NY Archbishop: Cardinals' heads not "in sand" about sex abuse scandal

Preparing to meet with 114 of his Cardinal Brethren Monday morning in Rome, The Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan told Bob Schieffer that while he was looking forward to talking with the other cardinals, praying with them and getting to know one another, difficult topics -- including the Church's sexual abuse scandals -- will probably also be a part of their conversations.

Schieffer asked whether or not the congregation meetings, which start on Monday, would address things like transparency and the cover-up of sexual crimes and pedophilia. Dolan insisted "There's no cardinal with his head in the sand when it comes to these issues." Dolan elaborated, saying that the afflictions of the world including "sexual immorality, perversion, abuse of children -that affects all elements of society and culture, are particularly hideous when it comes to the Church. And that that will be an issue? I predict it will."

Pope Benedict XVI alluded to some of these issues on Wednesday in his last public address as Pope. He told about 150,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square that over the eight years of his papacy, the church "has seen moments joy and light, but also difficult moments... there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the church it has ever been - and the Lord seemed to sleep."

He also said in that speech, "I want everyone to feel the joy of being Christian." Dolan riffed on that desire, saying he expects to talk with the College of Cardinals during congregation and then the conclave about how the Catholic church is going to "win back those nations, especially in Europe, that are nominally Catholic but have drifted from Catholic fervor."

The drift from "Catholic fervor" is especially prevalent in Europe and North America where, Dolan explains, "a growing number of people have no trouble with God, no trouble with faith, but they have a lot of problems with religion and with the church." How will the Church address that? Can they reignite the fervor? The cardinals will certainly discuss how "to restore that sense of luster and reform and purity to the church to attract more people."

Dolan predicts they'll also talk about the growing churches in Asia, Latin America and Africa where the church has very tangible needs like more churches, schools, hospitals, priests, sisters and lay leaders.

The growth of Catholicism in those continents is a big consideration for Church watchers and Pope predictors trying to divine who the cardinals will select to succeed Benedict XVI to the Seat of St. Peter. Five of the ten countries with the largest number of Catholics in the world are in South America and a sixth is in Africa. But of the approximately 117 cardinals of voting age (under 80-years-old), only one-third are from Latin America, Africa and Asia combined. Will one of those cardinals be chosen? Or will the administrative authority and power of the Catholic church remain in the hands of a European? All eyes will be on the Vatican Monday when the Congregation meetings start, and then when Conclave actually meets to select the next Pope.

While waiting to see whether the Cardinals will choose a non-European Pope for the first time in 1,300 years, observers and the faithful will also wonder if the Church will consider other big changes in the coming years - such as allowing Priests to marry, or letting women enter the Priesthood. Dolan shrugged off the ideas, reminding Bob Schieffer "the job description of a Pope" is to "preserve the integrity and the patrimony of the faith" and "radical changes" aren't what a Pope is tapped to make. 

  • Alicia Budich

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