Accessibility links

Breaking News

US Bishops Express Regret at Not Preventing Sex Abuse Cases

Leaders of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church said they regretted having failed to do enough to prevent the sex abuse scandals. Their words came in a letter addressed to priests in the U.S. made public at the end of a two-day meeting in the Vatican.

American cardinals released a letter addressed to priests in the United States after a long final session of their two-day meeting in the Vatican with Pope John Paul and top Roman Catholic Church officials.

They said they regretted that "episcopal oversight" had not been able to preserve the church from the sex abuse scandals. "The entire church," the cardinals said, "is afflicted by this wound the victims and their families first, but also you who have dedicated your lives to the priestly service of the gospel of God."

The letter was an expression of support for priests in the U.S. "We know the heavy burden of sorrow and shame that you are bearing," the cardinals said, praising those who had not betrayed their mission.

The cardinals also issued a statement declaring that they had reached agreement on making it easier to remove priests who are guilty of sexually abusing minors.

At a news conference, the head of the U.S. bishops conference Wilton Gregory said there is growing consensus among the faithful and bishops that it is too great a risk to reassign a priest who has abused a child to another ministry.

The U.S. cardinals also said that they would recommend a special process to defrock and expel any priest who has become "notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory sexual abuse of minors." That is expected to be presented at a meeting of U.S. bishops in Dallas in June.

U.S. cardinals reaffirmed the issue of the celibacy of the Roman Catholic Church. They also declared that "a link between celibacy and pedophilia cannot be scientifically maintained".

Pope John Paul called the unprecedented meeting of U.S. cardinals to discuss the growing crisis caused by the sex abuse scandals in the U.S. and subsequent loss of confidence of the faithful. At the meeting the Pope clearly stated there would be zero tolerance for priests involved in sexual abuse of young people.