Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Group says abuse victims under attack by pope

Group says abuse victims under attack by pope

Michael Sears
The group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests held a protest in front of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, calling on local church officials to ask the Vatican to stop criticizing victims.
By Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: March 30, 2010

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Milwaukee advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse called on Pope Benedict XVI and Catholic Church officials Monday to curtail what they see as verbal attacks on victims in the wake of the abuse scandal enveloping the Vatican.

In a protest organized by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, victims stood on the steps of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist holding handmade signs saying "stop attacking us" and "I'm not 'petty gossip' " - references to quotes by Benedict and others since last week's revelation that the Vatican failed to remove a Wisconsin priest who is believed to have molested as many as 200 deaf boys over decades.

"Hundreds and hundreds of wounded victims are finding the courage to speak up," said victim Mary Guentner.

"They should be praised  . . .  and instead they're being vilified."

Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has come under fire in recent weeks for his handling of clergy sex abuse cases in Europe when he served as archbishop of Munich in 1980 and as the Vatican's top doctrinal official from 1981 to 2005.

The controversy widened to Wisconsin last week with the revelation that Ratzinger's office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, failed to defrock Father Lawrence Murphy when it learned of his case in 1996.

In recent days, Benedict and church officials, including New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, have characterized the allegations as a smear campaign.

Without mentioning the controversy specifically, Benedict in his Palm Sunday sermon said his faith would give him the strength not to be "intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion."

And Dolan, Milwaukee's former archbishop, likened Benedict to the persecuted Christ "suffering the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar as did Jesus."

Guentner called "ludicrous" the assertion that victims are conspiring to hurt "the world's most powerful religious figure."

She and other victims called on the Vatican to be transparent in the handling of sex abuse cases, purge the church of pedophile priests and work to relieve the suffering of victims.

Victims, she said, "are doing what every crime victim should do - speaking up, time and time again, until criminals are caught and kids are safeguarded."

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