U.S. Bishops Must Say "This Is Over" In Dallas

Cardinal McCarrick Speaks to the Press

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WASHINGTON, MAY 21, 2002 (Zenit.org).-Washington´s cardinal stressed that energetic solidity must be emphasized by the Church in the United States to create a policy of reaction to the sexual abuse of minors by priests.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, 71, explained his position in a meeting on Monday with USA TODAY´s editorial board. The meeting was centered on the plenary assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, which will address the matter in Dallas from June 13-15.

According to the Cardinal, the end of the meeting, to be attended by 300 U.S. Bishops, must give a very clear message: «This is over.»

«How do you prepare for Dallas?» the Cardinal asked himself. «First of all, you pray a lot. Secondly, you listen to as many people as you can. Thirdly, you get ready to have something that can be accepted by the Bishops, and it´s over. If a month after Dallas, some case comes up, we know how to handle it. It´s right there, everybody knows what we´re going to do, one-two-three-four, and it´s done.»

Some think that the June meeting is coming too late. The Cardinal answered: «We probably should have had a special meeting and done this right away. But maybe it was good we didn´t, because this way the Holy Father, the Vatican, was able to step in, and that was helpful.»

«But we can´t go any farther than June. One of the problems is that most of us thought we were in charge of it seven years ago. Around 1995, when we had problems here in Washington, we went through all the trauma, and we had all our ducks in line; we thought we were fine. And then we found out that some dioceses were not there,» the Cardinal explained.

«Well, we can´t let that happen now. There have to be national standards that every diocese has to accept. We all look to end this, for the sake of the victims, for the sake of the Church, for the sake of our people,» Cardinal McCarrick stressed.

As regards the type of policy the Church must adopt, the Cardinal said: «Basically, when the Holy Father spoke to us and said that there is no place in the priesthood for anyone who would harm a child or a young person, I think that became the mantra for all of us.»

«From what the Holy Father has said, and just from common sense, with regard to looking at this prospectively, from now on, anyone who would do anything like this would obviously be saying, ´I don´t want to be a priest anymore.´ If after all we´ve gone through, someone would still violate the kind of relationship we need with children, with young people, that person should be out of the ministry immediately,» the Cardinal added.

Most of the Bishops «are coming to the position of ´one strike, you´re out,´ both prospectively and retrospectively. I´m somewhat concerned about this because you can have situations, say 30 years ago, where memories are not as accurate perhaps, or where people might have misinterpreted something. With something that happened 30 years ago you might want to take a good look at it before you say that´s an immediate out-of-the-priesthood,» Cardinal McCarrick continued.

In regard to the possibility of (non-practicing) homosexuals being ordained to the priesthood, the Cardinal explained: «You want someone who can live a chaste life; that is key for me. If somebody who would like to go into the seminary says, ´All my life, I´ve tried to be chaste, I´m a heterosexual, and I have tried to be celibate, and I have proven that I can be,´ I think you say ´Fine.´ If someone says to you, ´All my life I´ve tried to be chaste, I have a homosexual orientation, but I´ve always tried to be chaste,´ I think you do that one case by case.»

«Probably beginning in this next school year, the question of admission to seminaries will be discussed. It might be that the overwhelming weight of opinion will say that homosexuals should not be ever admitted to the seminary. I´m not there yet. But if that´s what they tell me to do, then that´s what we´ll do. Certainly, I´m there if we say anyone who has been active in a gay life should not be admitted,» the Cardinal clarified.

Lastly, Cardinal McCarrick commented on the way the press handled the matter. «I noted a couple of weeks ago that if this was a Boy Scout leader it would be on page 20, if it was a minister of another religion, it would be on page 6, and if it is a Catholic priest, it´s the headline on page one.»

«There are two reasons, one good, one bad. The good reason is that people expect more of priests. The bad is that many people in our society, many of whom are very powerful, see the Catholic Church as the enemy in the questions of life — abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide. They see the Church as the enemy in terms of family values, divorce, things like that. They feel if they keep pounding on the Church, they will reduce its credibility and the Bishops´ words will be ignored both here in the capital in our state capitals,» the Cardinal concluded.

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