priests occurred before 2002, the cover-up and neglect by Cardinals and Bishops continued long past 2002. In my opinion, the prohibition against pre-2002 investigations can be overcome with that or similar arguments. Besides, there are many cases after 2002 that the ICC could investigate.

The covering up of crimes by Bishops and Cardinals is a fairly straightforward argument to make with plenty of evidence to back it up. Certainly, the 20,000 pages of documents CCR lawyers submitted to the ICC to support their complaint contain some of that evidence. The other basis of the complaint is that the Pope and the other officials named in it had command responsibility, meaning that they are responsible for the crimes of their subordinates. Command responsibility has been used mostly in war crimes cases, since it is usually applied to organized groups like military, para-military or police units where there is an obvious chain of command. However, command responsibility can also be applied to a civilian state organization and the CCR lawyers have done an excellent job making the case that the Pope and the other church leaders are responsible for the systemic crimes against humanity committed by priests around the world. If you are not convinced, I urge you to read the full complaint and decide based on the evidence of horrific crimes provided within it whether or not you agree with Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican's U.S. lawyer who called the complaint a “ludicrous publicity stunt and a misuse of international judicial processes.” That is typical of statements by Catholic spokespersons and apologists, whether lawyers, church officials, or laypersons. But what is more ludicrous, abuse survivors and advocates fighting anyway they can to protect children and hold perpetrators and their enablers accountable to civil and criminal law, or spokespersons for a church that claims to be the moral authority for the world denigrating those survivors of horrific spiritual and physical abuse by priests, who represented God to them, as nothing more than publicity seekers? 
The Catholic Church and The Family International: popes and prophets who protect pedophiles

What the Pope should have said in his Easter sermon: "I did it. I was wrong. The buck stops here."


  1. Ridding Catholicism of the stench of this Legionary of Christ

    By Hugh O’Shaughnessy September 21, 2011

    At last, the Vatican begins to move in earnest to clean up the scandalous mess of the egregiously wealthy rightwing Legionaries of Christ. Their members are known to some as the "millionaires of Christ" and their stench has been in the nostrils of Catholics for too many decades.

    A start was made on 15 July to repair the enormous damage to the church done by the late Marcial Maciel Degollado, who founded the Legion of Christ in 1940. The pushy Mexican priest was the bisexual pederast, drug-addicted lover of several women and father of three who hoodwinked a succession of popes from Pius XII and who was eventually run to ground and disgraced by Benedict XVI in 2006.

    At the start of 2011 Richard Gill, for 29 years a US priest of the Legionaries of Christ but who had left the Legion last year, wrote: "It is no exaggeration to say that Marcial Maciel was by far the most despicable character in the twentieth century Catholic Church, inflicting more damage on her reputation and evangelizing mission than any other single Church leader."


    Maciel Degollado left a series of dirty marks wherever he passed. Gill, for instance, wonders why the Vatican department that deals with religious orders gave its approval in 1983 to a new constitution for the Legion, which has proved to be irregular and defective. Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, who headed that department and was one of the few senior Argentine clerics to have come out of his country's dirty war with credit, clearly committed an error in approving an unsatisfactory constitution. Paradoxically he also happened to be one of the few leaders of the church in Argentina who stood up to the sort of raging conservatives who were attracted to the Legion. Because of this, Pironio received death threats from rightwing extremists in his homeland and had to flee to Rome. Worse, his reputation was gravely damaged.

    How did Maciel Degollado fool such a succession of popes? The literal meaning of his mother's surname – which in Spanish fashion is inserted after his father's surname Maciel is fascinating. The literal meaning of "degollado" is "a man whose throat has been ripped out". How weird!

    read the full article at:


  2. Author says Vatican rules through indoctrination, control, and fear

    By Suzette Martinez Standring, For The Patriot Ledger, Massachusetts September 01, 2012

    The Vatican rules the Roman Catholic Church through indoctrination, control, and fear, rather than through nurturing love, service, and freedom, according to Father Emmett Coyne, a Roman Catholic priest. His new book, “The Theology of Fear,” exposes how far the highest church authorities have strayed from the gospel of Jesus Christ (CreateSpace, $12.25, 325 pages, July 2012). The book is available on Amazon and on www.emmettcoyne.net

    “I’m on the last lap of life and eternity is facing me. It’s my last chance to speak up and speak out,” said Father Coyne, who was ordained in 1966 and is retired at age 73.

    For 46 years, the Rev. Coyne’s ministry has focused on serving those in need. He was a parish priest at several New Hampshire parishes, and later traveled to more than 1,000 parishes nationally to raise awareness and money to help the poor. His conscience is disturbed at how the gospel of Jesus that teaches service on behalf of the least ones is subverted in favor of church power.

    “Theology of Fear” is a well-written and easy-to-read history of the systems put into place that created the Roman Catholic Church as the only religious political entity in the world through the establishment of the Vatican city state. “I think the gospel is compromised when it is processed through a political consideration,” said the Rev. Coyne who lives in Exeter, N.H.

    He believes Catholics learn more about how to go to hell than how to get into heaven, and that, historically, the sacraments were established as a way to control church members through guilt and fear. “Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God. He didn’t proclaim the sacraments,” he said.

    The book further asserts that seminarians are ordained based on their ability to follow doctrine without question, while activist priests are viewed as risks to church authority. “They (seminarians) drop out when they discover they can’t think for themselves,” said the Rev. Coyne, who once was chastised for adding the words, “Jesus, our good shepherd,” to a prayer.

    What does this long-time priest hope to accomplish with his book? The 50th anniversary of the Vatican Council will occur in October, and the Rev. Father Coyne believes change, reform, and transparency of the church’s highest echelons are crucial. He wants everyday Catholics to rediscover Jesus’ teachings that it is the person who is absolute in God’s eyes, not an institution. Jesus emphasized the spirit of the law grounded in love, never the letter of the law based on punishment. Father Coyne expects church authorities will not be happy with his book. “One has to follow the truth wherever it takes him,” he said.

    All proceeds of his book will be donated to nonprofit Partners In Health (www.PIH.org), which reflects the Rev. Coyne’s ideal of an organization that serves the plight of the poor.

    To view the links embedded in this article go to:


  3. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, his final interview, and a damning critique that has rocked the Catholic Church

    by Michael Day, The Independent September 3, 2012

    One of Italy's most revered cardinals has stunned the Catholic Church by issuing a damning indictment of the institution from the grave, calling for its "transformation".

    Hours after Milan's former Archbishop, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, died on Friday at the age of 85, the leading daily paper Corriere della Sera printed his final interview, in which he attacks the Church – and by implication its current leadership – for being "200 years out of date".

    "Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous," the Cardinal said. "The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the Pope and the bishops. The paedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation."

    Church insiders believe he wished for the interview to be published following his death.

    Cardinal Martini, who was on the liberal wing of the church hierarchy, was once tipped to succeed John Paul II as Pope. His chances of being elected fell away when he revealed he was suffering from a rare form of Parkinson's disease and he retired as Archbishop in 2002. Instead, the ultra-conservative German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

    The body of Cardinal Martini has been laid out in Milan cathedral since noon on Saturday, with thousands of people coming to pay their last respects. His funeral will take place there this afternoon.

    The left-wing Mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia, who recently angered church authorities by recognising gay couples and providing them with the same rights the city gives married couples, led the tributes to the dead Cardinal. "Difficult times require words of wisdom and hope from great men," he said. "Carlo Maria Martini illuminated the way for the entire city, not just for part of it. For this reason, today more than ever, Milan mourns its Archbishop".

    Cardinal Martini was noted for supporting the use of condoms, at least a decade before the Vatican grudgingly accepted they might be acceptable in certain situations to prevent the transmission of HIV. He also questioned the Church's line on gay relationships and divorce – calling on it to reconsider what constituted a family in the 21st century or risk losing even more of its flock.

    Conservative voices in the Church tried to repair damage caused by Cardinal Martini's criticism. Marco Tarquinio, the editor of the bishops' daily paper, L'Avvenire, accused the mainstream press of distorting the Cardinal's comments, although he did not give specific examples.

    "The attempts to distort and manipulate in an anti-ecclesiastical way the Cardinal's final hours on this earth are a bitter reminder of similar actions against even the blessed John Paul II," he said.

    continued in next comment...

  4. continued from previous comment...

    The suspicion – ever present in Italy – that the Vatican has tendrils everywhere, even in the mainstream press, was heightened by the failure of the article to appear on the Corriere della Sera website. Following inquiries by The Independent, Corriere's editor, Ferruccio de Bortoli, said there had been no pressure to keep the article off the website. It was then published online yesterday evening. Other leading newspapers failed to give the cardinals' comments much coverage.

    Robert Mickens, the Rome correspondent of The Tablet, called for Cardinal Martini's deathbed comments to be taken very seriously.

    "They must be seen in the context of coming from a man who loved the Church and who gave his life to the institution. He made a profound statement, which he had already said many times to Benedict and John Paul II in private," he said.

    Cardinal Martini caused controversy in his final days after refusing artificial feeding, contravening church policy on end-of-life issues.

    Mr Mickens said that although Cardinal Martini's ideas had "zero support" in the Vatican, he was revered by rank and file members. "The people in the trenches looked up to him. He was a giant. We're in a very conservative period. But that won't last forever. A whole generation have been inspired by Martini's writings. That will be his legacy."

    Cardinal Martini: A holy life

    Carlo Maria Martini was born in Turin in 1927, entered the Society of Jesus in 1944 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1952. His appointment as Archbishop of Milan, Italy's most important diocese, in 1980 was considered highly unusual; Jesuits are not traditionally given bishop posts. He retired from the post in 2002, the year he was diagnosed with a rare form of Parkinson's disease. He then moved to the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem. He passed away at the Jesuit-run Aloisianum College in Gallarate near Milan.


  5. Former pope Benedict defends sex-abuse record

    'I never tried to cover these things up,' pope emeritus says in letter to atheist

    The Associated Press September 24, 2013

    Emeritus pope Benedict XVI has emerged from his self-imposed silence inside the Vatican walls to publish a lengthy letter to one of Italy's most well-known atheists. In it, he denies having covered up for sexually abusive priests and discusses everything from evolution to the figure of Jesus Christ.

    Excerpts of the letter were published Tuesday by La Repubblica, the same newspaper which just two weeks ago published a similar letter from Pope Francis to its own atheist publisher.

    The letters indicate that the two men in white — who live across the Vatican gardens from one another — are pursuing an active campaign to engage non-believers. It's a melding of papacies past and present that has no precedent and signals that the popes — while very different in style, personality and priorities — are of the same mind on many issues and might even be collaborating on them.

    Benedict wrote the letter to Piergiorgio Odifreddi, an Italian atheist and mathematician who in 2011 wrote a book Dear Pope, I'm Writing to You. The book was Odifreddi's reaction to Benedict'sIntroduction to Christianity, perhaps his best-known work.

    In his book, Odifreddi posed a series of polemical arguments about the Catholic faith, including the church's sex abuse scandal. The former cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed the Vatican office responsible for abuse cases, and was pope when scandal erupted in 2010, with thousands of people coming forward in Europe, Latin America and beyond saying they had been molested by priests while the Vatican turned a blind eye.

    In his letter, Benedict denies personal responsibility, saying: "I never tried to cover these things up."

    "That the power of evil penetrated so far into the interior world of the faith is a suffering that we must bear, but at the same time we must do everything to prevent it from repeating," he wrote, according to Repubblica.

    While Vatican officials have long insisted that Benedict did more than anyone in the church to confront the problem of abusive clergy, Benedict's letter marked the first time he himself had publicly denied personal responsibility for the scandal.

    Benedict became the first pope in 600 years to resign when he retired Feb. 28, setting the stage for the election of Francis two weeks later. Benedict said at the time that he would spend his final years "hidden from the world," living in a converted monastery tucked behind St. Peter's Basilica, reading and praying.

    Benedict's decision to cloister himself was in part due to his own shy, bookish nature, but also to make clear that he was no longer pope and that his successor was in charge.

    continued below

  6. Fear of schism in the church had prevented popes for centuries from stepping down, and Benedict's resignation immediately raised some not-insignificant questions: How would the Catholic Church deal with the novel situation of having one reigning and one retired pope living side-by-side, each of them called "pope," each of them wearing papal white and even sharing the same aide in Monsignor Georg Gaenswein?

    Benedict has been seen only a handful of times since his retirement, and only once with Francis at an official Vatican ceremony in July. A prolific writer, he has published nothing since retiring — except for the encyclicalThe Light of Faith which was signed by Francis but was actually written almost entirely by Benedict.

    All of which made Repubblica's publication of his letter all the more remarkable, since it came out of the blue and just two weeks after a letter on almost the exact same subject was penned by Francis on the same pages.

    The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said it was pure coincidence that the two men had written two well-known Italian atheists on the same subject in as many weeks. Francis's letter used a language that is much closer to Benedict's style — but Lombardi denied the two had collaborated on it.

    "They are autonomous and distinct initiatives," Lombardi told The Associated Press.

    In Benedict's letter, he takes Odifreddi to task for what he said was the "aggressiveness" of his book, and responds to many of the arguments raised with piqued criticism himself.

    "What you say about the figure of Jesus isn't worthy of your scientific standing," wrote Benedict, who authored a highly praised, three-volume work on Jesus Christ during his pontificate.

    He similarly criticizes Odifreddi's "religion of mathematics" as "empty" since it doesn't even consider three fundamental themes for humanity: freedom, love and evil.

    On evolution, he wrote: "If you want to substitute God with Nature, the question remains: What does this Nature consist of? Nowhere do you define it and it appears rather like an irrational divinity that doesn't explain anything."

    Odifreddi, for his part, wrote in an accompanying piece Tuesday that he was stunned to have received the letter, though he said he wrote the book precisely in hopes Benedict might read it. He said he sought, and obtained, Benedict's permission to publish the letter.

    He said he planned to re-issue his book with Benedict's letter included: "an unprecedented dialogue between a theologian pope and an atheist mathematician, divided in most everything but drawn together by at least one objective: the search for Truth."


  7. Benedict XVI emerges to defend his record on sexual abuse

    by Eric J. Lyman, Religion News Service September 24, 2013

    ROME (RNS) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, responding to a noted atheist mathematician and philosopher who had criticized his handling of sexual abuse scandals, on Tuesday (Sept. 24) released a long letter that defended his record and criticized the logician’s reasoning.

    Excerpts from the Aug. 30 letter, one of Benedict’s few public statements since resigning on Feb. 28, were published in Tuesday’s editions of La Repubblica, a Rome-based daily newspaper alongside a piece from his critic, Piergiorgio Odifreddi.

    In his response, Benedict wrote, “I never tried to cover these things up.” He added, “That the power of evil has penetrated so far into the world of faith is a suffering we must bear,” while also calling for strong efforts to prevent it from happening again.

    Benedict’s letters were in response to Odifreddi’s 2011 book, “Caro Papa ti scrivo” (Dear Pope, I write you), which was itself a response to an earlier book Benedict wrote. Odifreddi’s book had posed a series of provocative arguments about the sexual abuse scandals gripping the church.

    While remaining cordial and measured throughout the published excerpts, Benedict also criticized what he called Odifreddi’s “religion of math,” calling it “empty.”

    Benedict also disputed the claim that abuse is pervasive in the Catholic Church, noting that “according to research by sociologists, the percentage of priests guilty of these crimes is no higher than those present in other similar professional fields.” Critics, he said, should not “present this deviation as if it were filth pertaining only to Catholicism.”

    In his piece published Tuesday, Odifreddi said he was “stunned” to receive a reply from Benedict, while admitting he had hoped the retired pope would read the book. He said the letters were republished with Benedict’s permission and that his book would be republished with Benedict’s complete response included.

    Prior to his election as pope in 2005, Benedict — then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — was the longtime head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he oversaw the Vatican’s handling of all abuse cases. He was also the first pope to meet with abuse victims.

    The dialogue immediately raised eyebrows among other critics of the Vatican’s handling of the abuse scandals. Minnesota Attorney Jeff Anderson, who has handled numerous abuse suits against the church, called the statements “alarming and disturbing.”

    The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests also criticized Benedict’s record, saying: “The opposite of ‘covering up’ is ‘uncovering’ or ‘disclosing,’” SNAP said in a statement. “We cannot name one predatory bishop, priest, nun, brother or seminarian who was publicly exposed because of Benedict.”


  8. Tell Pope Francis It's Time to End Sexual Violence in the Catholic Church

    Petition by Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests and The Center for Constitutional Rights


    Today Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is the largest, oldest and most active self-help group for clergy sex abuse victims, whether assaulted by ministers, priests, nuns or rabbis. SNAP is a confidential, safe place for wounded men and women to be heard, supported and healed. SNAP works tirelessly to achieve two goals: to heal the wounded and to protect the vulnerable.

    The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

    about the petition

    By some estimates, the number of victims of clergy sexual violence is in the hundreds of thousands and on the rise as more survivors come forward and civil authorities begin investigations in Europe, Latin America, Africa, Australia, and Asia. The Vatican’s own experts have said there are 100,000 cases in the U.S. alone. Sexual violence in the Catholic Church is not a historical crisis but an ongoing problem, as is the lack of accountability.

    Today, throughout the world, perpetrator priests who are known to church officials continue to hold posts in congregations, schools, orphanages, and elsewhere, unbeknownst to local communities. The church has shown over and over that it cannot police itself. In 2014, the United Nations issued a series of recommendations on what the Vatican must do to fulfill its obligations to human rights treaties and end this epidemic of sexual violence.

    Pope Francis has all the authority he needs to move from words to action and stop further abuse. By signing this petition, you’re standing with SNAP, CCR, and many others to demand that Pope Francis take the following concrete steps to address the violence:

    --Immediately remove all known and suspected child sexual abusers from assignment, and refer the matter to relevant law enforcement authorities for investigation and prosecution;

    --Hand over files containing details of cases of sexual violence to civil authorities for investigation and prosecution of abusers as well as those who concealed their crimes and knowingly placed offenders in contact with children, and demand bishops do the same in their local jurisdictions;

    --Encourage and protect church whistle-blowers who have come forward with information about the crisis of sexual violence. So far church officials have intimidated and retaliated against whistle-blowers.

    To: Pope Francis

    The church has failed to protect hundreds of thousands of children and vulnerable adults from sexual violence in the Catholic Church and institutions and adequately address this ongoing global crisis.

    We are asking you to ensure that the church complies with the United Nations recommendations, beginning with the immediate removal of all known and suspected abusers from assignment, increased transparency when dealing with these crimes, and ordering that all cases and reports be turned over to local civil authorities for independent investigation of the perpetrators and those who concealed or otherwise enabled these crimes.

    Words are not enough. You must act to bring real, meaningful change to the church and accountability for these crimes.


    [Your name here]