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Briefing on Cardinals' Meeting with Pope

Aired April 24, 2002 - 15:54   ET



BISHOP WILTON GREGORY, U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS: ... this unique moment, this fraternal moment, to help us to assess and to organize the steps that we must take when the full body of bishops of the Conference of the United States meets in June in Dallas, Texas.

We believe that the experience of solidarity and fraternity, that the consensus of the meetings that we have just concluded, which are contained in the communique that I hope you have already received, will be a significant contribution toward achieving our goals of protecting children and eliminating abuse.

We have also addressed a letter as pastors of the church in the United States to our priests and fellow workers, our brothers in the ministry of the Lord. Now we will be available for any questions that you might wish to address to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As usual, please introduce yourself in the name and the name of the media.

Where's the microphone? OK. Let us start this point in this area, please. Wait for the microphone.

QUESTION: Len Cannon (ph) with Channel 5 New York.

I want to clarify. Have the cardinals come to a consensus on a zero-tolerance policy on priests in the future who are caught crossing the line? And, secondly, what will the policy be for cardinals, priests, bishops who cover up known abusers?

GREGORY: If I can start, and then certainly Cardinal Stafford or Cardinal McCarrick or both can respond.

The question of the reassignment of those who have harmed children is certainly uppermost in our minds. However, the specific resolution to that particular question in the United States will be finalized when the bishops meet in June. There is a growing consensus, certainly among the faithful, among the bishops, that it is too great a risk to assign a priest who has abused a child to another ministry. That is clear.

But it was not within the competence of this particular meeting to make that final determination, although the topic clearly was addressed.

CARDINAL THEODORE MCCARRICK, ARCHBISHOP OF WASHINGTON: I could just add, of course, you saw the words of the holy father yesterday. And they seemed to be very clear. I quote to you -- you probably know them by now -- "People need to know there is no place in the priesthood or religious right for those who would harm the young."

So, I think that if you are looking prospectively, if you're looking to the future, I would say that it is pretty clear the holy father is calling for zero tolerance. So, I would think, as Bishop Gregory said, there is probably the beginning of a real consensus there, following the holy father's words, that, from here on in, there is no place in the priesthood for someone who would do such a thing.

So, I think that is probably very clear.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) known priests, bishops, cardinals? Will there be a policy?

MCCARRICK: Well, I think that is probably going to be an unwritten policy. I don't think -- I can't see how anyone in the United States today would cover up something like that.

What may have happened in the past, through inattention or through whatever, I don't think what we have gone through, what our people have gone through, what the victims have gone through, I don't see that that -- I can't see anyone with a responsibility in the church ever trying to cover up anything. I think the holy father's calling is now to be people of light. And that is what we have to start to be.

QUESTION: You speak in your statement...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, your name and media.


QUESTION: ... Saul (ph) from NECN Television in Boston.

You speak in your statement to priests and in the communique about the supervisory failures of some bishops. Where is the senior American cardinal, Cardinal Law, this evening? Why is he not here speaking to us tonight?

GREGORY: Originally, when we thought that we would complete our work earlier, when you thought we would complete our work earlier, it was the intention of all of the cardinals to be present. However, presuming that the press conference would take place earlier, some of them made plans, presuming that the press conference would be completed by now. And some of them simply could not get out of those plans.

So I'm not certain what the situation is with Cardinal Law, but I know a number of them had other meetings with the media that they had promised to participate in.

QUESTION: Bishop, is he dodging us here tonight?

GREGORY: I do not believe so. But I could not tell you why he is not here.

QUESTION: Rinkford Buck from the "Hartford Current." Bishop Wilton, are you saying that there would be other meetings that the Cardinal Law would be at that would be more important than addressing this group?

GREGORY: I cannot tell you what's on cardinal law's calendar. All I could tell you is that originally all of the cardinals planned to be here. But when the work of the meeting did not conclude until later, many of them had other obligations.

QUESTION: It is an issue of timing?

GREGORY: It is an issue of timing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Robert Mickens from the "Tablet" from London. My question is why you decided to address your message to only priests of the United States of America and not to the people. I know it is a difficult time for the bishops, it is difficult for Catholics too. I'm a Catholic journalist. But we're all -- we thought that maybe after Cardinal Law made that terrible mistake two weeks ago addressing only the priests and not to the people of the archdiocese that we might have learned something.

So first of all, why not to all of the people, only priests. And why a message that seems could have been written three weeks ago. You didn't have to come here, there is only one line here that even gives the impression that you were here in Rome. I'm sorry if it sounds caustic.

GREGORY: No, no. How many messages do you have in your possession?

QUESTION: We have two.

GREGORY: The fir message...

QUESTION: The first message is to everyone in the church.

QUESTION: It is a press communique, I believe.

GREGORY: They handed the letter first, OK, it was done in exactly the opposite direction.

QUESTION: Delia Gallagher (ph) from "Inside The Vatican" magazine. I would like to know as regards the meeting, were there any discussions about financial repercussions for the church in the United States? Will there be support from Rome for this or for future cases if we have it pay for law -- for cases in the courts? And was there any discussion about Cardinal Law's resignation either formally or informally? Do we have an idea? Can you give us a sense if that is something we can be expecting?


MCCARRICK: Sure. I will speak to that one. With regard to the first, no, there really wasn't any -- maybe among some of the cardinals, mention of financial implications. But we really came here because the holy father was so worried about the victims. I was here two weeks ago -- I think I told a lot of you story already, but let me repeat it -- I was here two weeks ago, had lunch with the father.

Completely different group that met. Of course we had lunch and immediately the conversation was about the problem in the United States. And it was I think after that and after Bishop Gregory's visit here as the president of the conference that the holy father said, we will call the cardinals in and talk about this.

But it was so clear to me that he had -- he was worried about three things. First of all, worried about the children. This holy father is turned on by children. He is just so wonderful with kids. Kids are always so -- they love him and the young people get so excited when they are with him. And for him to think that any of his priests may have hurt them was I think just -- it really broke his heart.

Then he was worried about the church in the United States. The church in the United States has been very faithful. And the fact that a lot of our people are disappointed in the church and in his brother bishops was something of real concern to him. I think that's why -- I know that's why we came over. The financial situations, yes, they are problems, certainly and they will continue to be problems.

But you know, the most important thing is that we recognize that we must be sure that we're not hurting the children. That we're not hurting young people. And that the church has got its act together. That's the most important thing. On Cardinal Law, just for a moment, there was this great rumor that came out of the west that said that there was a bunch of cardinals all said to ask for his resignation. I think that was made out of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cloth. None of the cardinals I spoke to, and I spoke to them all, had anything about -- except amazement -- about that story. So I don't think that was true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more question in this sector, then we change to that other part of the room.

QUESTION: Miriam Hernandez from KABC. When a plan is formulated with the bishops, regarding zero tolerance or something less dramatic, will it be activated retroactively so that you would have to back in your files, and determine whether there were past indiscretions that would lead to the ouster of priests?

GREGORY: I think that well, first of all, I think that has already taken place. I think most of you have already covered the review or the results of the review of an awful lot of dioceses that have gone back in the files, 30, 40, 50, 60 years. Some diocese, such as my own, did it many years ago. But in terms of the policy, making bishops look back, I think bishops are doing that already. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

GREGORY: To the level of zero tolerance. That is why there have been a number of disclosures throughout the country of priests who were in ministry and who may have been serving well, but who had an historical incident that the bishop reviewed the files and decided that this is no longer possible. I must also add that some of those cases were so old that bishop who might have been -- who might be the sitting bishop today really had no idea that this event was even in the files.

QUESTION: Guiermo Descales (ph) with Telemundo. On the implications of calling it so openly a crime, does this mean that U.S. bishops and priests are going to have a proactive cooperation with the law in case of other priests that are involved in cases of pedophilia? Are they going to be handed over to the law? What is the implication of calling it a crime?

GREGORY: The implication of calling it a crime is the church's realization that the civil authorities are the proper arena where criminal activity and criminal behavior should be judged. I think that is a significant change. I think it is a change however that a number of dioceses, again, have been following for years, that they have reported to the proper authorities the information that they have received involving sexual molestation of children on the part of a cleric.

So I just want it put that in context, that if the bishops in June implement all of the recommendations before us, one of which may be to turn over names to the proper legal authorities, many dioceses won't have to change a thing that they are doing because they have been doing it since the policies went into effect. For some of them as many as 12 or 15 years before.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the preliminary investigation...

GREGORY: Is done by the civil authority.

QUESTION: By the civil authorities. You will hand over the accused to the civil authorities.

MCCARRICK: If I can come in, I think that what you will see at the time of the bishop's meeting in June is an attempt to make sure that in every diocesene policy in the United States there are some certain principles, I can go through what I think are the most important ones, No. 1, you look out for the victim, reach out for the victim. You make sure that that person, that person's family knows that you are sorry and that you say, do you need any help? Do you need any help psychologically? Do you need counseling, that's first.

No. 2, the man is immediately removed from his ministerial position. No. 3, the civil authority is to be told. In most of our places, that's already the law. You have no choice but to do that. Everywhere I have been it has been the law. But I think that's generally, since it is a crime, the civil authority has to be told.

No. 4, you send the person away for to a therapeutic center for an evaluation just to see what it is all about.

No. 5...

QUESTION: Can you repeat No. 4?

MCCARRICK: No. 4, send the individual away to a therapeutic institution where they will evaluate the man's psychology, the man's history, whatever. And then, No. 5, when all of this information is back in, you have in your diocese a review board, mostly of lay people, mostly of lay people, mother and father, family, psychologist, psychiatrist, medical doctor, lawyer, someone who works for the law enforcement agency.

QUESTION: A victim.

MCCARRICK: A victim...

GREGORY: ... or the parent after victim.

MCCARRICK: So you have a number of -- so they go over it and they are the ones who make the recommendations to the bishops. So that all of these things I think you are going to find will be in place. I think they are in place in most of the diocese already. But we want to make sure they are in place everywhere.

QUESTION: Jim Melling (ph) ...

QUESTION: John Allen, of the "National Catholic Reporter." We have of the United States in the moment not merely a sexual abuse crisis but also an accountability crisis. There are many Catholics who feel that the leadership class of the church has let them down.

We heard from Cardinal Frances George of Chicago yesterday that part of the problem, as he sees it, is that bishops have been making these decisions often by themselves without consulting laity, without bringing lay people into the process. Cardinal McCarrick, you just mentioned a moment ago the idea of diocesene lay boards.

What I'm struck by, in neither of the documents is there any mention about greater reliance on laity and decisions about governance, about personnel, about these sorts of policies. Why was that note not struck? And don't you see that as an essential ingredient in restoring accountability?

MCCARRICK: I can say certainly. I was looking for it. We had it in last night. This document is a document that words are in and words are out. I'm going to see if I can find it. We certainly did want to tell the lay people of the United States that they must have a major role in this on the local level, diocene level, the national level.

When we are closer to the June meeting, these procedures and policies will be -- will work them out. And you will know about them. We will work them out as you see us work them out. But certainly there is a role for the laity. Maybe if the cardinal in charge of the laity wants to take that up. STAFFORD: As you know, I am president of the council for the laity in the holy city. And I was very very pleased with the way the cardinals, presidency of the conference spoke about the involvement of the lay people. There was constant, constant reference to the importance of -- spontaneously both from the cardinals from the curia and from the leadership of the church in the United States.

Unfortunately in this particular final document, it may not be there, John, but it was thoroughly discussed, and it was, from my point of view, it was a very sincere, spontaneous, indication of the bishops, cardinals trust of the lay people in helping them to move out of this crisis.

GREGORY: John, may I add to that too? What you have here in these two documents are really a skeletal outline. There's much more work to be done and clearly, the importance of lay participation in local boards, the participation of lay experts and people of prominence and prestige on the national level has already been under discussion.

But it was simply not a matter that we felt that we needed to bring to the holy sea for their approbation or their activity because we do it. I mean, most diocese have proper lay involvement on a wide variety of matters. Not only those that are required by cannon law, but those that are suggested and even areas where there is no mention in church law.

For example, most dioceses have a lay review board. Most dioceses that have implemented the policies have lay people who serve as review board administrators. So, the fact that it's not present in this particular document does not in any way mean that it won't play a high role in the June meeting and that it doesn't already play a high role in the life of the church already.

STAFFORD: John, you also question the issue of accountability. That also was honestly discussed by all of the cardinals. All of the American cardinals there, every one of them discussed the issue of accountability, each depending upon where he was coming from in his own particular unique experience.

And you will see the words in our message to the priests, very important words: "We regret that episcopal oversight hasn't been able to preserve the church from the scandal." It seems to me that accountability starts with an honest sense of remorse and an honest sense of confession which means an honest sense of conversion. And then we go on, the bishops, and you know, the cardinals of the United States together with the presidency makes a very strong recommendation.

"We propose to send" -- this is on page three -- "to send the respective congregations a set of national standards which the holy sea will properly review with its recoknitzio." So you see that there was some honest acknowledgement of some failure in episcopal oversight. Again, I think we have to keep in mind that overwhelming majority of the bishops of my judgment have already put in and have established and have as a matter of fact, accountability procedures for themselves and for their priests.

But and after having first experienced this sense of open acknowledgement of the failure of episcopal oversight in some of the diocese, we have moved on to recommend or the cardinals of the United States together with the presidency have moved on to recommend that they will be seeking recoknisio from the holy sea for national standards.

QUESTION: One question to Monsignor Gregory and the other question to Cardinal McCarrick, please. Why did it take so long, I mean, you were late two hours late. Was it difficult to find the exact phrasing, the words? For instance, I read here, "to dismiss somebody who is guilty of serial predatory sexual abuse of minors," it means that if one is not serial, this is not so clear like to say, one strike and you are out, first question.

The second question to the cardinal. You were very clear with your five points, but is there a difference then between removal from a place and dismissal? Because if you remove somebody at point three, and then you send him to a therapy, and then you send him to a review board, it means that he is still a priest when he comes to the review board to decide? I would like to understand whether you have the dismissal of the clerical status immediately or at end of this process. Thank you very much.

GREGORY: The first question is why did it take us so long. Because first of all, I think we took the conversation very seriously. It was a very serious and I think fruitful conversation. We were not in a hurry to make judgments that were so significant for the life of the church and the United States and obviously, by extension the church universal.

The second reason is bishops like to wordsmith. Like to say it in another way, but there is -- there is a desire to say things carefully so that they are not misunderstood and so that they do convey a full sense of what is intended. It was not in any way a desire on our part to stay a long time. It was necessary to come to a true fraternal consensus.

MCCARRICK: In other words, we talk too much. To answer the -- that other question. When the number two step, you take the man out of the ministry, you can't dismiss him right away. You have just had this accusation. You feel it is credible, you take him out of ministry. So he is what I usually call, administrative leave. And during that time, he doesn't exercise his function as a priest publicly. Is he not allowed to. But he goes through this period of evaluation and then he comes back.

Then what we are asking for now here is if this case is turns out, as we begin to investigate it, to the just what you were saying, a priest who is notorious and who -- well, then want to go to the holy sea and say, this man should be reduced from the -- you don't want to say reduced to the lay state because is he in charge of the lay people, and I know he wouldn't want me to say that -- that you dismiss him from the clerical state. And now, the other thing that we are asking, suppose it is not one of those notorious cases but it could happen again. And we are worried that it would happen again. Then we are asking, let us be able to reduce that man also to the -- from the clerical state. So we are trying to get all our -- all our options here so that we can deal with the situations that we meet in among the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A question from this area. Please.

QUESTION: My name is Eric Convey from the "Boston Herald." I'm wondering if can you tell us more about what discussions were held or conclusions reached that would allow to you avoid the appeal process at the Vatican that can take so long with the signator (ph) or some other body? And are the bishops hoping to be able to, when they have to reduce someone from the clerical state, have that not be -- a risk of having that reversed within a short period of time.

Just in general, give us a sense of how much unanimity there was during the meetings. Was this only a little bit that you were able to agree on that you gave us, or were a few things that were not unanimous?

GREGORY: It seems to me that on page three of the communique, that the second and the third propositions represent a serious desire on the part of the bishops of the United States to be able to do several things.

One, to be able to act expeditiously in a situation that is serious and whose notoriety or danger is a real pastoral concern.

Two, we want to be just in our treatment of even a priest who offends. Even a priest who offends as in the laws of most nations, still enjoys rights until a decision has been made. So we want to make sure that we respect the law. We want to move expeditiously but we want it move correctly.

Now you referred to an appeal. Even an expedited process contains the right to appeal. But what we hope to put together is a procedure that is clear, specific, and to use an -- airtight. But we cannot dispense with a priest's right it appeal to the holy sea, on even an action that would be taken under these new norms.

MCCARRICK: Also I would add another adjective, and a reasonably rapid response. I think that's one of the things too that we are hoping to get out of this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I don't know what is your deadline at this hour of the day, but deadline is approaching now.

QUESTION: It is drawing much closer for most of us. Devon Skilling, WDIV in Detroit. I realize that bishops are wordsmiths, but so are the people in this room. When you make -- when you distinguish between a serial offender and first time offender, aren't you compromising the idea of zero tolerance? MCCARRICK: Not for the future. In other words, I think we are saying, I think this is a question of what is available now in the law. If you have a serial notorious offender, you've got a better chance because of the present law, as I understand it, to move quickly and to change that.

What we want to have is also that first offender, if that's obviously a predatory problem and we need to move fast to ensure that no harm will come to people, then we want to be able to work fast on that one too. That is really what is we are saying. It as question of the present legal situation, as far as the cannon law is concerned and advances that we want to make, extensions we want to make in giving us more opportunity to protect the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over there, yes?

QUESTION: Grant Rampy (ph) with Tribune Broadcasting. There is clearly a discussion and a momentum to move forward and make changes, and there is a recognition that you need to say I'm sorry about mistakes in the past.

But is there a degree of atonement or punitive action that needs to be taken even among the cardinals for grievous errors that have been made by your group? You mentioned coverup. Of course I'm clearly referencing Cardinal Law. Is there a degree to which leaving him in a position to make decisions is like leaving Richard Nixon around to clean up Watergate?

Should he be there, was there any discussion about, changing the position in Boston and if not, do you think the Catholic laity of the United States is going to demand in hind-sight that as you want to move forward, really, you have got to do something about what happened in the past, beyond what you say, I'm sorry?

GREGORY: Right. The situation regarding Cardinal Law is a matter that belongs exclusively to the holy father and to Cardinal Law. It is not a matter that could be judged or adjudicated in a conversation such as took place last week. I have no idea what individual bishops sitting around that table may have thought. But I do know that the issue of Cardinal Law and his service to the archdiocese of Boston was not one of the topics.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) You move forward from this, mistakes have been made, is saying I'm sorry enough? Should there not be atonement or punitive action among the cardinals when you recognize the issue of coverup, should there not be more than "we regret?"

STAFFORD: It seems to me there are different degrees of atonement. You have spoken about perhaps the most extreme form of atonement, that is demanding the resignation of the cardinal of Boston. But there are other ways of atonement that could be personally even more demanding, not only of the incumbent archbishop of Boston but for us all.

There clearly was -- there clearly were discussions dealing with the issue of atonement. We have called for a day of repentance, day of prayer, throughout the United States. That is, we hope the bishops will implement that in their June meeting. We are asking that everyone will take a part in that especially those who were responsible for bringing this about, including the bishops.

Now, in the tradition of the Catholic church, as one of the cardinals indicated at our meeting, we have unique resources that corporations do not. And part of those unique resources would be precisely the resources of spiritual atonement which involve days of prayer, pilgrimages, retreats. We spoke frequently about these unique resources, and it's important for us as a Catholic people to think long and hard about making greater use of these God-given resources that we have in the church. So I think we have to expand our imagination a bit in terms of what atonement means within the church. Not just in corporations, but in the church.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us take two more questions. Richard? Please.

QUESTION: Cardinal McCarrick, Richard Boaudreau from "Los Angeles Times." Can we go back to the difference between points two and three in the proposals. You talk about zero tolerance, but why in paragraph three for example, is the word dismissal, there is no word dismissal as there is in paragraph two?

It seems that two is a description of how a priest who is a serial predator gets dismissed. Three refers to a special process for cases without mentioning this word dismissal. So is there some -- in cases in three where priests would go through this process and not necessarily get dismissed but do something else?

MCCARRICK: Richard, I see dismissal in three also. It is in the first word of the second line. So that really we are talking about the same thing.


MCCARRICK: Both of these mentioned dismissal...

GREGORY: Dismissal from the clerical state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over here, a couple of question, just a moment.

QUESTION: On page two of the memoranda that item three mentions, acknowledges something which is important and long over due, nearly every single case has involved an adolescent and does not constitute a true case of pedophilia. So, we are dealing with homosexual males who could not control their predilections. To avoid what would be a perpetual bumper crop of this type of scandal, is the hierarchy in North America going to enforce the Vatican's instruction that homosexual males simply should not be ordained?

MCCARRICK: I think, certainly, every seminary in the country has a program that says anyone who is an active homosexual should never be admitted into the seminary. I don't know of any bishop in the country who would allow someone who had been actively involved in homosexual activity to enter the seminary. I don't think any bishop would allow anyone who was actively involved in heterosexual sexual activity right before they went in to enter the seminary.

We believe in celibacy. It is not the easiest road in today's crazy world. But we believe in celibacy. We believe that, if you practice celibacy, and you practice it with all your heart and with all your love, that you can be free to serve God's people and to serve God in such a beautiful way.

If someone gets into a seminary and that question is not asked, that's a terrible thing. But any seminary that I know, you say, "Have you been acting celibately? Have you been acting celibately up until now in your life."


MCCARRICK: I think you can have celibates -- you can have men and women who live a celibate life and give to the Lord everything they have and stay away from sexual sin. I'm sure you can do that. And I'm sure a lot of -- I'm sure many, many people do, including people in the world, like single people who live -- despite what the media tells us -- who live good and holy lives.

GREGORY: But I think your point is well taken.

It is extraordinarily difficult. And I think one of the concerns that the bishops had was in seminary recruitment and the formation, which is one of the reasons why we ask for a comprehensive seminary study, an apostolic dissertation of our seminaries' programs and recruitment policies. There is no question we have to look at that.

QUESTION: Again, going back to point three, where you make the distinction of not


QUESTION: ... and words in the future. Does this suggest that it is possible that a priest who has been accused of something that, in your judgment, was not as egregious as some of the well-publicized cases, could remain in his ministry? A past accusation could remain somehow in his ministry?

GREGORY: I'm going to try to describe the two situations.

In the past, we have discovered, with great sorrow, that there have been cases like the Geoghan case or the Porter case where, once the case begins to unfold, you discover that there were many, many, many children harmed. That's the notorious, that's the serial, predatory. That's the first case. It's clear that, obviously, individuals like that must be removed from the clerical state.

The second one involves perhaps not multiple victims, but the first victim. And the information gained from the analysis, from the situation, from the review of the history leads you to believe that, if this individual is not separated from the clerical state, you are potentially facing a serial problem. Does that distinction...


GREGORY: Personally, no. Personally, no.

I do not believe -- you're asking me, the Bishop of Belleville, do I believe that? The answer is no. However, when we meet in June, that certainly will be one of the hotly debated questions. And I think Cardinal George referred to that in a previous interview about mitigating circumstance. How do you come to a judgment?

One of the problems that the bishops have faced is that, too often, we tried to make these decisions alone, without the wisdom of a community of people who were parents and professionals and doctors. I think there would be more tendency -- certainly on the part of most bishops -- to say: "Before I would make that judgment, I would seek the counsel of a wise group of people."

QUESTION: So not zero tolerance?

GREGORY: I'm having zero tolerance. But I'm trying to describe to you the situation where someone might be faced with a conflict in judgment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the last one.

QUESTION: I'm Charles Sennett (ph) from "The Boston Globe."

Dr. Navarro-Valls, if I may ask you a question: One of the things we keep hearing is that the question as to whether or not Cardinal Law will resign or should resign is between the holy father and his eminence, Cardinal Law. Could you give us some sense of the feeling on the part of the holy father and on the part of the Vatican about Cardinal Law's situation and the damage that it appears to be contributing to this situation?

And a second question would be, to the cardinals, do you feel that Cardinal Law goes home strengthened in having cleared the air with you? Or do you think he goes home still inundated and still facing this thing? Is there any sense of a strengthening of his position, his feelings about what he needs to do in the future?

Thank you.

JOAQUIN NAVARRO-VALLS, VATICAN SPOKESMAN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to answer your question, because I cannot explain and I cannot put forward any idea, because I was not present when Cardinal Law and the holy father met a week ago, or something.

QUESTION: Does the holy father support Cardinal Law?

NAVARRO-VALLS: I cannot say that. I cannot say that. I lack any information on this point. I cannot say anything. MCCARRICK: To answer that other part of the question, I haven't spoken to Cardinal Law personally in the last couple of days. I don't know if he feels strengthened or not.

I think it is always wonderful for all of us to be with the holy father, and to listen to the holy father, and to take strength from what the holy father says. It is always good to be together. It's always good to talk about our responsibilities. It's always good to talk about our people. I think every time you offer mass and your pray for your people, you're strengthened. I really think so.

And so I would hope that all of us are strengthened by our visit here and that we'll be better priests and better bishops and better pastors because of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you to you. It has been a very long day. And, anyway, thank you for your input.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Live there from the press office of the Vatican, Cardinals Stafford and McCarrick, along with Archbishop Wilton Gregory, the head of the U.S. Bishops Conference, talking about the two days of meetings here between the 12 of the 13 American cardinals and Vatican officials.

I'd like to bring into the picture right now Cardinal Francis George, one of the 12 cardinals who came from the United States for these meetings.

Cardinal George, listening to the news conference, I got the impression that the conversation was almost getting ahead of the meetings of the bishops in June. It seems to me a lot of the specific details that were being talked about in the news conference were items that will be on the agenda, or at least be stressed by the bishops in June. It seems like the policy is already pretty well formulated, at least as far as the cardinals are concerned.


I didn't hear the whole news conference. But we elaborated those points and the communique as a moment in the conversation, which will be continued now in June. The bishops, in their various regions, are going to talk first.. And I'll imagine they'll look at those propositions. And, finally, they are the ones who will decide.

The U.S. cardinals came over at the request of the Holy See, that request that began by asking for information in February already, because they were worried about what they were hearing. And now we go back with a better sense of what's on the mind of the cardinals and also with that magnificent statement by the holy father on what's on his mind and in his heart.

So, that will enable us to speak with a little more certitude about what is possible when we all get together in June. But you're right. Finally, we go together with all the bishops. And it's by majority vote that things are decided. BITTERMANN: It seems to me that you're giving a pretty clear direction by the statement that has been issued exactly what the bishops should do.

GEORGE: What we think the bishops should do. We'll see if the bishops agree.

BITTERMANN: Has the Vatican laid down any red lines here? Have they said they are some things you can't tamper with?

GEORGE: No, they haven't told us anything. We were searching for positive things to say. They didn't get into the question of limits.

BITTERMANN: For instance, cannon law allows a priest to appeal a decision by a local bishop about leaving the church. Was there any suggestion that that cannon law might be changed?

GEORGE: Well, cannon law doesn't have a local bishop -- first, a man doesn't leave the church. He could leave the clerical state. I hope he wouldn't leave the church.

But, at this point, the problem is that cannon law presupposes that the man requests that. Because the exercise of priesthood has become too great of a burden, even though he remains ordained, he'll never practice ministry. He's in the church as a layperson in the church. It presupposes that's a favor that the holy father gives.

What we're talking about now is dismissal. And so the provision of cannon law is, that has to be through a process. If a bishop wants to get rid of a man, he has to go to a court, an ecclesiastical court. And that's a very lengthy process, because there are appeals and appeals again. And what we are trying to say is, there are moments now when, even if the man doesn't want to be dismissed, because his crimes are so heinous, the bishops should be able to initiate a process whereby he is dismissed, even involuntarily. That is new in cannon law.

And the reason it's new is because the pope doesn't want decisions like that to be administered to. He lived -- as he told us again and again -- in a communist state where administrative law was misused against human rights. So, even with this particular request that we have a special instance, there are going to be a lot of provisions in there for appeal and for the certitude that the rights of all parties are protected.

That's something the pope is very, very strong on because of his own experience in a country where human rights weren't observed and respected. He doesn't want the church to be in that state. Now, here we have got somebody who is a heinous criminal. And you say: "Well, why can't we just say, 'You're out'"? But I think it still has to remain a rule of law. That's what protects us in our country. It's what protects us in the church as well.

BITTERMANN: Your eminence, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us. GEORGE: You're very welcome. Thank you.

BITTERMANN: Back to you, Kyra.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Jim Bittermann, thank you so much.

Well, thank you for staying tuned here on CNN after an extraordinary meeting held in the Vatican among the cardinals of the United States, the leadership of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops and the heads of several offices of the Holy See on the subject of the sexual abuse of minors.




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