Church Sex Scandal Taints Holy Week

The sexual abuse scandal engulfing the Roman Catholic church was on Margaret Quig's mind as she went to church to commemorate the beginning of Holy Week.

``There's no more room under the rug,'' said Quig, of North Palm Beach. ``I don't have answers but I think if we all get together we would come up with something positive. We can't walk away from it.''

Like Quig, Catholics grappled with how the scandal should be addressed. Some were dismayed that church leaders addressed it in their sermons; others acknowledged that something needed to be said since the topic was on so many minds.

Around the country, many priests used the themes of suffering, frayed trust and redemption contained in the traditional Palm Sunday readings, to address the crisis. In many churches, the sermons asked Catholics to take solace from the Easter story of faith's victory over suffering and evil.

In Denver, priests read aloud messages of apology and compassion from their archbishop. In Chicago, Houston, and Palm Beach parishioners were met by leaflets discussing the allegations.

``There's always trouble in the world,'' Father Fergus Healey told parishioners at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, the city where the scandal first erupted earlier this year. ``But we should face our current situation with a sense of hope, because evil's not supposed to have the last say.''

During his message at St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York Cardinal Edward Egan called for a ``purification of our church.'' Egan, while serving as bishop of the Bridgeport, Conn., diocese, failed to notify authorities of abusive priests and allowed them to continue working within the church for years, according to recently released documents.

``It is a time of great suffering for the church,'' Egan said. ``The cry that comes from all of our hearts is that we never want to even think that such a horror may be visited upon any of our young people, their parents or their loved ones.''

In Hartford, Conn., Archbishop Daniel Cronin said a small number of priests throughout the United States had caused ``immense harm and scandal.''

``Let it be said frankly that this action is immoral and reprehensible and can never be excused,'' he told several hundred people gathered at St. Joseph's Cathedral. ``These priests have hurt those they abused and caused scandal to the faithful of the church.''

In services in Houston, one deacon said the scandal had hurt the Catholic faithful.

``I must admit I have grown weary these past few weeks,'' Deacon Bob Dalecki said. ``I haven't given up but I am tired. These are very troubled times.''

The priests' words come three days after Pope John Paul II broke his silence on the scandal, saying it cast a ``dark shadow of suspicion over all the other fine priests who perform their ministry with honesty.''

The clergy sex scandal exploded in Boston in January after documents revealed that a former priest had been moved from parish to parish following accusations of sexual abuse.

Since then, the archdiocese has provided prosecutors with the names of approximately 80 priests accused of sexually abusing children over the past 40 years.

Dozens of priests — out of more than 47,000 nationwide — have been suspended or forced to resign.

In California, about 15 demonstrators protested outside St. Mary Magdalen Church in Camarillo to denounce sexual abuse by priests.

Some of the protesters said they had been abused decades ago as children, while others said their children had been molested.

They demanded that Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who was conducting a service, release the names of priests in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who have been removed due to child abuse.

An archdiocesan spokesman said the names of priests who have had complaints lodged against them were handed over to authorities.

``It's important to let people know that the world is not coming to an end,'' said Michael Kaminski, 25, who attended a service in Jackson, Miss. ``We're going to get through this.''