VATICAN CITY (AP) American victims of sex abuse involving clergymen urged church officials Wednesday to help extradite accused priests who fled to their religious orders in Rome or to foreign countries to escape punishment.
Barbara Blaine, founder of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said religious leaders had a moral obligation to help prosecutors in these cases so that children are not put at risk.
"The place where these men should be is almost anywhere except Rome," said Blaine, speaking at a news conference in a hotel near St. Peter's Square. "This is not about punishment. This is merely about prevention."
The Dallas Morning News reported last year that some religious orders were sheltering accused priests in Rome, including clergymen who had been criminally charged in the United States or who had admitted molesting young people years before and now faced additional claims.
The newspaper also said it found evidence of several priests accused of abuse in one country who then moved to another, where they were working in Catholic churches or ministries.
Supervisors of the accused clergy in Rome told the Dallas paper they were not trying to help the men escape punishment, but wanted to give them a place to live and work away from children.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has declined to comment on the presence in Rome this week of the Survivors Network, which claims 5,600 members and has been pressing church leaders to acknowledge the scope of abuse in their dioceses for more than a decade.