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 

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

May 15, 2015

UN CAT: Vatican responds to Committee's concluding observations

May 15, 2015

UN CAT: Vatican responds to Committee's concluding observations

September 23, 2014

UN CRC: Vatican responds to the Committee's concluding observations

September 23, 2014

UN CRC: Vatican responds to the Committee's concluding observations

May 23, 2014

UN CAT: Committee issues concluding observations

May 23, 2014

UN CAT: Committee 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 5, 2014
UN CAT: Committee questions Vatican officials in Geneva
May 5, 2014
UN CAT: Committee 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 2014
UN CAT: CCR and SNAP file supplemental report
April 2014
UN CAT: CCR and SNAP file supplemental report
April 2014
UN Committee Against Torture: CCR and SNAP file report
April 2014
UN Committee Against Torture: CCR and SNAP file report
When the Vatican is up for review of its compliance with the Convention Against Torture, CCR and SNAP file a report to the Committee Against Torture that 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 issues concluding observations following Vatican review
January 31, 2014
UN CRC: Committee 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 questions Vatican in Geneva
January 16, 2014
UN CRC: Committee 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 responses to committee questions

November 25, 2013

UN CRC: Vatican submits 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.
July 1, 2013

UN CRC issues set of inquires to Vatican on its record

July 1, 2013

UN CRC issues set of inquires to Vatican on its record

The Committee on the Rights of the Child issues a set of inquires to the Vatican on its record with regard to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
February 28, 2013

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: SNAP and CCR submit report

February 28, 2013

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: SNAP and CCR submit report

When the Vatican is up for review of its compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, SNAP and CCR submit a detailed report to the UN titled, "Fighting for the Future: Adult Survivors Work to Protect Children and End the Culture of Clergy Sexual Abuse."
April 11, 2012

SNAP and CCR file supplemental communication with ICC Prosecutor

April 11, 2012

SNAP and CCR file supplemental communication with ICC Prosecutor

CCR and SNAP supplement their submission with additional evidence, including evidence of crimes and high-level concealment that came to light after the September, 2011 filing.
September 13, 2011

ICC: SNAP and CCR file complaint with ICC Prosecutor

September 13, 2011

ICC: SNAP and CCR file complaint with ICC Prosecutor

SNAP and CCR file a lengthy and detailed complaint charging Vatican officials with concealing and enabling widespread and systematic rape and other forms of sexual violence around the world. Along with the complaint, they submit more than 22,000 pages of supporting materials consisting of grand jury and commission reports, testimony, and evidence of the crimes by Catholic clergy committed against children and vulnerable adults. The complaint requests the investigation and prosecution of high-level Vatican officials alleging they are criminally responsible under the concept of superior responsibility as well as for their individual roles in enabling these crimes, in accordance with the liability provisions of the Rome Statute of the ICC. A delegation of survivors travel with CCR to The Hague to file the complaint in person and meet with representatives from the office of the prosecutor.
May 19, 2011

ICC: SNAP and CCR submit preliminary communication to International Criminal Court Prosecutor

May 19, 2011

ICC: SNAP and CCR submit preliminary communication to International Criminal Court Prosecutor