Could the Vatican Go to Court for Human-Rights Abuses?

Time has just published my article on the effort to take the Pope before the ICC.

When a group of victims of pedophile priests announced on Sept. 13 that they would ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to try the Pope on charges of crimes against humanity, the Vatican was quick to dismiss the petition as a “ludicrous publicity stunt.” After all, prosecutors would have to prove that Pope Benedict XVI, in allegedly neglecting to address pervasive sex abuse in the Catholic Church, belongs in the company of Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic, Liberia’s Charles Taylor and the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide.

And yet, while few experts give the case much of a chance of success — or even believe it will make it before the judge — the fact that it’s even up for discussion is testament to the success that victims groups have had in bringing their cause against the church before the law. “This is a further escalation of cases that have been going on for some time,” says Jo-Renee Formicola, a professor of political science at New Jersey’s Seton Hall University, who studies the Vatican’s legal travails. “If [the ICC] decides to hear this case, it sets a new bar. And even if it doesn’t, it’s an important move forward in raising awareness. If the church is put in a position where it has to defend itself, in the court of law or the court of public opinion, it’s going to be quite significant.”

Read the rest.