VATICAN CITY -- Alleged American victims of clergy sex abuse urged Roman Catholic Church officials yesterday to help extradite accused priests who fled to their religious orders in Rome or to foreign countries to escape punishment.
Barbara Blaine, founder of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said religious leaders are morally obligated to help prosecutors in these cases, so children are not at risk.
''The place where these men should be is almost anywhere except Rome," said Blaine, speaking at a news conference in a hotel near St. Peter's Square.
''This is not about punishment; this is merely about prevention."
The Dallas Morning News reported last year that some religious orders were sheltering accused priests in Rome, including clergymen who had been criminally charged in the United States or who had admitted molesting young people years before and now face additional allegations.
The newspaper also found evidence that several priests accused of abuse in one country had then moved to another, where they were working in Roman Catholic churches or ministries.
Supervisors of the accused clergy in Rome told the Dallas paper they were not trying to help the men escape punishment, but wanted to give them a place to live and work away from children.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has declined to comment on the presence in Rome this week of SNAP, which claims 5,600 members.
On Monday, Blaine and another alleged victim went to St. Peter's Square to protest the Vatican's decision to have Cardinal Bernard F. Law say an important Mass in St. Peter's Basilica mourning Pope John Paul II.
Law resigned as archbishop of Boston in December 2002 when unsealed court records disclosed that he had moved predatory priests to new assignments without notifying parishioners.
Some Catholics said protests around the time of the pope's death were inappropriate
Marco Politi, a papal biographer and specialist on the Vatican, said the Italian public was generally sympathetic to victims and did not resent their presence.