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Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 21:09 GMT 22:09 UK
'Sack me' says sex scandal bishop
St. Peters' Basilica in Rome
US cardinals were called to Rome last month
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Milwaukee has asked to be removed from his job amid claims that he sexually abused a young priest.

Archbishop Rembert Weakland, 75, made his statement just hours after Paul Marcoux, a 53-year-old former theology student made his claims on US TV.

The cleric, who had already tendered his resignation on 2 April, said he had asked Rome to accelerate his removal to allow the Church to "regain its credibility".

Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II: No place for paedophiles
He also rejected Mr Marcoux's claims that he assaulted him.

It is the latest blow to the Roman Catholic Church, which has already been engulfed by scandal over sexual abuse of children by its priests

Some high-ranking US clerics - including Mr Weakland - knew of paedophiles in holy orders, but allowed them to continue in active ministry it has been claimed.

Mr Marcoux told ABC that the abuse began when he was a student in his thirties hoping to enter the priesthood.

Mr Weakland - from whom he was seeking advice - "started to try and kiss me and continued to force himself on me, pull down my trousers and attempted to fondle me," said Mr Marcoux.

Hush money

Over the next year Mr Weakland continued to pressure Mr Marcoux to have a sexual relationship with him, he said.

Mr Marcoux also acknowledged that he went to Mr Weakland twice in the following years to extract hush money from him.

He apparently got one initial payment of at least $14,000 and a further $450,000 in 1997 after threatening to file a lawsuit, according to the ABC interview.

The statement came a day after the Roman Catholic bishop of Lexington, Kentucky, temporarily stepped aside from his duties amid claims of sexual abuse.

Pope condemnation

Also this week, two Roman Catholic priests, in New York and Maryland, were arrested for alleged abuse.

More than 400 complaints have been lodged against priests in the Boston diocese alone.

And accusations of child molestation have been made in at least 15 other US dioceses including Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Last month, Pope John Paul II made a strong condemnation of sexual abuse by priests at unprecedented talks with 12 US cardinals in the Vatican.

The pontiff said there was no place in the Roman Catholic Church for priests who sexually abused children.

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The BBC's Ian Pannel
"The case may not have attracted any attention were it not for the ongoing paedophilia scandal"
The Church has been rocked by recent abuse revelations

Boston cardinal quits

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07 May 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
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