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On Easter, Catholic leaders address scandal

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- As Roman Catholic leaders took the pulpit for Easter services, they asked for prayers for the future of a church rocked by a growing sexual abuse scandal.

The leader of the nation's largest Catholic archdiocese told worshipers in Los Angeles that divine intervention was needed to redeem the church.

"Can the Catholic Church save itself?" Cardinal Roger Mahony asked rhetorically at Easter Sunday Mass at St. Ambrose Church. "And my response? A resounding, 'Of course not.' It is Jesus Christ who saves sinful humanity."

At Boston's Holy Cross Cathedral, Cardinal Bernard Law called his congregation "a community wounded by public sin and the scandal of the abuse of children by clergy."

But, he said, "The saving truth of Christ's ultimate victory over sin and death ... offers us the hope of healing and renewal."

The Catholic Church has come under fire in recent months for its handling of pedophile priests.

On Easter Sunday, U.S. Catholic leaders addressed the scandals that have plagued the church and also asked for prayers for peace. CNN's Brian Palmer reports (April 1)

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Florida bishop Anthony O'Connell resigned earlier this month after admitting to an improper physical relationship with a minor boy in the 1970s. And Boston's archdiocese paid a multimillion dollar settlement to victims of a former priest convicted of sexual abuse.

A Roman Catholic priest in Philadelphia was removed from his ministry after church officials learned of allegations he sexually abused a minor 28 years ago, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua announced Thursday.

And New York's Cardinal Edward Egan has faced criticism for mishandling sexual abuse allegations while he was bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, in the 1990s.

"The problem is deeper than" the abuse scandal, Father Donald Cozzens, a former vicar of priests with the diocese of Cleveland, Ohio, told NBC's "Meet the Press." "I think that it is, in many ways, the tip of the iceberg."

"It's not just a question of a few bad apples in the barrel. It's a question of the nature of the barrel, and also the process by which we select the apples and put them in and monitor their health, if you will," said Father Richard McBrien of Notre Dame University.

Many priests are proposing changing the way the church screens candidates for the priesthood and giving priests tools to deal with temptation.

"I think you make sure it never happens again by ... taking a much more meticulous selection in terms of the type of person who is admitted to the priesthood. It's not simply a question of psychological tests," said Father John McCloskey of the Catholic Information Center, affiliated with the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

"But it's really looking for people who are capable of living the celibate life, who are capable of living a chaste life throughout their priesthood, whether they're heterosexual or homosexual."

McBrien said he could understand why a disproportionately high number of men struggling with homosexuality -- or even pedophilia -- might be attracted to the priesthood.

"The fact that we require celibacy ... It certainly does provide a cover, and especially if they're looking for a respected profession or ministry which will give them an opportunity they think ... will help them to work out these sexual problems, which they feel very conflicted about," he said.




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