A Bishop's Battle

Priest abuse scandal. Roman Catholic church. Sex abuse. AP

For Catholic Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, the debate in Dallas over pedophilia and the Church is one he has faced before - and alone.

Two priests in his diocese abused two young men from the same family.

But unlike fellow prelates, Wuerl did something few other bishops seemed willing to do. He suspended the priests and met with the alleged victims and their families.

"It was a very, very poignant evening," he told CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts. "I spent the entire evening with the family. They're good people. I learned first hand from them, and especially the young men, just how devastating this can be - abuse at the hands of someone they trusted."

A few months later, Bishop Wuerl removed yet another priest. But this time the accused appealed to Rome -- and won. Wuerl was ordered by the Vatican's highest court to reinstate the priest, but he refused.

It took seven years before the Vatican finally sided with Wuerl. Father Anthony Cipolla was suspended indefinitely. He had allegedly molested a 12-year-old altar boy. The diocese of Pittsburgh settled out of court. The victim, Tim Bending, felt vindicated because a bishop believed him.

"I think it's a commendable job. I really do," said Bending. "Especially from the victim's standpoint - to have kind of your day in court, if you will - where the bishop of the city says blatantly 'We don't want this priest.' And he fought it all the way to Rome."

Said Wuerl, "At the heart of the policy is this simple statement that if you abuse a minor, then you will not be reassigned to the ministry. Period. And that policy has served us well."

Bishop Wuerl hopes he and his colleagues can craft a similar national policy - one that will hold the abusers and the bishops accountable.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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