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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Pope retires sex scandal bishop
St. Peters' Basilica in Rome
US cardinals were called to Rome last month
Pope John Paul II has accepted the resignation of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Milwaukee who is alleged to have sexually abused a young priest.

The one-line announcement from the Vatican came hours after Archbishop Rembert Weakland, 75, asked to be dismissed, following claims on American television by Paul Marcoux, a 53-year-old former theology student.

Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland (Courtesy of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee)
Weakland is said to have paid hush money
In his statement, the cleric, who had tendered his resignation on 2 April, said he had asked Rome to accelerate his removal to allow the Church to "regain its credibility".

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.

Hush money

Mr Marcoux told ABC television 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.

Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II: No place for paedophiles
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.

Pope condemnation

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

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.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Alex Van Wel
"Despite the settlement, the prelate denies molesting anyone"
The Church has been rocked by recent abuse revelations

Boston cardinal quits

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23 May 02 | Americas
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