- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2002

From combined dispatches
The Archibishop of Washington hopes Catholics keep low expectations of an upcoming meeting between Pope John Paul II and U.S. cardinals, although other church officials said the American church will discuss a zero-tolerance policy for sexual misconduct.
"It's only a two-day meeting, and you're not going to be able to solve everything in a two-day meeting," Cardinal Theodore McCarrick told NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday before leaving for Rome to discuss the sex-abuse issue in the Catholic church with the pope and 11 other U.S. cardinals.
Monsignor Francis Maniscalco, spokesman for the U.S. Bishops' Conference, said the cardinals would seek Vatican guidance on whether pedophile priests can stay in the ministry or whether a "one strike and you're out" rule should be applied.
He said they would examine whether there was any situation where a pedophile priest could continue in his ministry, such as in a chaplaincy for an old-age home.
Father Maniscalco said the convocation will discuss "whether this means that everyone with this background is out or whether there can be degrees of misconduct where someone can be declared safe after treatment."
The U.S. churchmen will also discuss when priests should be handed over to civilian authorities.
On NBC, Cardinal McCarrick said a zero-tolerance regime should have other elements to guarantee fairness, but he said he hoped "there will be that kind of a national policy."
"I believe that someone who is who really has pedophilia should never return to the ministry. I think it's an illness that you can't take a chance with," he said. "Anyone who is really diagnosed as being a pedophiliac, you can't let him go back."
While the meetings tomorrow and Wednesday will concentrate on how the U.S. church should respond to the sex-abuse cases, they may also touch on how better to stress to future priests the church's rules on celibacy.
In his "Meet the Press" appearance, the Washington bishop defended the rules on celibacy and denied that it led to the present wave of sexual-misconduct cases, most of which involve homosexuals seducing teen-age and post-pubescent boys rather than pedophiles abusing pre-pubescent children.
"I think we know that this problem is not just Catholic clergy, it is not just celibate clergy," he said. "If really accepted deeply and lived to the fullest celibacy can be an extraordinary freeing, an extraordinary blessing. It's been that way for a thousand years in the church, and there are so many great priests, so many priests who give their whole lives to the Lord."
He said married clergy cannot give of themselves as fully as celibate clergy.
"If you're married, you have a natural and supernatural obligation to take care of your family," he said. "But for the priest, his family his wife is the church, his children are the people of the church."
Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law, in his first public appearance since Easter, yesterday acknowledged criticism of his dealing with priests accused of sexual abuse, at least two of whom were moved from parish to parish despite the accusations.
In his homily at Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Cardinal Law said the scandal is undermining the mission of the church and called the Vatican meeting a "wake-up call" for the U.S. church.
"The crisis of clergy sexual abuse of minors is not just media driven or public perception," he said in his first public remarks since going into seclusion just after Easter. "But it is a very serious issue undermining the mission of the church."
Cardinal Law received a standing ovation from several hundred churchgoers, but about three dozen protesters outside continued a call for his resignation.
Cardinal McCarrick agreed that negative public opinion about the sex scandals has hurt the moral authority of the church.
"Obviously it has. To say it hasn't would be being Pollyanna and sticking my head in the ground," he said. "But just as it changed that quickly, I think it could [reverse course] if the people of the United States realize that we are facing this and we are facing it honestly. I think the church will recoup that wonderful ability to have people say they're trying to do something right."
At St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, Monsignor Eugene Clark talked about factors that have contributed to the troubles with priests, including "homosexuality in seminaries."
He cited influence of the culture of the day and the "sex-saturated" society, and said Americans are bombarded by images of "liberated sex all day long, all evening long."
"We are probably the most immoral country in the Western Hemisphere," Monsignor Clark said during Mass. "If we are touched by that, I ask God to forgive us."
He added that the church may have "underestimated the influence of the pagan culture around us."

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