On Tuesday a bundle of documents was lodged with the International Criminal Court in the Hague, which purported to found a case that Pope Joseph Ratzinger had committed crimes against humanity under the Statute of Rome. The papers, lodged by a US based NGO called the Centre for Constitutional Rights (the CCR), accused the pope and other Vatican officials of having ‘direct and superior responsibility’ for many thousands of sexual assaults carried out by Catholic priests across the globe. The CCR had been instructed in the case by a ‘survivor lead support group’ called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). According to CCR attorney Pam Spees, when it comes to allocating blame for these assaults, ‘all roads really do lead to
The lawyers at the CCR must realise that their claim is doomed to fail. In order for the
and its leaders to be found guilty of Crimes Against Humanity under Article 7 of the Statute of Rome, it would have to be shown that these assaults were undertaken ‘pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy to commit such attacks’. The ICC’s official ‘Elements of Crime’ document indicates that the accused state or organisation must have actively promoted or encouraged attacks and that tolerance or acquiescence is not enough. To imagine that the Vatican had an organizational policy encouraging its priests to commit these attacks is a deranged interpretation of the facts. The lawyers at the CRC are clearly more concerned with becoming the wigged-up darlings of Catholic bashing liberals than they are with actually succeeding in their application. Vatican
But a request for intervention from the ICC is not always about securing results. After all, the Court is yet to secure any convictions and its arrest warrants are routinely ignored. Rather it is often the application for intervention itself that allows an organisation, whether it be a government or an NGO, to showcase its moral credentials, without having to actually do anything of any significant consequence.
Of course this veneer quickly fell away when investigators discovered that both the rebels and the Gaddafi’s regime had committed acts which arguably amounted to crimes against humanity. The morally black and white provisions of the Statute of Rome are clearly ill suited to arbitrating over a situation with any degree of moral or political complexity.
They are also ill suited to arbitrating over the problems faced by the members of SNAP. But this will not deter the CCR. Their application has the same purpose as those issued by western political organisations like the UN: publicly showcasing their own organisation’s moral credentials. As long as their disdain for Catholic Church gets a public airing, then this cynical and irresponsible application will have served its purpose.