Protesters in London accuse Pope Benedict XVI of covering up child sex abuse by Catholic clergy and will demand his resignation on Sunday.
“In a 2001 edict to Catholic Bishops worldwide, the Pope ordered a cover-up of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy,” says the Australian-born British human-rights activist Peter Tatchell.
“He 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 his being honoured with a State Visit in September, especially a State Visit that is being funded by the taxpayer,” said Tatchell, who also represents the gay human-rights group OutRage!.
OutRage! is helping coordinate Sunday’s protest, which is being organised by the Protest the Pope Coalition.
“Pope Benedict has direct personal responsibility for allowing many paedophile priests to escape justice,” said Tatchell.
“If anyone else was involved in protecting paedophiles from prosecution, they’d probably be arrested as accomplices to sex crimes, not lauded with a State Visit. Why should the Pope be treated differently?
“According to a 2006 BBC Panorama programme, Sex Crimes and the Vatican, in 2001, while he was a 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 proposed 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. He should resign.
“The Panorama programme revealed details of the Pope’s leading role in the cover-up of the sexual assault of youths 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 Tatchell.
Tatchell points to the world-renowned Swiss Catholic theologian, the Rev. Hans Kung, who has accused the Pope of “co-responsibility” for the cover-up of priestly child sex abuse and criticised the weakness and evasions of his recent apology. He quotes Kung as saying: “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.”
The protest will take place at 12 noon Sunday outside Westminster Cathedral (the main Catholic church in Britain) in Victoria Street, London SW1.
The Pope recently apologized for priestly paedophilia in Ireland, but failed to silence protests against his planned visit to the UK in September, which began even before the visit was officially confirmed.
It is estimated that the visit could cost the British taxpayer around £20 million.
There were also protests against plans by the BBC to ask Pope Benedict to take part in the daily Thought for the Day slot, a two-and-a-half minute item that features in the news programme Today. Secularists have campaigned for years to have the slot open to nonreligious as well as religious contributors – but the BBC has so far stood firm and kept it open only to those with religious beliefs.