A dismissed request that the International Criminal Court investigate U.S. clergy sex abuse as a crime against humanity misunderstands the nature of the Catholic Church, the Vatican's U.S. lawyer has said.

"It's no surprise, as the claims against Benedict are based on a fictitious theory of how the Catholic Church works," said Jeffrey Lena, the Holy See's attorney in the U.S., told CNA June 17.

"It's not a monarchical structure. The monarchical structure is a convenient fiction that plaintiffs use in order to tie local problems to the Holy See."

The International Criminal Court said in a May 31 letter to the Center for Constitutional Rights that there is not presently a basis to proceed with a request for an investigation of former Pope Benedict XVI and other Vatican leaders for crimes against humanity, the Associated Press reports.

"The matters described in your communication do not appear to fall within the jurisdiction of the court," a court official's letter said.

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, together with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, had brought the claims before the global court based in The Hague, Netherlands.

They contended that then-Pope Benedict had "direct and superior responsibility for the crimes against humanity of rape and other sexual violence committed around the world."

The court only had jurisdiction from the year 2001 onwards. It is the world's only permanent war crimes tribunal. It has received more than 9,700 independent proposals for inquiries since 2002.

Before he was elected to the papacy in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI served as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That congregation only had limited responsibility over abuse cases until 2001, when it took responsibility for the cases from the Roman Rota.

On June 14 Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told CNA the Holy See always thought the international court would reject the request, "given the unfounded accusation."