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Taint Of Church Sex Scandal Lingers

Some Americans who claim they were abused by Catholic priests are less than impressed by the communiqué issued by American cardinals.

U.S. church leaders said Wednesday they will recommend a special process to defrock any priest who has become "notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory sexual abuse of minors."

A Milwaukee man who said he was molested as a teen-ager calls the announcement "damage control," while a Kansas woman who blames her son's suicide on clerical abuse said she wants the church to own up to its problems — and be more forthcoming with information.

After an extraordinary two-day meeting at the Vatican sparked by a sex abuse scandal, church leaders agreed to make it easier to remove priests guilty of the sex abuse of minors — but they stopped short of a zero-tolerance policy to dismiss all abusive priests.

Asked if a decision had been made about the so-called zero tolerance procedure, Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Bishops' Conference, told a news conference:

"The specific resolution to that particular question will be finalized when the bishops meet in June" at their twice-annual meeting.

He added: "There is a growing consensus, certainly among the faithful, that it is too great a risk to reassign a (pedophile) priest. It was not within the competence of this particular meeting to make that final determination."

The faithful are impatient.

Seventy-one percent of Catholics surveyed in New Jersey tell Quinnipiac University that bishops who don't report such allegations should resign.

Another 72 percent say the church's handling of the allegations is not good. Eighteen percent say the controversy has shaken their faith.

By a three-to-one margin, New Jersey Catholics polled say priests should be allowed to marry and the church should permit women to be ordained.

The Roman Catholic Church in the United States has been shaken to its foundations by accusations senior clergy sheltered pedophile priests, moving known abusers from parish to parish.

Meanwhile, Seattle's archbishop is using newspaper advertisements to explain and defend the archdiocese's handling of sex abuse complaints against priests.

Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett's 1,500-word message appeared in a full-page ad that began running Thursday in The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer and is set to run later in six other dailies, an archdiocese spokesman said.

"As archbishop of Seattle, I offer a deep and profound apology to anyone who has been hurt at the hands of a priest, lay leader or volunteer in the Catholic Church," he wrote. "More importantly, I assure you that we will continue to make every effort to cooperate with legal authorities in the prosecution of anyone who has committed a crime against a child."

The Archdiocese of New York has agreed to scrap confidentiality agreements, which have been blamed in part for the cover-up of sex crimes by priests.

A spokesman confirmed that any victim who accepted settlement terms that required silence are now free to speak out. A prosecutor said it means "victims are no longer gagged."

The pope will have the final say on whether any of the proposals drawn up in Rome this week become part of official church policy reports CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey, but the fact that everything was drafted under his eye is seen as the equivalent of a rubber stamp.

On another issue troubling the American church following the wave of scandals, the church leaders declared that "a link between celibacy and pedophilia cannot be scientifically maintained." The group, as expected, reaffirmed the celibacy of the Roman Catholic Church.

The church leaders will ask the full bishops conference in June to approve a set of national standards in sexual abuse cases that will be imposed on every bishop and diocese — a major break with tradition, in which bishops have great power in applying punishment.

However, the document left many matters open to be debated by the bishops at their June meeting.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., indicated earlier Wednesday that American cardinals meeting with Pope John Paul II had reached consensus on a policy that would dismiss priests involved in any future sex abuse case.

Before issuing their statement, the U.S. church leaders expressed their regret for failing to prevent the sex abuse scandal in a letter to American priests.

"We know the heavy burden of sorrow and shame that you are bearing because some have betrayed the grace of ordination by abusing those entrusted to their care," they said. "We regret that episcopal oversight has not been able to preserve the church from this scandal."

The six-paragraph message, which had not been expected, was generally an expression of support for priests in the United States, and pledged "to support you in every possible way through these troubled times."

The Vatican meeting was called in an effort to resolve a scandal that has rocked the American Church since January, leading to the resignation of one bishop, raising calls that Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston also resign and costing the Church millions of dollars in legal settlements.

The final statement Wednesday night was delayed more than two hours, after a marathon meeting extended longer than expected.

Earlier Wednesday, McCarrick told reporters there was no doubt what the pope had intended when he opened the gathering Tuesday. The pontiff said "there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young."

The pope repeated his positions when he sat down for lunch with the U.S. delegation on Wednesday, McCarrick said.

Though America is in the spotlight, several cardinals commented during the meetings here that it was not only a U.S. problem. Recent scandals have hit the church in Austria, Ireland, France, Australia and the pope's native Poland.

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles said he made that point in his own remarks to the meeting, and emphasized the importance of priests in religious orders who are often "moved from country to country" and make up half the world's clergy.

In his address Tuesday, John Paul recognized the damage the scandal has caused the church. "Many are offended at the way in which the church's leaders are perceived to have acted," the pontiff said.

Using the strongest language yet, the pope laid out the agenda at the outset by decrying abuse both as an "appalling sin" and a crime against society.

His phrasing seemed to say U.S. bishops should refer abuse accusations against priests to secular authorities. In the past, some bishops have not, causing an uproar.

On Tuesday, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago told The Associated Press that "if a vote was taken now, I'm sure most of the cardinals would be for zero tolerance." However, he added that he was not so sure about such a policy, raising the possibility of a priest who was rehabilitated, repentant and given a ministry "far away from children."

"The important issue is to protect the children," George said.

New York Cardinal Edward Egan said the issue can be looked at from two sides.

"How do we handle it when someone comes in and says that someone has done something wrong? Can you immediately walk away from the person?" Egan told the AP as he left his hotel for Wednesday's meeting.

"I don't think you can vilify either position. I think you can make a case for either position," Egan said.

In an open letter to American Catholics released in the United States, Bishop Gregory lamented that church leaders had believed "we had made considerable progress" in dealing with sexual abuse but the recent scandal has "all but wiped (it) out."

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