SNAP v. the Pope, et al

At a Glance

Current Status 

In May 2013, the ICC prosecutor declined to open a full investigation but indicated they would reconsider upon submission of new evidence. Meanwhile, two UN committees undertook a review of the issues and sharply criticized the Vatican in 2014.

Date Filed: 

September 13, 2011

Client(s) 

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)

Case Description 

Ongoing revelations of pervasive and serious sexual violence against children and vulnerable adults by priests and others associated with the Catholic Church in different parts of the world have demonstrated that the crisis is not one of isolated random sexual assaults by errant priests but is widespread and systemic. In the wake of scandals around the world, experts and investigators have identified policies and practices of the Vatican and high-level officials of the Catholic Church that have covered up and enabled the sexual violence to continue. Some observers have estimated that the number of victims of sexual violence by priests and clergy occurring over the past three decades is in the hundreds of thousands, particularly as more survivors come forward and civil authorities begin investigations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. CCR represents the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in filings before the International Criminal Court, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Committee Against Torture. The work continues CCR's history of fighting sexual and gender-based violence and ensuring accountability for rape as a form of torture, and as a war crime and crime against humanity.

Case Timeline

June 10, 2015
UN CAT: Committee Against Torture requests status update of Vatican's follow-up submission
June 10, 2015
UN CAT: Committee Against Torture requests status update of Vatican's follow-up submission
The Vatican's response was due on May 25, 2015 and is currently pending.
May 15, 2015
UN CAT: Vatican responds to Committee Against Torture's concluding observations
May 15, 2015
UN CAT: Vatican responds to Committee Against Torture's concluding observations
September 23, 2014
UN CRC: Vatican responds to the Committee on the Rights of the Child's concluding observations
September 23, 2014
UN CRC: Vatican responds to the Committee on the Rights of the Child's concluding observations
May 23, 2014
UN CAT: Committee Against Torture issues concluding observations
May 23, 2014
UN CAT: Committee Against Torture issues concluding observations
The United Nations Committee Against Torture finds that the widespread sexual violence within the Catholic church amounts to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment prohibited by the Convention Against Torture. The committee expresses serious concerns about the Vatican’s failure to prevent and punish rape and other sexual violence and about the Vatican’s failures to meet its obligations under the Convention to provide redress, including financial compensation, rehabilitative support, and a guarantee that the crimes will not be repeated. The committee expresses deep concerns regarding church policies and practices such as moving priests, rather than reporting them to civil authorities for investigation and prosecution, failing to properly monitor known perpetrators, refusing to cooperate with national authorities, and lack of accountability for bishops and cardinals who have participated in cover-ups and enabled the crimes. The committee further finds that the Vatican’s obligations reach beyond the Vatican City State to all those acting under the Church’s effective authority and control.
May 23, 2014
UN CAT: Committee Against Torture issues follow-up questions to the Vatican
May 23, 2014
UN CAT: Committee Against Torture issues follow-up questions to the Vatican
May 5, 2014
UN CAT: Committee Against Torture questions Vatican officials in Geneva
May 5, 2014
UN CAT: Committee Against Torture questions Vatican officials in Geneva
This is the second time in four months that top Catholic officials have been called before the UN to account for the Vatican’s human rights record on addressing the ongoing worldwide crisis of sexual violence and cover-ups within the Catholic Church. A delegation of survivors from SNAP travel with CCR to attend the sessions in person.
April 18, 2014
UN CAT: CCR and SNAP file supplemental report with Committee Against Torture
April 18, 2014
UN CAT: CCR and SNAP file supplemental report with Committee Against Torture
April 16, 2014
UN CAT: CCR and SNAP file shadow report with the Committee Against Torture
April 16, 2014
UN CAT: CCR and SNAP file shadow report with the Committee Against Torture
The report details the role of high level Vatican officials in enabling and covering up widespread and systemic rape and other torture by its clergy.
January 31, 2014
UN CRC: Committee on the Rights of the Child issues concluding observations following Vatican review
January 31, 2014
UN CRC: Committee on the Rights of the Child issues concluding observations following Vatican review
In a sharply critical report, the UN Committee observed that "[t]he Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests" and criticized the Vatican because it "has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.” The Committee lamented the “code of silence” that has allowed both abusers and those who have covered it up to “escape judicial proceedings.”
January 16, 2014
UN CRC: Committee on the Rights of the Child questions Vatican in Geneva
January 16, 2014
UN CRC: Committee on the Rights of the Child questions Vatican in Geneva
For the first time in history, an international body with oversight questions Vatican officials about the pervasive and devastating sexual violence committed against children and the Vatican's policies and practices that have concealed and enabled such violence by catholic clergy. A delegation of survivors from SNAP travel with CCR to attend the sessions, and meet with committee members.
December 2013
UN CRC: CCR and SNAP file supplemental report
December 2013
UN CRC: CCR and SNAP file supplemental report
November 25, 2013
UN CRC: Vatican submits its responses to committee questions
November 25, 2013
UN CRC: Vatican submits its responses to committee questions
Among other defenses, the Vatican claims it is only responsible for what occurs within the geographic confines of Vatican City and cannot be held accountable for the actions of its priests and officials outside of those .17 square miles. Additionally, the Vatican submits additional information.
July 1, 2013
UN CRC: Committee on the Rights of the Child issues set of inquiries to Vatican on its record with regard to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
July 1, 2013
UN CRC: Committee on the Rights of the Child issues set of inquiries to Vatican on its record with regard to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
March 8, 2013
UN CAT: Comittee Against Torture makes public the Vatican’s 2012 State Party Report
March 8, 2013
UN CAT: Comittee Against Torture makes public the Vatican’s 2012 State Party Report
February 28, 2013
UN CRC: SNAP and CCR submit report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child
February 28, 2013
UN CRC: SNAP and CCR submit report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child
October 22, 2012
UN CRC: Committee on the Rights of the Child makes public the Vatican’s 2011 State Party Report
October 22, 2012
UN CRC: Committee on the Rights of the Child makes public the Vatican’s 2011 State Party Report
April 11, 2012
ICC: SNAP and CCR files a supplemental communication with Interntional Criminal Court Prosecutor
April 11, 2012
ICC: SNAP and CCR files a supplemental communication with Interntional Criminal Court Prosecutor
September 13, 2011
ICC: SNAP and CCR files complaint with International Criminal Court Prosecutor
May 19, 2011
ICC: SNAP and CCR submits a preliminary communication to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor
May 19, 2011
ICC: SNAP and CCR submits a preliminary communication to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor