VATICAN CITY – A church sex abuse victims group is acting out of "negative prejudices" when demanding some cardinals withdraw from the papal election, the Vatican spokesman said Wednesday.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi said at a news briefing that the criticisms raised by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests are "well known" and cardinals already have responded.
The Survivors Network has said Cardinal Roger Mahony should withdraw from the conclave because confidential church files released last month showed the retired Los Angeles archbishop was among church officials who had shielded abusive priests and failed to protect children.
Mahony has apologized repeatedly for how he responded to abuse claims. His successor in Los Angeles, Archbishop Jose Gomez, stripped Mahony of his public duties. But the cardinal has said Vatican officials told him to participate in the conclave, which began Tuesday.
"We are convinced that there are optimal reasons to believe these cardinals should be held in esteem and should enter in the conclave, and they have all the right to be present in the conclave," Lombardi said at a news briefing on the second day of the conclave. "We don't believe they should be inconvenienced or put under pressure by the considerations made by SNAP which are, by my reading, informed by very negative prejudices."
The Los Angeles archdiocese settled more than 500 abuse claims in 2007 for a record-breaking $660 million. The archdiocese announced a new nearly $10 million settlement Tuesday.
David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors' Network, called Lombardi's comments "intimidating" and discouraging for victims.
"It's disappointing to see Vatican officials continuing to defend virtually every man who holds the title cardinal, regardless of how severe and ongoing his misconduct is," Clohessy said.