Feb. 22 - As Pope Benedict prepares to step down, U.S. sex abuse victims say they want a case to be brought in front of the International Criminal Court. Sunita Rappai reports.
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Just a few of the victims who allege sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests - a scandal that rights groups say has been consistently covered up by Pope Benedict and Vatican officials.
They're calling for Benedict - who's due to step down at the end of the month - to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) PAMELA SPEES, SENIOR ATTORNEY IN THE INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS PROGRAM AT THE CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS, SAYING:
"We brought a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC), asking the prosecutor of the ICC to investigate and consider prosecuting Joseph Ratzinger."
Megan Petersen, now 23, is one of thousands who allege abuse.
As a 14-year-old devout Catholic, she says she was violently raped by an Indian priest in Minnesota.
He returned to India where he is now behind bars awaiting extradition - after an exhaustive legal campaign by her team.
Campaigners say the church has consistently shielded abusers.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) MARY CAPLAN, SEX ABUSE VICTIM AND LEADING MEMBER OF SURVIVORS NETWORK OF THOSE ABUSED BY PRIESTS, SAYING
"Their names will be changed, they'll be sent to other countries, and so you have a raped 16-year-old girl and you have this powerful institution that will protect rapists."
The Vatican denies these charges.
The pope has apologized for abuse within the church and ordered a major investigation in Ireland.
Sexual abuse cases in the Church began coming to light in the 1980s and became a major crisis in 2002, when U.S. media began reporting systematic cover ups for abusive priests.
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