Could the International Criminal Court put the Pope on trial for priests who molested children?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The International Criminal Court is the first truly borderless court in the world. Ratified in Rome in 1998, it has gained support from the United Nations and over 200 countries around the world and is considered a legally binding court by most of those countries. In 2011, the Survivor's Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) filed a complaint against the Vatican and the Pope for involvement with covering up or condoning molestation of children by its clergy. While molestation charges have been filed in local courts before, and while public opinion normally demands apology and restitution by the Vatican, this is the first international plea for justice on the entire Catholic Church.

At this time, most law scholars agree that the ICC cannot hold the Church accountable for the actions of its members. Each individual case would fall under the jurisdiction of its local lawmakers, and there is no legal justification for holding the Church itself responsible. Proponents of the action say that the Church has been actively hiding and supporting priests who engage in molestation, that moving priests spread the problem to other communities, and that their action is needed to start the process. Opponents of the action say that the Vatican and Pope are not responsible for the actions of a few priests, that the case is a publicity stunt, and that since the Vatican is not part of the UN, it cannot be forced to accede to ICC hearings or rulings.

The case is too recent to form a concrete opinion, however. At the moment, it is unlikely that the Pope will be made to stand trial.