Six Americans file class action lawsuit against Vatican claiming U.S. Catholic clergy sexually abused them

Image: St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City
St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City on Sept. 1, 2018.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

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By Corky Siemaszko

Six men who claim they were sexually abused as children by members of the Roman Catholic clergy have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Vatican and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Claiming to be victims of "endemic, systematic, rampant and pervasive rape and sexual abuse," the six say in a lawsuit filed Tuesday at U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., that the Church protected their alleged abusers and “took extraordinary measures to conceal their wrongful conduct."

Instead of going to bat for the victims, the Church "robbed them of their childhood, youth, innocence, virginity, families, jobs, finances, assets -- in short, their lives," the suit states.

The victims were all minors when the alleged abuse happened and lived in Iowa, Mississippi, Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey when it happened, according to the court papers.

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys Mitchell Toups, Richard Coffman, Joe Whatley Jr. and Henry Quillen, all veteran litigators who have handled class action lawsuits for other clerical sexual abuse victims.

Both the Conference and The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations did not return requests for comment from NBC News.

Rima Abdelkader contributed.