Updated: Adds lawyer's comments, video -

A small number of victims of clerical sex abuse and their friends held a silent protest outside the Curia this morning to protest over a Church statement saying it bore no legal responsibility for the actions of two priests convicted of abuse.

The men formed a line outside the Curia's main door, carrying posters and placards criticising the Church.

The protest was held before a press conference held there later by the legal adviser of the victims, Dr Patrick Valentino.

The Church said on Thursday that it had legal advice that as an institution, it bore no legal responsibility for the abuse cases. It said, however, that it is setting up a structure to provide psychiatric, psychological and social help to any individuals who proved to be victims of its pastoral functionaries, “as part of her pastoral and spiritual ministry”.

The posters were taken down when Dr Valentino arrived for the press conference.

In his press conference Dr Valentino said the victims will proceed with a civil court case against the Church, the MSSP (which ran the Home where the abuses took place) and the abusers personally, requesting monetary compensation.

Dr Valentino said he was 'disappointed, surprised and disgusted' by the Church's statement, for various reasons.

For one thing, he said, the statement still spoke of 'alleged' abuses when there had been convictions. Secondly it focused on legal arguments instead of the moral responsibility which the Church should shoulder since the children were under its care.

The legal arguments being made by the church, he said, stemmed from the fact that several cases were time barred.

Dr Valentino said the victims were scarred for life and their suffering was not time-barred. Some of them could not work or have normal family life and in today's world only financial compensation could bring a turnaround to their lives and balance out the damage they had suffered.

He noted that the Church in its original reaction to the court case had apologised and asked for forgiveness. Now it had said it would also set up a structure of social workers and other professionals to help the victims. In this way, the Church appeared to be acknowledging responsibility, Dr Valentino said, but at the same time it was using legal arguments to say it did not have to give financial compensation.

He pointed out that abroad, in almost identical cases, the Church had awarded financial compensation, mostly in out-of-court settlements.

Dr Valentino said that the victims wanted this chapter to be closed as quickly as possible and he regretted that they would need to go to the courts again.