Clergy Abuse Victims to Hold Vigil as Pope Arrives in D.C.

A support group of sex abuse survivors will hold a vigil Tuesday outside St. Matthew's Cathedral in D.C., just a few hours before Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in the area.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) will bear signs and childhood photos of adults who committed suicide after being molested by priests as children. SNAP Outreach Director Barbara Dorris said she expects at least five or six survivors to attend the vigil.

"Right now, this is a really tough week for survivors," said Dorris. "The pope is being hailed as this hero, and yet for survivors he's done pretty much nothing. He has't done anything that makes children safer or discipline bishops that protect predators."

The group will meet at 1 p.m. outside the church at 1725 Rhode Island Ave. NW to express their disapproval for the pope's popularity "largely obscuring the ongoing sexual violence and cover-up crisis in the church," SNAP said in a release.

"As I see fences surrounding the sites Francis will visit, I'm reminded of how much this week, a lot of victims will feel like outsiders," Becky Ianni, SNAP's volunteer Virginia director, said in the release. "Many of us feel abandoned by church officials and the pope's time here will be tough. His visit will bring back memories of childhood abuse and adult betrayal for some. Others are hurting because the positive and extensive media coverage reminds them of the faith that was stolen from them."

The pope has spoken openly about the issue of child sex abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, calling it "evil."

"The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed," he said. "On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children."

In March 2014, the pontiff appointed a victim of sex abuse to a "commission for safeguarding minors," which plans to tackle the problem of sex abuse and its cover-up within the Church.

"Pope Francis has made clear that the Church must hold the protection of minors amongst Her highest priorities," Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement at the time.

Contact Us