The International Criminal Court is being asked to investigate Pope Benedict and three senior cardinals over their alleged failure to prevent child sex abuse by Catholic priests and to punish those responsible.
A New York-based legal charity says they failed to prevent child abuse, the BBC reports.
The Centre for Constitutional Rights, which is filing the complaint, says it has submitted more than 20,000 pages of evidence of crimes committed by Catholic clergy against children and vulnerable adults to the Hague-based court.
It is being supported by abuse victims in the United States, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Its lawyers argue that rape and sexual violence constitute crimes against humanity.
A Vatican lawyer called the case a "ludicrous publicity stunt".