VATICAN CITY - Four American victims of clergy sexual abuse say they were detained and questioned by Italian police in Rome after showing photos of the Pope during a news conference outside St. Peter's Square yesterday.
Former Toledoan Barbara Blaine, one of the victims, said after emerging from a police station near the Vatican that officers told them a judge will decide if they will be charged. She said they were detained because they didn't have a permit for the outdoor news conference.
Ms. Blaine said police seemed most concerned because they displayed photos of Pope Benedict XVI and his top aide, Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
The four Americans, all leaders of the U.S.-based Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, held up photos of themselves as children and signs reading "Stop the Secrecy Now."
The demonstration was held as a leading cardinal denounced what he called a "conspiracy" to discredit the Catholic Church and said he could understand why some bishops hushed up cases of pedophilia so as not to harm the church's good name.
"I would ask the Pope if he would please open up the files from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and turn over all the information to the police," said Ms. Blaine, president of SNAP. She was referring to the department once headed by the Pope when he was a cardinal, which judges cases of sexual abuse.
"I would also ask him to make a public order to all bishops across the globe that all predator priests must be removed from ministry immediately," she said minutes before police took away the SNAP leaders' passports and led them away for questioning.