Protest March on Vatican Planned Tomorrow

By Philip Pullella
Montreal Gazette
October 30, 2010

Victims of abuse by Roman Catholic priests will try to march on the Vatican tomorrow despite the lack of a police permit, to demand the church do more to protect children and hold abusers accountable.

Bernie McDaid and Gary Bergeron, founders of,told a news conference yesterday they would start a petition drive to ask the United Nations to declare systemic pedophilia a crime against humanity.

"We are not crippled. We are injured people who are willing to talk about it now. The guilt and the shame is in the cover-up," said McDaid, one of the first abuse victims to meet with Pope Benedict, in Washington in 2008.

Revelations about children who were sexually abused by priests over the past decades have rocked the church this year, particularly in Europe, the United States and Australia.

McDaid, 54, and Bergeron, 47, were abused by the same priest as children in different cities in the Boston area about seven years apart in the 1960s.

Both were altar boys and both said they were molested by a priest who was first denounced as an abuser in 1962 but was shifted from parish to parish instead of being defrocked.

They met as adults in 2002 when the Church sex abuse scandal first swept the United States, with its epicentre in Boston.

This year, a new chapter in the scandal came to light as victims in other countries, including Ireland, Austria, Italy and the pope's native Germany, came forward. Bishops in several European countries have resigned, either because they were unmasked as abusers or had mishandled abuse cases.

Bergeron and McDaid will lead two days of activities in Rome along with victims of abuse from 12 countries, culminating tomorrow, which they have dubbed Reformation Day, the anniversary of the day in 1517 when Martin Luther began the Reformation.

After gathering in nearby Castel Sant' Angelo on the Tiber River, they plan to lead a candlelight march to the Vatican. Italian police have denied them a permit for the last leg of the demonstration but they say they will carry it out anyway. They hope several hundred victims and supporters will show up.

"We are asking that the world stand behind us, stand with us, and look at this petition that we are starting ... so that we can get the UN to define systemic sexual abuse of children under crimes against humanity," Bergeron said.


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