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Bishop Gregory says facing sex scandal has improved Church

The US church today is "in a much better place than we were in this past very painful year", according to US Conference of Catholic Bishops President Bishop Wilton Gregory.

Speaking at the closing press conference last week's bishops' meeting, Bishop Gregory said there is still a need to restore trust in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, but the bishops are committed to a course of action that will do so.

"It's been painful for bishops as we come to terms with this issue, with our mistakes, our accountability," he said. "It's been painful for our priests, who have endured a period of awful scrutiny and some very unfair judgments on priests in general. It's been painful for our diocesan communities, our faithful and religious who make up the local churches."

He added, however, "At this point I feel very much heartened that we are in a much different space. We have taken some very serious actions. We've been in dialogue with the Holy See" on revising the norms for dealing with sexual abuse that the bishops adopted in Dallas.

Catholic News Service

US Conference of Catholic Bishops | November 2002 Bishops' Meeting | AP


America's Catholic bishops are hoping a newly adopted sex abuse policy will restore their credibility, but the damage caused by months of revelations that church leaders had sheltered priests accused of molesting children will take years to repair.

At last week's meeting in Washington, the bishops' pronouncements on issues like war in Iraq and religious outreach to Hispanic immigrants were overshadowed by the scandals - just one sign of the difficulties bishops' now face.

Some parishioners say the church still can't move forward until bishops who mishandled abuse claims resign or are at least singled out for criticism by their colleagues.

"Restoring confidence in the bishops, the priesthood, and the authority structures of the church will take a long, long time," said Russell Shaw, a former spokesman for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"Our people are awaiting some kind of sign that we recognise that we have culpability in this matter," said Archbishop Alexander Brunett of Seattle, who supported a tougher statement.

The bishops lamented that their Washington pronouncements on other issues were gaining little attention, especially the document opposing war in Iraq on moral grounds, but they also understand that they must focus on ending the abuse crisis.



Bishop John McCormack of Manchester, New Haven, has said that men who are gay should not necessarily be precluded from becoming priests.

According to published reports, McCormack believes what is most important is that a priest commit himself to a life of celibacy and follow church doctrine. At the same time, he concedes there are obstacles for gay men who want to join the priesthood.

McCormack says he doesn't think the Catholic Church has ever accepted a man who it knew was living an openly gay lifestyle.

McCormack says the church is looking for priests who are mature and of high integrity.

The comments come as the church reevaluates its policies for handling sexual abuse allegations against priests.


Diocese of Manchester
Vatican prepares draft directives against admitting gays as priests (10/10/02)

19 Nov 2002