Washington - Pope Benedict XVI did nothing to punish paedophile priests or Church seniors who looked the other way, according to US and Irish victims hoping his successor will focus on fighting sex abuse.

Barbara Blaine, founder and president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or Snap, called the outgoing pope’s record “dismal”.

“He has made lofty statements. He has not matched those statements with deed or action,” Blaine said.

In recent years, the US and Ireland have been among several countries rocked by sex scandals involving members of the Catholic clergy.

This month, Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez was forced under court order to release files on presumed cases of paedophilia involving some 100 clergymen.

Last year, Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia was sentenced to three to six years in prison for having hidden cases of sexual abuse and allowing two predatory priests to remain in posts in which they had contact with minors.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops says that since 1950, 6 100 priests have been accused of paedophilia. About 16 000 victims have been identified, and $2.5 billion (R22bn) has been spent on damages or rehabilitation therapy.

The pope, who plans to resign on February 28, could publish the names of predatory priests on the internet or order bishops to report cases of sexual abuse to the police, Blaine said.

“I'm very happy that the pope is resigning because he really did not do very much about clergy sexual abuse,” said Robert Hoatson, president of victims aid group Road To Recovery.

He worried that the Church will “keep everything covered up” unless it is ordered to reveal information about abuses. “The next pope has to tackle this issue. This is the most important issue because it concerns children, and it is a worldwide problem and the pope has to commission a group of expert to determine what has to be done to solve this problem.

“And if it means firing all the bishops that have covered up, so be it.” –