The International Criminal Court in The Hague has decided not to investigate or prosecute the former pope and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church on allegations of covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests.
Victims of sexual abuse filed a complaint in 2011, asking the court to prosecute Pope Benedict XVI and three other Vatican officials for what they called an international and systemic cover-up of sexual abuse that amounted to “crimes against humanity.”
The court responded in a letter dated May 31 that after analyzing the complaint, it determined that the matters “do not appear to fall within the jurisdiction of the Court.”
In addition, the case did not appear to meet the court’s time limits. For the most part, the court may prosecute only crimes committed after it was constituted in July 2002. Though the cases submitted by the victims involved more recent allegations, some of the supporting material the victims submitted predated 2002.
The outcome was exactly what many international and human rights lawyers had anticipated.
Pamela Spees, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights who handled the case for the victims group, said that she knew it faced “many hurdles,” but that it was worthwhile because abuse victims had stepped forward after hearing about the case being taken to the International Criminal Court.
“We’re talking about people from more than 70 countries, survivors in Africa and Latin America who were isolated before, and who now have a whole different understanding of what happened to them and how it relates to the church,” she said.