Sex Abuse Victims Deliver Letter to Vatican Requesting Apology From Pope

Victims of sexual abuse by a former California priest brought a letter to the Vatican on Monday asking Pope Benedict XVI to apologize to all victims of clergy abuse and dismiss any official involved in covering up the scandal.

The Rev. Thomas Doyle, a Dominican priest, lawyer and longtime advocate for sex abuse victims, briefly entered one of the Vatican’s gates to deliver the letter, which also asks the pope to instruct bishops to cooperate in the investigation of suspected abuse cases.

“I just put it in a blue box up there, I didn’t know what else to do,” Doyle told The Associated Press after delivering the letter.

The appeal was signed by Ann Jyono and Nancy Sloan, two victims of defrocked Irish priest Oliver O’Grady, who admitted molesting as many as 25 children while a parish priest in Northern California. He served seven years in prison for abusing two brothers and was deported to Ireland in 2001.

“I’ve often said that it’s soul murder. Their souls are taken away from them by the priests that do it, but what makes it worse is the way they are treated by their bishops,” Doyle said.

Victims of sexual abuse by clergy charge that bishops covered up the scandal, ignoring the victims’ complaints and protecting pedophile priests by moving them from parish to parish each time new cases surfaced.

“Until they acknowledge us and help us to weed out the bad people in the church … how can I heal?” Jyono said as she broke down in tears in front of the Vatican gates. “I want my faith back but I need their help.”

Sloan said she requested an audience with Benedict to ask him to instruct U.S. bishops to disclose documents on the abuse cases and to meet with the victims.

“I’m not quite sure if the leadership of the Catholic Church even is able to understand how damaging this is to people. They look at their image, they look at the drainage of money,” Doyle said.

U.S. dioceses calculate they have paid more than $1 billion in settlements and other costs related to guilty clergy since 1950 and more than 11,500 claims of molestation have been made against American priests during that period.