A group of survivors of sexual abuse by clergy have identified 12 cardinals who are currently a candidate for pope in the Roman Catholic Church that have the worst history when it comes to responding to child sex abuse claims.
SNAP, the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests, told media on Wednesday that it was basing its list on news reports, legal filings and victims' statements.
"The single quickest and most effective step would be for the next pope to clearly discipline, demote, denounce and even defrock cardinals and bishops who are concealing child sex crimes. We think that's the missing piece," said SNAP Executive Director David Clohessy.
The top Catholic cardinals of the church are currently in Rome getting ready to vote on a replacement for Pope Benedict XVI, who became the first pope in close to 600 years to retire from his position. They know that the world is watching and expecting that they start taking steps to tackle the child abuse reports that have gripped the church over the past couple of decades.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the main spokesman for the Vatican, told CNN that the cardinals will be selecting a new people on their own and will not be influenced by outside organizations.
"We believe it is not up to SNAP to decide who comes to conclave and who is chosen ... cardinals can decide themselves without asking SNAP for advice," Lombardi said.
The names of the 12 blacklisted cardinals were not immediately available, but SNAP said they came from various backgrounds and countries, including: Honduras, Mexico, Canada, Ghana, Australia, Italy, Argentina, the Czech Republic and the U.S.
SNAP, which was founded in 1988 as a group offering support and protection for people abused by priests, said that they are coming forward now because keeping silent and waiting for the church to take meaningful action was not working.
"The short answer is we've tried silence, silence didn't work, so we have to speak out. We have to do everything we can to get this information out there," said Barbara Dorris, victims' outreach director for SNAP.
The list comes only a week after Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who was the top Catholic cleric in Britain, resigned from his position and admitted to having engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with other priests in the 1980s.
"To those I have offended, I apologize and ask forgiveness," the cardinal said in his resignation letter. "I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement.
At the Vatican, 113 out of the 115 cardinals expected to vote on a new pope had already gathered by Wednesday, closing off the world famous Sistine Chapel and its ornate ceiling by Michelangelo so that preparations for the upcoming vote can take place.