While billboards, posters and festive decorations have been erected all over Rome to celebrate the upcoming beatification of the late Pope John Paul II next week, another set of posters around town is calling for charges of “crimes against humanity” to be laid against his successor, Benedict XVI, at the International Criminal Court at the Hague.
Last February, two German lawyers delivered a book-length complaint to the court, alleging that the pope, named in the complaint as Dr. Joseph Ratzinger, is “maintaining and driving a global totalitarian regime of coercion that subjects its members and with terrifying threats that pose a risk to health.”
The posters appeared this week all over Rome and are published in tandem with a website in Italian, English, German, French and Spanish, calling on readers to join the effort to have the pope charged.
Christian Sailer and Gert-Joachim Hetzel have based their charges on the pope’s maintenance of what they call a “lethal” ban on the use of condoms for the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
“If a coercive cult was now widespread in Africa and its members were forbidden to make use of condoms, with the threat of serious punishment, it could be attributed to the leaders of the sect responsible for every outbreak of HIV / AIDS and of deaths caused by this ban, and started the process against them,” said the complaint.
“Can he be any different just because the sect is called a coercive ‘church’ and its leader claims to be infallible?”
The two say that Pope Benedict has established and maintained “a global system designed to silence and measures for dealing with crimes of a sexual nature committed by Catholic priests, which facilitates the continuous repetition of these.”
Although some mainstream media outlets, including the Irish Times, have run with attention-grabbing headlines, legal experts have called the matter a “crank case.”
Media have largely ignored the affiliation of the two lawyers with “Universal Life,” a cult based in Würzburg, Germany, that follows the teachings of self-proclaimed “prophetess” Gabriele Wittek, who claims to receive messages directly from Jesus Christ.
Sailer is also a noted “animal rights” activist and has written articles promoting the concept of constitutional rights for animals.
The campaign is accompanied by a book, titled in Italian “Il caso del Papa,” and in English “Calling the Pope to Account,” that accuses Pope Benedict of leading an organization that uses “terrifying threats of the eternal torments of hell” to “lead countless people into an irrational psychological and mental dependency, robbing them of the ability to make their own decisions of conscience in all areas of their life.”
The website offers readers an opportunity to share their ideas about the effort.