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US Church leader says sex abuse a problem throughout society

The sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church must be viewed as a problem throughout society, not one that is specific to the church, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said on Friday.

Bishop Wilton Gregory, speaking at the annual convention of the Religion Newswriters Association, said the media too often has linked child sexual abuse solely to Catholic clerics.

"If society has any hope of eliminating this terrible exploitation of our youth, then we also have to face up to this scourge as it exists in the family, in school systems and in all forms of professional and volunteer work with young people," Gregory said.

A leader of a group for clergy abuse victims called Gregory's comments a disappointing attempt to skirt responsibility.

"There was a lot of finger-pointing at the media and other parts of society," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "There was little genuine resolve to try harder and do better."

Gregory said Catholic dioceses must continue to confront their pasts and work to abolish the ministry of abusers.

He did not detail what the church is doing to deal with priests accused of abuse, saying only that "we must be committed to the best preventative steps possible so that those who would abuse are not ordained in the first place."

He said the church also must comply with the standards set forth in the reform charter that US bishops issued last year on the abuse scandal.

"It is one thing to outline the steps to be taken. It is another to implement them successfully," he said.


United States Conference of Catholic Bishops | Office of Child and Youth Protection
Religion Newswriters Association | Annual Conference
Poynter Institiute Clergy Abuse Tracker
Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests
Time Person of the Week: Bishop Wilton Gregory (for taking the lead in the clergy sex abuse scandal) - 25/4/02
Bishop finds favor and faults in sex abuse scandal coverage (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Top Bishop Faults Media for Coverage of Clergy Sex Scandal (Beliefnet/Religion News Service)
Media unfair to priests, bishop says (Tacoma News-Tribune)

8 Sep 2003