23:46 | 25th April 2019

News: UK

Mon 29 Mar, 2010
By Danielle Carter

In 2001, the Pope wrote to all Catholic Bishops worldwide, ordering them to maintain 'Papal secrecy' about sex abuse by clergy. He threatened to excommunicate anyone who spoke about it.

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Fifty protesters from humanist, secular, women's and gay organisations today accused the Pope of "covering up child sex abuse by Catholic clergy," calling him a "protector of paedophile priests" and "an accomplice to sex crimes."

They demanded: "The Pope must resign" and "Prosecute the Pope for collusion with sex abusers."

Their protest took place at 12 noon today, Palm Sunday (28 March 2010), outside London's Westminster Cathedral, the main Catholic church in Britain.

The protesters were greeted by a mixture of jeers and support from Catholic congregants leaving the Cathedral after Palm Sunday mass.

A few applauded the protesters. Others heckled. Most expressed no opinion either way.

"In 2001, the Pope wrote to all Catholic Bishops worldwide, ordering them to maintain 'Papal secrecy' about sex abuse by clergy. He threatened to excommunicate anyone who spoke about it. This makes the Pope personally responsible for the cover-up," said human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, of the Protest the Pope campaign, which organised today's protest.

"Pope Benedict's recent apology is inadequate because he has not apologised for his own failure to act against paedophile priests. He has not said sorry for his own role in covering up their sex crimes.

"The Pope knew about child sex abuse by Catholic clergy. He failed to stop it and he failed to report the abusers to the police. His moral authority is irreversibly tarnished. He should resign.

"We intend to investigate whether the Pope can be prosecuted as an accomplice to child sex abuse. If anyone anyone else was involved in protecting paedophiles from prosecution, they'd probably be arrested as accomplices. Why should the Pope be treated differently? There is strong evidence of his collusion with sex abusing clergy. We believe the Pope should face a criminal investigation on charges of complicity.

"The Pope failed to ensure that priests who raped and sexually abused young people were reported to the police. This is why he is not welcome in the UK and why we object to him being honoured with a State Visit in September, especially a State Visit that is being partly funded by the taxpayer. His visit should be called off.

"The world renowned Swiss Catholic theologian, Rev Father Hans Kung, has accused the Pope of 'co-responsibility' for the cover-up of priestly sex abuse and criticised the weakness and evasions of his recent apology. Rev Father Kung urged:

"In the name of truth, Joseph Ratzinger, the man who for decades was mainly responsible for the concealment of these abuses at a world level, should have pronounced a mea culpa."

"Pope Benedict has direct personal responsibility for allowing many paedophile priests to escape justice.

"According to a 2006 BBC Panorama programme, Sex Crimes And The Vatican, in 2001, while he was Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI issued a secret Vatican edict to all Catholic bishops. It recommended that instead of reporting child sex abusers to the police, bishops should report them to the Vatican and encourage the victims to take an oath to not talk about the abuse they suffered. To keep victims quiet, the Pope warned that if they broke their oath and repeated the sex abuse allegations they should be excommunicated.

"Benedict XVI put the interests and image of the church before the welfare of children and young people. He is unfit to remain as Pope.

"The Panorama programme revealed details of the Pope's leading role in the cover-up of sexual assaults by Catholic clergy. It reported that the Vatican knowingly harboured and protected paedophile clergymen. Priests accused of child sex abuse were mostly not sacked or reported to the police but simply moved to another parish, often to reoffend. The BBC gave examples of church hush funds being used to silence the victims," said Mr Tatchell.

'Protest the Pope' is a campaign against the Pope being honoured with a State Visit to Britain. They object to the Pope's often harsh, intolerant views on a wide range of social issues and his cover-up of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy. They believe he is unsuitable to be honoured with a State Visit and should not be welcomed into the UK.


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