- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2003

From combined dispatches

VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II yesterday decried the “scandalous behavior” of some priests in a veiled reference to sex scandals that have shaken the Roman Catholic Church.

The pope, who next week celebrates the 25th anniversary of his pontificate, said clergy should embrace “the esteemed gift of celibacy” and should not view the priesthood as a career or a means of earning a living.

“Sadly, the lifestyle of some clergy has been a countersign to the spirit of the evangelical counsels, which should be part of the spirituality of every priest,” the pope said in English in an address to Philippine bishops.

“The scandalous behavior of a few has undermined the credibility of many.”

A series of scandals involving child sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests has hit the church in the United States, Ireland and several other European countries in recent years.

Some critics believe celibacy rules were ultimately to blame for the scandals, but the pope has made clear the rules will not be softened. He instead has called on church leaders to be more careful about selecting prospective priests.

John Paul said the priesthood could not be regarded as a job like any other, but was a vocation that required spiritual training and doctrinal instruction.

“Celibacy is to be regarded as an integral part of the priest’s exterior and interior life, and not just as a long-standing ideal,” he said.

The Vatican in December formally approved tough measures to punish priests who commit sexual abuse, which include the outright dismissal from the priesthood of clergy found guilty.

Last month, 34 priests in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic nation of 80 million people, were suspended for sexual abuse as part of a sweeping reform of the church in the country.

Catholic bishops issued a rare public apology in July after two senior bishops were implicated in sex scandals.

Last month, the Archdiocese of Boston agreed to pay $85 million to settle more than 500 sexual-abuse lawsuits — the largest public payout ever made by the U.S. Roman Catholic Church.

The Boston Archdiocese, which has some 2 million Roman Catholics, has been the focus of a sexual-abuse scandal that a report by the Massachusetts attorney general said has claimed more than 1,000 child victims in the past 60 years.

The report held the church leadership directly responsible for covering up accusations of abuse against nearly 250 priests.

In August, a confidential Vatican document drafted more than 40 years ago was revealed to set out a policy that demanded total secrecy in cases of sex abuse by priests, although officials said it was out of date.

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