Abuse victim advocates respond to Pope resigning - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Abuse victim advocates respond to Pope resigning

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MADISON (WKOW) -- It's been a mixture of shock and confusion as the public begins to take in Pope Benedict XVI's resignation.

Advocates for priest abuse victims say the new Pope must begin by removing all known child sex offenders from the priesthood and fire bishops involved in cover ups.

Peter Isely, Midwest Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), says Pope Benedict never apologized to Wisconsin's abuse victims, or really addressed the sex abuse scandal.

"This Pope could have removed every priest from ministry around the world that has assaulted a child, he didn't do that," says Isely. "It's hard today not to think about those victim survivors and their continual quest for justice; they're not finished."

Isely says Benedict's successor needs to send a strict message on abuse. Even though he's retiring, Isely says victims still need to hear from him on this issue.

Edgewood College religious studies professor John Leonard says Benedict did tackle the sex abuse scandal.

"There has been a lot of speculation about why Pope Benedict didn't come down more stringently but he has done an enormous amount on the sex abuse scandal and made the process for returning priests to the lay state or removing them from ministry according to Canon Law," says Leonard. "He did a lot to streamline that make that much more efficient than it was prior."

Leonard says he doesn't expect a huge shift in policies under a new Pope, because most of those cardinals who could be considered for the position were ordained by Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI and have similar understandings and interpretations of church law.

The process to elect a new Pope will begin in early March, with hope that the next Pope will be in place by Easter.

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