DUBLIN (AP) - Prominent Irish victims of Catholic sexual abuse have written to Pope Benedict XVI asking him to take responsibility for the church's concealment of child molestation by forcing out bishops implicated in the decades of cover-up.
Their plea, published Tuesday, comes one week before a special Vatican summit involving the pontiff and Ireland's bishops to craft a response to mammoth abuse cover-up scandals in the Irish church.
Three bishops have already tendered their resignations after a government-authorized investigation published in November found that Dublin Archdiocese authorities habitually concealed evidence of pedophile priests from civil authorities for decades.
But the letter-writers - among them Andrew Madden, a former altar boy who in 1995 became the first Irish person to go public with a lawsuit against the church - said the pope needed to do much more than accept those three resignations. They said dozens of bishops who failed to report accounts of abuse to the police should be replaced.
And they criticized the pope and his diplomat in Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, for refusing to respond to letters from Irish investigations into the extent of abuse and cover-up.
"Survivors find it incomprehensible that the Vatican and your representative in Ireland, the papal nuncio, saw fit to hide behind diplomatic protocols to avoid cooperating," they wrote.
The Dublin Archdiocese report found that bishops did not begin telling police about abuse suspicions and evidence involving more than 170 priests until victims began suing them in 1995.
A second Irish government-sanctioned investigation published in May found that tens of thousands of children suffered sexual, physical and psychological abuse in Catholic-run orphanages, workhouses and residential schools until the last of them closed in the 1990s.
Just as in the Dublin Archdiocese, the investigators found, church authorities shielded those abusers because they cared more about protecting the church's reputation than the children in their care.
The signatories of Tuesday's letter included directors of One in Four, an Irish counseling service founded by abuse victims of Catholic priests, and Marie Collins, who was raped by a priest in a Dublin children's hospital in 1960. She reported the abuse in 1995 - when she discovered that the archdiocese had already known about the priest's sexual interest in children for the previous three decades but kept transferring him to new parishes regardless.
On the Net:
One in Four victims support group, http://www.oneinfour.org/about/
Dublin Archdiocese report, http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB09000504
Report on abuse in church-run institutions, http://www.childabusecommission.ie/