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US Cardinals in Rome for Paedophilia Talks

American Cardinals have come to the Vatican for two days of talks with the Pope in the wake of the U.S. sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic church.


Pope John Paul II reads his message to American Cardinals on Tuesday

The media presence in Rome on Monday was more befitting a pop star’s arrival than one by American cardinals. But the exploding US sexual abuse scandal has turned the world’s eyes on the cardinals’ trip to meet with Pope John Paul II and Vatican officials. The 13 cardinals, including three who work at the Vatican, hope the meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday will put the credibility of the U.S. church back on track.

The Roman Catholic Church in the United States has been rocked by revelations of sexual abuse by priests of children in their parishes.

Much of the anger has centred on Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, whose failure to take action against suspected paedophile priests helped create the crisis in the American Roman Catholic Church. It has been revealed that Cardinal Law knew about the Rev. Paul Shanley’s sexual abuse for years, but did nothing to stop Shanley from interacting with children.

It was another Boston priest, John Geoghan, that triggered revelations about numerous other cases involving paedophilia in other part of the United States. Geoghan is accused of abusing 130 children over 30 years.

Law had been in seclusion for two weeks before Monday’s arrival in Rome. In a public statement on Sunday, he likened the situation facing the Catholic Church in Boston to last year’s September 11 tragedy.

"It is crisis which shocks the heart and soul and which must spark immediate and decisive changes," he said.

He said the crisis was not media driven, but a very serious issue undermining the mission of the church.

Other Topics on the Agenda

Aside from the paedophilia scandal, the meetings this week may also address how to stress the rule on celibacy with future priests. The pope has said the rule cannot be changed. In addressing Nigerian bishops, the Pope said that celibacy had to be "a complete gift of self to the Lord and his Church" and should be carefully safeguarded.

Church officials have said they will be seeking guidance from the Vatican on how best to deal with paedophile priests, whether there should be a "one strike and you’re out" rule or if paedophile priests could stay in the ministry and their duties changed to keep them from interacting with children.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, DC told reporters that the Church’s ban on women priests was "not in the discussible area right now" because it was a question of faith.

German Cardinals Meet

Sexual misconduct was also at the centre of the German Bishop’s Conference meeting in the city of Würzburg today. The Bishop’s Conference announced at the meeting’s conclusion that it will set up a special commission to investigate cases of sexual abuse by priests.

Such abuse is nothing new in Germany, although most cases only come to light when legal action is taken against the offender.

The latest case involved a priest from the Lower Franconian town of Sandberg who confessed to sexual misconduct two weeks ago. The diocese in charge released the man from his duties immediately and informed authorities in Rome. It was the first time that such a report was issued to the Vatican.

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