Tiny anti-Pope rally draws huge police response

September 9, 2010


By Maria Golovnina

Peaking through the iron gates of the Vatican’s residence in London, four people rallied quietly on a rainy afternoon holding photographs of children they said were abused by Catholics priests around the world.

With a week to go before Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain, the low-key rally drew little press and the activists were about to leave when six police cars swooped on the scene flashing warning lights.

Passers-by looked on in bewilderment as officers got out of the cars and poured into the leafy street in Wimbledon, south London. Local residents craned their necks from windows and balconies to see what was going on.

One policeman used surgical gloves to collect soggy placards into a plastic bag. One police officer said they had received reports of “disturbances” outside the Nunciature, or papal diplomatic mission, where the Pope is expected to stay during his visit to London next week

Holding placards reading “Protect kids not predators”, the activists said the display of police force was aimed at intimidating protesters ahead of the visit as they prepare to draw public attention to issues such as child abuse and homosexuality.

Some activists, representing a U.S. and a British campaign group, said they were sexually abused by priests when they were children themselves.

“This is deeply personal to all of us. I hope the Pope is able to listen and to actually do something,” said Pete Saunders, of Britain’s NAPAC anti-child abuse charity.


He added: “I was abused by Catholic priests two miles down the road from where we are standing. My brother was also abused by one of those Catholic priests six years before I went to the same school. My brother subsequently became an alcoholic and a drug addict and ended up dead.”

In July, the Vatican responded to a string of sex abuse scandals by announcing sweeping revisions to its laws on the matter, doubling a statute of limitations for disciplinary action against priests and extending the use of fast-track procedures to defrock them.

It was seen as a significant move because many people who were abused by priests as children often do not find the courage or legal and moral support to come forward until they are well into adulthood.

At the rally, another protestor, Therese Albrecht, 50, said she was abused when she was eight years old by a priest and a nun in a school in Chicago.

“It affected me then and it affected me for the rest of my life. I became seriously depressed, suicidal,” said Albrecht, who had travelled from the United States to join a string of rallies planned to coincide with the Pope’s visit.

“I didn’t face it for many years. When I finally decided to face it and confront it and report it to the authorities at the church, they treated me very badly. They did not want to hear about it.”

(Pictures by Stefan Wermuth)


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This was a “pro-children’s safety” event, not an “anti-Pope” event. These brave victims simply want to safeguard vulnerable kids by exposing and deterring wrong-doing by Catholic officials – those who commit or conceal horrific child sex crimes.

David Clohessy, executive director, SNAP – Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, 314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com, SNAPnetwork.org

Posted by SNAP | Report as abusive

Hope that the world remembers that the real and true crimes here are those of the hierarchal system and those who adhere to it (those crimes being rape, sodomy, murder of innocent and vulnerable children and adults by “men and women of god” and the cover up by catholic officials and officials of church and state..
Those who protest and expose and those who do their jobs like the police raid in Belgium are upholding the laws..

Posted by rememberme | Report as abusive

These protesters have my support & encouragement. The police response was absurd overkill. These protesters are crime victims who are trying to bring attention to the issue of clergy sexual abuse. They should be applauded, not harrassed, by the police. Thank you for speaking out. As a victim of rape by a priest, I stand with you in spirit.

Posted by ChristineHickey | Report as abusive

I feel sorry for these people, the so called church is unable to accept any responsibility because it does not understand.. the hierarchy is so isolated from real issues. The amount of money the British tax payer will have to fork out for the visit of this pope is appalling. 20 million would add some beds or equipment into a hospital that could really save lives. The Pope could sell one of his rings and pay for this visit. Or have those who want to see him pay for the entire thing, after all he is nothing more than a cheerleader.

Posted by humanfirst | Report as abusive

I’m grateful for the courage these victims had to be there despite the danger they faced to expose a horrific cover-up that has gone on for decades and still happens today.

I too as a victim of priest rape stand with you in spirit.

Seeing those victims’ photos up against the wall reminded me of a horrific nightmare I had as a child. The nightmare–I was put up against a wall in front of a firing squad with other kids. I heard the shots and woke up.

Why will government authorities not stop these crimes and cover-ups by church officials who have time and time again lined up kids to be rape, sodomize and abused by their clerics.

Don’t intimidate victims who expose the truth of what happened to them. Those photos were of kids whose childhoods were murdered.

Please handle their photos with care, instead of enabling church officials to line up more kids to abuse.

Posted by CarrieGM | Report as abusive

I wish the police would swooped in while kids are and were being abused instead of harassing those who are trying to protect kids.

Posted by Abused | Report as abusive

Yes, where were the Police when I was being abused in the early ’60s? To go back and find out that parishoners knew that the abuse was occuring, yet did nothing to stop it. Are our children that expendable? Is the Church’s image that much more important?

Posted by AlteredBoy | Report as abusive

Glad to see the Police taking firm action against those looking to disrupt the Papal visit. There has been a recent tide of anti-Catholic hate speech whipped up by the media, and thankfully the police are now stepping in to put a stop to it before it goes too far.

I hope this serves as an example to others that the UK authorities will not tolerate a few noisy fundamentalists disrupting what should be a wonderful event for millions of UK Catholics. Well done to the Met police!

Posted by BlessPapaBenny | Report as abusive

Thanks to the tipster ! Without the police frenzy the media would not have been as interested. Once again, SNAP has exposed the truth of clergy sexual abuse to the world. SNAP Tampa

Posted by ACTIVIST | Report as abusive

corporate britain is really what its all about – one day perhaps another type of childhood abuse will come to light – and the damage it has done – untill then all power to those who bring publicity to this shameful institution, the institution of abusing children

Posted by syrphus | Report as abusive