Vatican sides with victims of United States predator priests

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The Vatican on Thursday lamented the sexual abuse within the Catholic Church uncovered in a Pennsylvania investigation, calling it "criminally and morally reprehensible", The Associated Press reported.

In a long statement that broke the Vatican's silence over a damning USA grand jury report that has shaken the American Church, spokesman Greg Burke said the Holy See was taking the report "with great seriousness".

Burke said the incidents of abuse graphically documented in the report were "betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith".

It said the Church must "learn hard lessons from its past" as it vowed to "root out this tragic horror".

Phil Saviano, a MA man who said he was sexually abused by a priest in 1960s beginning at age 11, said he hopes the grand jury report in Pennsylvania will prompt attorneys general in other states to conduct similar investigations.

Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who estimates he has represented 3,000 clergy sex abuse victims from around the world since the 1990s, said he has sent letters detailing about two dozen allegations of abuse against priests from dioceses in Michigan, Ohio and Rhode Island and received similar responses from all three.

He wants the criminal statute of limitations eliminated altogether for any child abused under the age of 18 and to change the law to give victims a two-year "window of opportunity" to file a civil lawsuit.

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"Victims should know that the pope is on their side".

The report said more than 300 clergy committed the abuse over a period of decades, including at least 37 in the Allentown Diocese.

"The overarching goal in all of this is stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would hide them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability", Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement.

The so-called Dallas Charter - approved by US Catholic bishops in 2002, after sex abuse was first unearthed in Boston - implemented discipline for abusive priests, but did not extend all the way up to bishops.

The USCCB also pledged to ask the Vatican to investigate accusations swirling around former cardinal Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, a high-ranking cleric who has been accused of sexually abusing boys and adult seminarians.

But his credibility on the issue has been hit by a series of missteps and victims' organisations maintain that the Church remains reluctant to hand paedophile priests over to criminal justice authorities.

The conference's president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, said he would go to Rome to ask the Vatican to conduct a high-level investigation known as an "apostolic visitation" to deal with McCarrick's case, working together with a group of predominantly lay experts. "We firmly resolve, with the help of God's grace, never to repeat it".

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