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Vatican claims it is not ignoring scandal

The Vatican has reacted cautiously to proposals by U.S. bishops to stamp out sex abuse, but is making clear it is not ignoring the scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church for months.

Officially, the Vatican is withholding any public response to recommendations by the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, awaiting decisions by the full assembly of American bishops meeting June 13-15 in Dallas, according to a senior Vatican official.

The proposals include a zero-tolerance policy for clergy who molest children in the future. Clergymen who molested a child once in the past could continue serving a parish under certain conditions, including agreeing to counseling and public disclosure of their misconduct.

Vatican Radio reported without comment on Wednesday on the panel's proposals and noted the recommendations "must be discussed, perhaps modified and then approved" by the bishops' conference.

Mere mention, however, was in marked contrast to the silence that greeted revelations of sex abuse by priests in the United States that began pouring out in January.

Pope John Paul II was accused by some critics earlier this year of inattention, sitting on the sidelines until speaking out in a pre-Easter letter to priests. The Vatican finally showed a sense of urgency in April, when John Paul summoned American cardinals to an extraordinary summit on sex abuse.

The Vatican has also sent out some signals in the run-up to the Dallas meeting, urging the bishops to act with care to avoid any rush to judgment that could smear innocent priests.

"The bishops must act with calm and not give in to emotions or anger," Fr Giovanni Marchesi, a Jesuit commentator close to the Vatican, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Marchesi wrote an article last week in Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit magazine whose articles receive Vatican approval before publication, criticizing the "morbid and scandalous" treatment of the scandal by the American media.


7 Jun 2002