Thursday, September 22, 2011

SNAP and CCR Take Complaint Against Vatican to the International Criminal Court

On September 13th, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), in collaboration with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) made a formal request to the International Criminal Court to investigate the Vatican for crimes against humanity. According to a statement at the CCR website, the two groups filed a complaint alleging that Vatican officials systematically concealed sexual crimes perpetrated by Catholic clergy. After filing the request at the Hague, representatives from SNAP and CCR were scheduled to embarked on a tour of several major European cities. The tour was intended to encourage clergy sexual abuse victims to come forward and local diocese to turn over relevant evidence.

Founded in 1988, SNAP has long been a voice for victims of clergy sexual abuse. Through advocacy and education, SNAP has educated the public about clergy abuse and demanded accountability from perpetrators and their enablers. Furthermore, the CCR defended human rights for over four decades, pressing forward with cases on a range of human rights issues, including torture, extraordinary rendition, and environmental harm.

I commend SNAP and the CCR for taking a stand against widespread clergy sexual abuse, which has gone on for too long. While commentators at the Christian Science Monitor and Mother Jones argue that the case cannot go forward due to ICC jurisdictional limitations, the complaint is a powerful symbolic gesture nevertheless. By taking their case to the Hague, SNAP and CCR acknowledge sexual violence as a crime against humanity, reminding the Vatican that it is accountable for its people.

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Generous evidence suggests that clergy sexual abuse is very real. While some church leaders have worked diligently to address clergy abuse, other leaders have not. Documents such as the Philadelphia Report and the Cloyne Report indicate that several diocese have failed to properly report, investigate, and punish sexual abuse by clergy. The research of A. W. Richard Sipe, Thomas Doyle, and Jason Berry (to name but a few) have shed light on the ongoing clergy abuse crisis in the Catholic church. Unfortunately, one right-wing commentator is unhappy about the clergy abuse case filed in the International Criminal Court.

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, has a history of making controversial comments about the clergy abuse crisis (see here and here). Furthermore, his dislike for SNAP is nothing new (see
www[dot]catholicleague[dot]org/specialreports.php?id=36). SNAP and CCR's decision to file a complaint with the International Criminal Court did not sit well with Donohue.

In a commentary piece for Spero News, Donohue mocked CCR as a "radical left-wing organization" and claimed that SNAP's goal is not to protect children, but to smear the Catholic Church. He insisted that most cases of abuse did not involve children or rape (as if abuse of older victims or non-penetrative abuse would be somehow less horrible), and most victims are preyed upon by homosexuals. His homophobic claim ignores the fact that sexual predators, not allegedly gay priests, are the real problem.

Donohue did not cite a source for these assertions, but current research suggests otherwise. According to a May 2011 report by the John Jay College Research Team, almost three-quarters (73%) of clergy sexual abuse victims were age 14 or younger. Male children between the ages of 11 and 14 made up the largest percentage of victims (see page 10-11). Regardless of victim age, however, any sexual abuse is harmful and must be taken seriously.

Additionally, the data analyzed in the report did not support the idea that gay priests are any more likely to abuse children than heterosexual priests (see page 119). The high percentage of boy victims may be because priests have more access to male children, not because predators are necessarily gay. In other countries (i.e., Ireland), the gender ratio of clergy abuse victims can look different, perhaps because of differences in access

Donohue asserts that the "homosexual scandal" supposedly took place during the sexual revolution. In writing this, he ignores evidence that sexual scandals have plagued the Catholic church for centuries, and that the controversy is about sexual abuse, not homosexuality. He insists that most offenses ended twenty-five years ago, which would be very startling news to those who have reported clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic church since that time.

The clergy abuse crisis demands attention, and we cannot dismiss it because it makes us uncomfortable. We must realize that clergy sexual abuse is harmful, no matter what the profile of the victim or the specific acts performed. We must place the blame on perpetrators, not scapegoats. I take comfort knowing that more and more people grasp this, and I hope that Donohue someday grasps this too.

To read Donohue's commentary, visit www[dot]speroforum[dot]com/site/article.asp?idCategory=34&idsub=127&id=60216&t=SNAP+follies+at+the+International+Criminal+Court

For additional news, visit the following links.

AFP: Child abuse victims accuse pope of crimes against humanity

New York Times: Abuse Victims Ask Court to Prosecute the Vatican


  1. Thanks, Ahab. I'm glad to hear about SNAP's efforts and have linked their website.

  2. I hope more groups keep putting the pressure on the Vatican until it is held accountable legally for the many crimes it totes in the name of religion.

    Once the Vatican, and God's supposed chosen elect officials, are made to face the consequences of their actions--then Christianity will no longer be able to enjoy the privilege of leveraging itself as a position of moral authority.

  3. Donna -- Thanks. SNAP does a lot of good work, and I'm glad you linked to them.

    Tristan -- Agreed. It's high time the Catholic Church was held accountable in concrete ways. Individual diocese have been sued, but something more comprehensive may bear fruit.

  4. You know, that's the trouble with the Pope pretending to be the mouthpiece for God on earth. To admit you made a mistake, is to say that God made a mistake. And God never makes a mistake. :-p So the Catholic church is forced into this untenable position.

    Fortunately, the I have faith(!) that the truth will win out, and they will be held accountable. It's been a long time coming, and there are likely many more years to go, but the truth will win. :-)

  5. Wise Fool -- I imagine the clergy abuse crisis has caused a crisis of faith for victims and observers. How could men supposedly acting as God's stewards behave so wickedly?

    I hope that truth wins too and that guilty parties are held accountable.

  6. In a sane world, the Catholic Church would long ago have been shut down as an international criminal organization, its leaders put on trial for the decades of world-wide child abuse they enabled and helped conceal from the authorities, and its assets liquidated to pay damages to the victims.

  7. Infidel753 -- :: big ear-to-ear smile ::

  8. Abuse and corruption thrive on secrecy. Regardless of the suit's outcome, SNAP and CCR are doing a great service, especially if it doesn't have a chance at succeeding. The fact that Donohue objects to the Catholic church and its leaders being held accountable speaks volumes. He is at least a tool of corruption and abuse if not an aider and abettor.

    The additional fact that he refuses to acknowledge the fundamental differences between sexual predators and homosexuals says even more about him. (Or less. Depending on your POV).

  9. Cognitive Dissenter -- It's the only stereotype of gays as child abusers, which has been discredited. He didn't get the memo, apparently.

    I say kudos to SNAP and CCR. The more they publicize clergy abuse, the better.


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