Victims of clergy sex abuse have named a top Vatican official with roots in San Francisco as part of a small group of Catholic Church officials who should be investigated for crimes against humanity in a formal complaint lodged this week with the International Criminal Court.
The complaint, filed Monday at the Hague, asserts that Cardinal William Levada is one of four high-ranking clerics who bear "greatest responsibility for ongoing, widespread and systematic sexual violence" perpetrated by priests, according to a statement from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
Levada became archbishop of San Francisco in 1995. In 2005 he was appointed Prefect of the Doctrine of the Congregation of the Faith by Pope Benedict XVI. The prefect is officially responsible for handling priest abuse cases worldwide.
The pope is also named in the complaint, along with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Dean of the College of Cardinals. The complaint was filed jointly by SNAP and the Center for Constitutional Rights.
It is rare for the ICC to launch an investigation into crimes against humanity based on suggestions from complainants, and a lawyer for the church described the request for prosecution as a "ludicrous publicity stunt and a misuse of international judicial processes," according to the Associated Press.
California SNAP representative Tim Lennon said Levada was included because of actions he has allegedly taken to cover up abuse scandals since he has served at the Vatican. "He's in the second or third position in the hierarchy of the church," Lennon said. "He's the last stop for complaints about the clergy."
San Francisco residents might also recall that Levada came under heavy criticism for his role in suppressing clergy abuse cases during his time in San Francisco, as former SF Weekly staff writer Ron Russell reported in a series of stories.
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