New sex-abuse allegations ahead of pope election

Victims group names three 'promising' candidates

New sex-abuse allegations ahead of pope election

(By Christopher Livesay) Rome, March 7 - As the last cardinals made their way to Rome this week ahead of the conclave to elect a new pope, fresh priest sex-abuse allegations surfaced on Thursday as advocates and victims called on the Church to make pedophilia a central focus when considering a successor to Benedict XVI. In Italy, a group campaigning against priest sex abuse on Thursday called for Cardinal Domenico Calcagno to be banned from electing a new pope. Francesco Zanardi, the head of L'Abuso, said he he will be in Rome Friday to "personally hand (Vatican Spokesman Federico) Lombardi and the Vatican administrative office" a petition signed by numerous people demanding that "Cardinal Calcagno stays out of the conclave". Zanardi accuses Calcagno, a former bishop of the northern city of Savona, and two other recent bishops there of systematically covering up cases of pedophilia in the diocese. On Sunday, pedophilia victims appeared on Italian television with accusations that Benedict knew of several cases of priest sex abuse in Savona but never did anything about it. The accusers, who made their statements on Italian television program Le Iene, said that the Vatican failed to press charges against several priests in the city of Savona who victimized minors 10 years ago when then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was cardinal-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose role required investigating the sexual abuse of minors by priests. Presented as evidence on the program was a letter dated September 8, 2003 and addressed to Ratzinger in which Calcagno informed him of a priest who had been accused of pedophilia. The priest, who was later transferred to another parish, was sentenced to one year in jail last year. In an unrelated case, an Italian consumer association is pressing forward in its motion to investigate Cardinal Roger Mahony and his role in allegedly covering up instances of priest sex abuse in the United States. On Thursday, Codacons filed a motion with Rome prosecutors to convene with the leaders of US-based SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) as expert witnesses. Named in the motion were SNAP directors David Clohessy and Barbara Dorris, who are in Rome advocating for issues related to sex abuse in the Church to be a priority in electing a new pope at the upcoming conclave. Last Friday, Codacons submitted a request to investigate Mahony if he went to Rome, which he did. Shortly before arriving, the retired archbishop of Los Angeles was summoned to answer questions under oath about a visiting Mexican priest who in 1987 is believed to have molested 26 children. In its initial motion, Codacons said "we must bring to light whether there were any Italians who were victimized". But advocates on Thursday also chose to look at members of the Church hierarchy whose records on child sex abuse were comparatively bright. At a hotel in Rome, SNAP named three cardinals they said were "promising" candidates for pope because of their record on child sex-abuse claims. The three were Cardinals Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines and Christoph Schoenborn of Austria, and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin. Martin is a longshot candidate since he is not a cardinal, while the other two have been named as "papabili", or papal contenders. SNAP said Cardinal Tagle is one of very few prelates who have spoken clearly about the "culture of shame" that surrounds victims of sex abuse and has been helpful in defrocking at least one convicted priest. At a Vatican abuse symposium in 2012, Tagle mentioned coverups and argued that the church should stop "waiting for a bomb" and instead prevent the scandal from happening, rather than try to "prevent it from exploding". The group applauded Cardinal Schoenborn for "famously and publicly criticizing" Cardinal Angelo Sodano, now dean of the College of Cardinals, for allegedly obstructing the investigation of Schoenborn's predecessor, Cardinal Herman Groer, who was accused of abusing children. Schoenborn was later disciplined by Benedict for his remarks. SNAP lauded Martin, the primate of Ireland, for acknowledging that there were likely thousands of abuse victims throughout Ireland, and that the clergy abuse epidemic "will shock us all". "There's a real danger today of people saying the child abuse scandal is over...It isn't over," Martin told the Irish press in 2012 as the scope of priest sex abuse in the country continued to unfold. Martin, SNAP underlines, "also went against the norm when he willingly turned over documents to secular officials relating to abusive priests". SNAP director Clohessy said the group was not officially "endorsing" anyone. "While SNAP has serious doubts about the role nearly every top Catholic official has played in the Church's continuing abuse and coverup crisis, the group is highlighting three potential 'papabili', calling them 'promising'". On Wednesday the group named a 'Dirty Dozen' of cardinals they said should not be candidates for pope. Those cardinals are: Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico; Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras; Timothy Michael Dolan of New York; Angelo Scola and Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, both from Italy; Australia's George Pell; Dominik Duka of the Czech Republic; Donald Wuerl of Washington DC; Marc Ouellet from Quebec; Sean O'Malley from Boston; Argentina's Leonardo Sandri; and Peter Turkson from Ghana. The Vatican replied that it would not be swayed by the list.

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