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September 14, 2010

Catholic Church Abuse Victims Come to Britain for Pope Visit

by Jennifer Glasse

As Pope Benedict prepares to tour Great Britain this week, he does so in the shadow of child sex-abuse scandals that have affected Catholic parishes around the world.  Abuse victims have come to Britain to persuade the Pope and the Vatican to do more to combat abuse in the Catholic Church.  

Americans Therese Albrecht and Barbara Blaine are in Britain for the Pope's visit and represent the group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). They want more openness about abuse in the Catholic Church.

THERESE ALBRECHT: "I was raped at 8 years of age by a Catholic priest in Chicago, Illinois."
BARBARA BLAINE: "We are asking that the Pope and the Vatican establish a worldwide database with the names of all of the known and credibly-accused predator priests"

Briton Peter Saunders says he was abused a couple of kilometers from this London suburb where Pope Benedict is expected to stay. Saunders says Church officials have refused to meet with him because he is so vocal.

"They do not want adult survivors talking about it, because it shines a spotlight on their murky disgusting abusive world," noted Saunders.

Earlier this year, Pope Benedict met privately with abuse survivors in Malta, amid newly-emerging stories of abuse around the world and allegations of a Vatican cover-up.

This month, Belgium's Catholic Church admitted that hundreds children were abused by priests between the 1950s and the 1980s, in nearly every diocese and Catholic school in the country.

Here in Britain, church officials say they now have a strong set of procedures in place to address the problem.  About 150 abuse allegations have been investigated in the past three years and at least two priests have been arrested. Bill Kilgallon heads the commission that investigates claims against the clergy.

"We are very strongly of the view in this country that the statutory authorities have to be involved from the beginning so that there isn't any opportunity for cover up," said Kilgallon.

Pope Benedict is expected to meet with abuse victims during his visit here, although none from Britain's main protest groups.  Outside the Cathedral where the Pope will celebrate Mass, these former victims are encouraging others to come forward if they can shed any light on the scandal that is threatening the world's largest Christian church.