Dismissing trial of Catholic abuse victims, European Court of Human Rights rules Vatican cannot be sued in European courts

It was the first ECHR case to deal with the immunity of the Holy See, the court said.

A group of 24 Belgian, French and Dutch abuse survivors attempted to sue the Holy See and Catholic Church leaders in Belgian courts from 2011, but that country’s courts have ruled that they do not ‘had no jurisdiction over the Vatican, said the European Court of Human Rights. Tuesday to explain his decision.

Abuse survivors – who said they were abused by priests as children – made their way through the Belgian justice system before filing a complaint with the European Court in 2017, the ECHR said.

The survivors argued that they were denied the right of access to court, under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to a trial fair.

The applicants first filed a class action lawsuit in the Ghent Magistrate’s Court in July 2011. They argued that the defendants should be required to pay 10,000 euros (approximately $ 11,600) to each survivor as compensation “due to of the policy of silence of the Catholic Church. on the issue of sexual abuse. “In October 2013, the Ghent court declared itself incompetent with regard to the Holy See, according to the judgment.

On Tuesday, the ECHR ruled 6-1 in the case of JC and others v. Belgium, claiming that the Vatican is a sovereign state which cannot be sued and that there had been nothing “unreasonable or arbitrary” in the Belgian courts. adopt this position.

The tribunal’s decision is not final, however, and any party can request an appeal, known as a “Grand Chamber review”, within three months of the decision.

Tuesday’s decision comes as the Catholic Church faces sexual abuse, with a growing number of survivors fighting for justice.

Last week, a landmark report found that French Catholic clergy had sexually abused approximately 216,000 minors over the past seven decades, and that the Church had prioritized protecting the institution over victims. who were invited to remain silent.

The number of abused minors rises to around 330,000 if we include victims of people who were not members of the clergy but who had other links with the Church, such as Catholic schools and programs for the Church. young people, according to the report. Between 2,900 and 3,200 attackers would have worked in the French Catholic Church between 1950 and 2020, out of a total of 115,000 priests and other clerics, according to the report.

The day after its publication, Pope Francis called the report a “moment of shame” and called on Church leaders to ensure that “similar tragedies” never happen again.

Francis also assured the survivors of sexual abuse of his prayers and said: “I wish to express my pain and my pain to the victims for the trauma they have suffered and also my shame, our shame, my shame for too long. inability of the church to put them at the center of its attention. “

Allegations of ongoing abuse

While the Church has taken “significant steps” to prevent sexual violence in recent years, the report described them as responsive and insufficient, warning that although “such acts of violence declined until the early 1990s, they have since stopped decreasing. France, child abuse within the Church represents nearly 4% of all sexual violence in France, according to Jean-Marc Sauvé, president of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) which wrote The report.

The Pope did not directly address the ongoing abuse allegations in his comments last Wednesday, with some survivors and advocates saying further action is needed to reform an institution plagued by sexual exploitation that only needs to answer for itself.

Priest: The question I was asked after the French Catholic Church's sexual abuse report

A Vatican court on Wednesday acquitted a former altar boy accused of sexually abusing another student at a seminary inside Vatican City.

Bro. Gabriele Martinelli, now 29, was a student at St Pius X seminary at the time the alleged abuses occurred, from 2007 to 2012. Martinelli was accused of assaulting a young student while they were were both minors. Besides Martinelli, former rector of the seminary, Fr. Enrico Radice was also acquitted of the concealment charges.

The trial was the first of its kind to deal with alleged abuses in the Vatican. Saint Pius X Seminary welcomes boys aged 12 to 18 who are considering the priesthood and who serve Mass in Saint Peter.

In May, Francis ordered the seminary to find a new home outside the Vatican.

CNN’s Delia Gallagher and Saskya Vandoorne contributed reporting.

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