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U.S. Cardinals See Need to Reaffirm Moral Lessons

April 25, 2002|From Associated Press

These are excerpts from the U.S. cardinals' statement at the end of a meeting at the Vatican:

In communion with the pope [the participants] reaffirm certain basic principles:

1. The sexual abuse of minors is rightly considered a crime by society and is an appalling sin in the eyes of God, above all when it is perpetrated by priests and religious whose vocation is to help persons to lead holy lives before God and men.

2. There is a need to convey to the victims and their families a profound sense of solidarity and to provide appropriate assistance in recovering faith and receiving pastoral care.

3. Even if the cases of true pedophilia on the part of priests and religious are few, all the participants recognized the gravity of the problem. In the meeting, the quantitative terms of the problem were discussed, since the statistics are not very clear in this regard. Attention was drawn to the fact that almost all the cases involved adolescents and therefore were not cases of true pedophilia.

4. Together with the fact that a link between celibacy and pedophilia cannot be scientifically maintained, the meeting reaffirmed the value of priestly celibacy as a gift of God to the church.

5. Given the doctrinal issues underlying the deplorable behavior in question, certain lines of response have been proposed:

a. The pastors of the church need clearly to promote the correct moral teaching of the church and publicly to reprimand individuals who spread dissent and groups which advance ambiguous approaches to pastoral care.

b. a new and serious apostolic visitation of seminaries and other institutes of formation must be made without delay, with particular emphasis on . . . the need for a deeper study of the criteria of suitability of candidates to the priesthood.

c. It would be fitting for the bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to ask the faithful to join them in observing a national day of prayer and penance, in reparation for the offenses perpetrated and in prayer to God for the conversion of sinners and the reconciliation of victims.

6. All the participants have seen this time as a call to a greater fidelity to the mystery of the church. . . . We cannot underestimate, in the words of the holy father, "the power of Christian conversion, that radical decision to turn away from sin and back to God, which reaches the depths of a person's soul and can work extraordinary change." At the same time, as his holiness also stated, "People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young. . . . "

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