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Pope: Pedophilia Stains Reputation of Church - 2002-03-21

Pope John Paul II says a wave of sex scandals involving Roman Catholic priests has stained the reputation of the church. The pope added that priests should overcome human weaknesses by being more committed to their vocation.

In a yearly pre-Easter letter addressed to priests worldwide, the pope spoke for the first time about the pedophilia scandals that have been rocking the church, mainly in the United States.

Pope John Paul said he was deeply hurt by Roman Catholic priests who became involved in "the most grievous form" of evil. "As priests", he said, "we are personally and deeply afflicted by the sins of some of our brothers who have betrayed the grace of ordination."

The pope acknowledged that the scandals had stained the reputation of the church.

"Grave scandal is caused," he said, "with the result that a dark shadow of suspicion is cast over all fine priests who perform their ministry with honesty and integrity."

In the United States, the Boston archdiocese has been severely affected by the scandals, which involve the sexual abuse of children by priests. Dozens of cases against Boston-area priests are pending, with plaintiffs claiming millions of dollars in compensation from the church.

The scandal has seriously hurt the credibility of Boston Cardinal Bernard Law and prompted many calls for him to resign. Critics say the cardinal, in many cases, knew about the charges against his priests but failed to take any action.

Vatican observers had expected the pope to refer to the crisis in Boston in his letter, but he did not. And a Rome newspaper La Repubblica reported he has no intention of asking Cardinal Law to resign.