The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap) and New York-based rights group Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR) lodged papers against Pope Benedict XVI in a landmark action in the International Criminal Court (ICC).
They allege the Pope and three senior cardinals in Rome “tolerated and enabled the systematic and widespread concealing of rape and child sex crimes”.
Barbara Blaine, Snap president, said they want clerical sex abuse victims around the world to come forward with additional evidence to back up the complaint.
“Snap wants to prevent even one more child from being raped or sexually assaulted by a priest, and we hope that victims around the world will know today that they are not alone and that it is safe to speak up and report their abuse,” she said.
“We as victims are mobilising across the globe, and every survivor is invited to join us.”
Snap and CCR will be in Dublin as part of a 12-day tour of European cities to highlight their case. They will also visit Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, Paris, Vienna, London, Warsaw, Madrid and Rome.
Volunteers will hand out flyers outside the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin urging support for the case and inviting survivors to a meeting. Snap has more than 23,000 members worldwide.
The case at the ICC urges prosecutors to claim jurisdiction over the Catholic Church and investigate some of its most powerful hierarchy — Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state and the Pope’s right-hand man; Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a former secretary of state accused of blocking sex abuse investigations; and Cardinal William Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a position once held by the Pope.
Included with the 85-page complaint are more than 20,000 pages of reports, policy papers and evidence of crimes by Catholic clergy against children and vulnerable adults. Some of the reports from the Dublin Archdiocese, Cloyne and Ferns have been included.
Pam Spees, CCR senior staff attorney, said: “Crimes against tens of thousands of victims, most of them children, are being covered up by officials at the highest level of the Vatican. In this case, all roads really do lead to Rome. These men operate with impunity and without accountability.”
The complaint has called for investigation and prosecution of Vatican officials for their alleged roles in the rape, sexual assault and torture of thousands of individuals around the world.
Megan Peterson, a 21-year-old Snap member who spoke publicly of her abuse for the first time last week, said: “It’s important that the court understand that this is still happening and that they need to take this case seriously and do the right thing.
“I don’t want any more kids to go through what I went through.”