Albert Ruben is the author of The People’s Lawyer: The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Fight for Social Justice, From Civil Rights to Guantánamo, published earlier this year by MR Press. According to Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, “If you want to understand how a progressive organization can survive for decades, take on a hostile government, and remain honest to its values, read this book.”
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has a worldwide membership of over 10,000. Last year SNAP leaders decided to seek justice for its members, a settling of accounts with the Catholic clergy for years of unpunished sex crimes all over the world. But where to go to find it?
The leaders sought out the Center for Constitutional Rights, a human rights law group with headquarters in New York. Given how widespread the locus of the crimes and how much time had passed since some of them were committed, could anything be done? The Center’s response exemplifies its aggressive approach to applying the law to the struggle for social justice: it would represent SNAP in a criminal action against Pope Benedict XVI and three other high Vatican officials. Moreover, it would bring the complaint before the International Criminal Court at The Hague. In support of a demand that the Court’s prosecutor investigate those named in the complaint, SNAP and Center lawyers submitted 22,000 pages of supporting materials comprising evidence of crimes along with reports and policy papers.
The statement that accompanied the complaint cited the Pope and the other church officials named in the charge “for their direct and superior responsibility for the crimes against humanity of rape and other sexual violence committed around the world.” The Court has yet to respond to the voluminous complaint.