AP News in Brief at 10:58 p.m. EST


Vatican lashes out at campaign against pope over Dirty War actions

VATICAN CITY — The honeymoon that Pope Francis has enjoyed since his remarkable election hit a bump Friday, with the Vatican lashing out at what it called a defamatory and “anti-clerical left-wing” media campaign questioning his actions during Argentina’s murderous military dictatorship.

On Day 2 of the Francis pontificate, the Vatican denounced news reports in Argentina and beyond resurrecting allegations that the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio failed to openly confront the junta responsible for kidnapping and killing thousands of people in a “dirty war” to eliminate leftist opponents.

Bergoglio, like most Argentines, didn’t publicly confront the dictators who ruled from 1976-83, while he was the leader of the country’s Jesuits. And human rights activists differ on how much blame he personally deserves.

Top church leaders had endorsed the junta and some priests even worked alongside torturers inside secret prisons. Nobody has produced any evidence suggesting Bergoglio had anything to do with such crimes. But many activists are angry that as archbishop of Buenos Aires for more than a decade, he didn’t do more to support investigations into the atrocities.

Clergy victims make demands of Francis

LOS ANGELES — Most Roman Catholics are rejoicing at the election of Pope Francis, but alleged victims of clergy abuse in the U.S. are demanding swift and bold actions from the new Jesuit pontiff: Defrock all molester priests and the cardinals who covered up for them, formally apologize, and release all confidential church files.

Adding to their distrust are several multimillion dollar settlements the Jesuits paid out in recent years, including $166 million to more than 450 Native Alaskan and Native American abuse victims in 2011 for molestation at Jesuit-run schools across the Pacific Northwest. The settlement bankrupted the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus. The order also paid $14 million to settle nine California cases.

“I would like to see this pope stand up and say to those cardinals, ‘You need to square this away and change everything that was covered up,’” said Ken Smolka, a 70-year-old retired actor who claimed in a lawsuit he was abused as a teen by a Jesuit priest. “You need to get them on their knees, and let them spend the rest of their lives on their knees praying for the victims.”

Pope Francis, who has already set the tone for a new era of humility and compassion, is likely to be sensitive to the plight of clergy abuse victims and aware of the need to work with the worldwide church to prevent more abuse, said Christopher Ruddy, an associate professor at Catholic University of America. Meting out punishment to individual cardinals, however, is much less likely, Ruddy said.

Romney apologizes for defeat at CPAC

OXON HILL, Md. — Republican Mitt Romney told conservative activists Friday that he’s sorry he’s not their president but promised to work alongside them to help strengthen the Republican Party.

“Each of us in our own way will have to step up and meet our responsibility,” Romney told a crowded ballroom at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a three-day political summit in suburban Washington.

“I am sorry that I will not be your president,” the 2012 Republican presidential nominee said during his first public speech since last fall’s election loss. “But I will be your co-worker, and I will work shoulder-to-shoulder alongside you.”

Romney’s conservative credentials were sometimes questioned during his presidential campaign, but he was greeted with a roaring ovation and interrupted by applause several times during his brief remarks. Advisers said his appearance was designed to thank conservatives for backing his candidacy.

Romney won the conference’s straw poll one year ago, when he described himself as “severely conservative.”

By wire sources