Chicago Journal of International Law


In the early 2000s, the Catholic Church was revealed to have been involved in a pattern of sexual abuse of children. The Church's internal policies allowed members to cover up the abuse by swearing victims to secrecy and refusing to report the abuse to authorities. This routine arguably enabled further abuse by providing abusers with continued access to children. Due, in part, to the hierarchical structure of the Church, commentators argued for the prosecution of Church leadership. Commentators focused on Cardinal Joseph Ratinger, now Pope Benedict XT7, who was, from 1971 to his elevation to the Holy See in 2005, the individual in the Catholic Church directly responsible for handling accusations of sexual abuse. In April 2010, United Nations Judge Geoffrey Robinson suggested that the Pope be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court for "crimes against humanity" for his role in the scandal This Comment analyzes the viability of a potential prosecution, considering not only the substantive legal grounds of such a prosecution, but defenses, jurisdictional obstacles, and meaningful outcomes for victims as well While this Comment concludes that, legally, a prosecutor could make a compelling and potentially successful case, there are political and practical obstacles to obtaining jurisdiction over the Pope that will likely preclude a case from ever moving forward.