Priest Abuse Watchdog Group Critical of Former Pope's Claim That He Did Not Hide Abuse

A Missouri-based group devoted to helping victims of clerical sexual abuse is critical of former Pope Benedict XVI's recent claim that he did not hide sexual abuse incidents.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) of St. Louis took issue with Benedict XVI's recently published letter denying involvement in a cover-up.

David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP, told The Christian Post that the Pope Emeritus' recent words were "hurtful and deceitful."

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"They rub salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of tens of thousands of clergy sex abuse victims and millions of betrayed Catholics," said Clohessy. "And we're deeply saddened that not a single one of the world's tens of thousands of bishops and priests has the courage to publicly dispute Benedict's self-serving, misleading and callous comments."

Clohessy's remarks came in regards to a lengthy letter by the Pope Emeritus published by the Italian paper La Repubblica. In the 11-page letter, Benedict XVI responded to a variety of questions posed by Italian author and outspoken atheist Piergiorgio Odifreddi, a mathematics professor at the University of Turin.

Published Tuesday, the letter is reportedly the first published comments the former pontiff has issued since resigning from his post as Bishop of Rome in February.

"As far as you mentioning the moral abuse of minors by priests, I can only, as you know, acknowledge it with profound consternation. But I never tried to cover up these things," wrote Benedict XVI. "That the power of evil penetrated so far into the interior world of the faith is a suffering that we must bear, but at the same time, we must do everything to prevent it from repeating."

The extent to which Benedict XVI's efforts to fight priest abuse were effective remains a matter of controversy among observers.

During his time the Pope Emeritus did enact certain measures that made the process easier to defrock priests who had committed abuse, writes Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press.

"Eventually, a year after the abuse scandal exploded in the U.S., Ratzinger pushed through administrative changes in 2003 and 2004 that enabled his office to permanently remove abusers without going through a church trial," wrote Winfield. "But that decision came decades after his office began receiving a steady stream of documentation about the scale of abuse in the U.S. - far too late, according to victims."

Odifreddi was the same atheist writer that the current Pope Francis responded to weeks earlier regarding atheism and forgiveness.

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