Show zero tolerance for predator priests, abuse victims urge pope


US CLERICAL sex abuse victims yesterday called on Pope Benedict XVI to mark this week’s closure of the Year For Priests by showing that he “really is a man of God”.

Representatives of the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap) argued that not only should the pope take much more radical action in relation to clerical sex abuse, but that he should also “come clean himself” with regard to his own 30-year record of mishandling the issue.

Snap argued the time had come for the pope to finally institute a real “zero tolerance” policy, pointing out that predator paedophile priests all over the world had not been laicised.

Snap spokesman Peter Isely said the time had come for the church not only to remove the predators, but also those (bishops) who had covered up for the predators.

What better time than now to implement such measures, he asked, right at the end of a Year for Priests which had been “anything but positive”?

Arguing that this week’s celebrations might prompt some sort of “global apology” from the pope, Snap urged Catholics to ignore the apology and instead to insist on real reform, including the “external investigation and monitoring of sex cases and the disclosure of the names and whereabouts of all predator priests worldwide”.

Snap suggested that this week should represent a “moral reckoning” not of the priesthood by Pope Benedict, but rather a reckoning of the pope himself.

The person at the top of an organisation sets the tone and, in that context, Pope Benedict should offer a full explanation of his mishandling of the cases of Fr Peter Hullerman in Munich in 1980 and of Fr Lawrence Murphy in Milwaukee in 1998-1999, Snap said. In that same context, Snap called for the process of the beatification of John Paul II to be halted so that the late pope’s alleged failings in dealing with clerical sex abuse could be more fully examined.

The Snap spokespersons claimed that they continued to receive reports of children in church care being molested. In that sense, Pope Benedict could not ask for forgiveness this week “if children are still at risk”. Predators need to be removed “immediately”, and Catholics need to see real action “before forgiveness can be granted”.

Earlier yesterday, another protest group took up some of the same themes when Wow (Women’s Ordination Worldwide) staged a peaceful protest in St Peter’s Square.

A small group of US, German, English and Irish activists marched into the square to “protest the hypocrisy of the Year for Priests”, demanding that Pope Benedict fix his “damaged” priesthood by ordaining women and accepting their full and equal participation in the Catholic Church.

The group, which included two “ordained” but subsequently excommunicated US women Catholic priests, argued that it was time for Benedict to end the “hypocrisy” of church teaching which denied women the right to be priests but which, at the same time, allowed paedophiles to continue in the priesthood.

When these women staged a similar protest in St Peter’s Square two years ago, some of them were arrested. Yesterday’s small demonstration passed off much more peacefully, with the Vatican Gendarmerie suggesting to the women that “it would be better” if they opted to hand out their leaflets outside the square, and not on Vatican territory.

The Holy See today begins three days of celebration of the ending of the Year for Priests, marked by ceremonies in the Basilicas of St Peter’s, St Paul Without The Walls and St John Lateran. The pope will preside over ceremonies in St Peter’s tomorrow and on Friday.