IN 2010 Australian human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, QC, first raised holding the Vatican accountable for the global child sexual abuse scandal by viewing it as a human rights abuse issue.
In his book, The Case of the Pope, Robertson argued that unless the then Pope Benedict XVI divested the Vatican of its controversial statehood and devotion to canon law, the Catholic Church would remain a serious enemy to the advance of human rights.
Nearly a decade later Hunter survivor advocate Peter Gogarty has taken the matter a step further by asking the International Criminal Court to seriously consider whether it can prosecute a case against the church.
His submission to the ICC, based on more than two years writing and research, is notable, laudable and serious. Mr Gogarty believes that while there are significant hurdles to the ICC taking on such a case, there is also significant evidence to back it now.
The five-year Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, that ended with devastating findings against the Catholic Church in a December, 2017 final report, included evidence from the Vatican’s newly-appointed child protection commission about how the church, as a world organisation, was “struggling to come to terms with the safety of children and its responsibilities in that area”.
The evidence by two members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, established by Pope Francis, was staggering considering that church leaders, including the now sainted Pope John Paul II, were first warned of a looming child sexual abuse crisis in an internal report in the early 1980s.
An Australian Catholic Bishops Conference-appointed committee tasked with responding to sexual abuse allegations was warned in 1992 of “ticking time bombs” across Australian dioceses.
After a terrible 2018 for the church, in which damning American, German and Dutch abuse inquiry reports were released, protesters took to the streets in Chile because of abuse scandals and Pope Francis was the target of allegations from within the church about his knowledge of a notorious case, the world’s most senior bishops will meet in late February. In the meantime ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is considering what might be a “ticking time bomb” for the church.