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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
Sex abuse priests 'to be sacked'
US cardinals hearing Pope's message
The Pope said child abuse was an appalling sin
One of the American cardinals discussing the paedophile priests scandal at crisis talks in Rome says the meeting is close to consensus on a "zero tolerance" policy.

Asked if the church leaders were likely to adopt the so-called "one strike and you're out" policy for priests found to be abusing children, Washington archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said, "Oh yes, I think so".

He said the cardinals, who are expected to issue a statement at the close of their two-day meeting on Wednesday, had to work from the Pope's strongest statement on abuse so far issued the previous day.

Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston
Cardinal Law is under pressure to resign
"People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young," the pontiff said on Tuesday.

Cardinal McCarrick said the Pope had re-affirmed his statement during a private lunch with the US delegation on Wednesday.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says the issue hinges on whether paedophile priests should be allowed to continue working after repentance and therapy, or whether they should be removed from the priesthood.

Cardinal McCarrick said opinion was divided among the cardinals over whether the policy should also be applied to priests known to have molested children in the past.

US scandal

The Roman Catholic Church in the US has been criticised for transferring priests known to have molested children instead of suspending them and telling the police.


I will talk my children out of being an altar boy or girl and that is the saddest thing
Sandra, Canada

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However, the future of the archbishop of Boston - who is at the centre of many of the scandals - is unlikely to be decided at the talks.

There have been growing calls for the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, who is accused of letting sexual abuse by priests in the city go unchecked.

The Pope summoned the cardinals for two days of closed-door talks after it became clear that the Church was being damaged by the scandals.

The proposals agreed at the meeting are expected to go forward to a meeting of all American bishops in June.

Resignation pressure

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

demo
Demonstrators have been calling for Archbishop Law to go

One unnamed US cardinal told the Los Angeles Times that he and other prelates planned to urge the Vatican to ask Cardinal Law to resign.

But Cardinal Law has shown no signs of standing down and Russell Shaw, a former press secretary to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said he suspected there would be no pressure from the Pope.

Accusations of child molestation have also been made in at least 16 other US dioceses including Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

The scandals are a huge financial burden for the Church and there is talk that some archdioceses will be bankrupted as a result.

Although the US Church is the hardest hit by sex abuse allegations, similar scandals have hit clergy in different countries in recent years, including Austria, Ireland, Poland, France and Mexico.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Brian Barron in Rome
"The Pope said there is no place in the church for those who harm the young"
See also:

22 Apr 02 | Americas
US Catholics worry for future
16 Apr 02 | Americas
US cardinal welcomes Pope talks
23 Apr 02 | Americas
US press: Senior cardinal 'to go'
23 Apr 02 | Europe
A global scandal
23 Apr 02 | Europe
Text of the Pope's speech
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