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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 18:52 GMT 19:52 UK
Pope orders talks on US sex scandals
Pope John Paul II
The Pope has spoken out against "evil" abusers
Pope John Paul II has summoned leaders of the Roman Catholic church in the United States to the Vatican to discuss recent disclosures of sex scandals, which have rocked the church.

The Vatican says the meeting with American cardinals will probably take place next week.

Demonstrators have been calling for Archbishop Law to go
The Archbishops of New York and Boston - traditionally the two most important posts in the Catholic church in the US - have been under pressure to resign because of their alleged role in covering up cases of abuse involving priests.

The Archbishop of Milwaukee has also been accused of suppressing information about cases of alleged abuse.

The Catholic Church has also faced similar allegations in a number of other countries.

The Pope last month made his first public denunciation of guilty priests.

Time for action

Boston Archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law, 70, has been at the epicentre of a scandal in which he is accused of knowing that a few priests in his archdiocese were serial child molesters, but he did not discipline them - he simply moved them from parish to parish where they preyed on new victims.

The affair is similar to problems in St Louis, Florida, California, Philadelphia and Detroit.

Our correspondent says it has severely undermined the credibility of the church and clearly the Vatican now believes it has to take action.

Cardinal Law did not turn up to mass at his cathedral on Sunday because there were protesters outside the cathedral and he thought they would disrupt the service.

Heavy criticism

Across the whole country, 3,000 priests face allegations of child abuse.

Archbishop Bernard Law: Under pressure
Cardinal Law has been heavily criticised since former priest John Geoghan was convicted of child molesting.

He has acknowledged that he transferred Geoghan to another parish despite knowing of sexual misconduct allegations against the now-defrocked Boston priest.

Geoghan is believed to have abused more than 100 people over a 20-year period.

The scandals are also a huge financial burden for the church. They have settled out of court in many instances and the cost of that has been more than $1bn.

There is talk that some archdioceses will be bankrupted by the scandals.

Commentators suspect that the Pope will have to get rid of a layer of the Catholic hierarchy, starting with Cardinal Law.

The BBC's Ian Pannell in Washington
"The scandals are unlikely to bring about a wholesale change in the church"
The BBC's Justin Webb
"The cardinal of Los Angeles said he was looking forward to talks"
See also:

09 Apr 02 | Americas
Abuse claims dog US priests
04 Apr 02 | Americas
Vatican sued in sex abuse cases
06 Apr 02 | Americas
Accused US priest found dead
08 Apr 02 | Americas
US priests suspended over sex claims
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