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Let priests wed..it's the only way to stop abuse, says Mel; HOLLYWOOD STAR IN CHURCH PLEA.

Byline: LIZ HODGSON

DEVOUT Catholic Mel Gibson is calling for priests to be allowed to marry in a bid to halt sex scandals in the Church.

The 46-year-old father of seven, who faithfully follows the Church's ban on birth control, thinks the step would lead to better priests.

He wants the US Church to do more to stamp out the problems of sex abuse instead of continuing the cover-ups and payouts to victims.

Mel said: "The problem can no longer be ignored. The evil priests must be reported to the police.

"Sure, it's an embarrassment, and a terrible one. But it must be exposed."

As abuse allegations rock the Catholic faith in America, prompting the Pope to call a special meeting of US bishops in Rome, he believes the time has come for action.

The We Were Soldiers star added: "Ministers and rabbis get to be married. So do Greek Orthodox priests and Episcopalian clerics.

"So why not Catholic priests? It might bring into the Church a higher calibre of men. I'm all for it."

The scandal has not shaken Mel's faith, but he believes the pervert priests should be weeded out.

Gibson, who celebrates his 22nd wedding anniversary with wife Robyn in June, told the American magazine Star: "My children have gone to Catholic school and we all go to Mass.

"There are good priests and bad priests. The bad must go, maybe then the healing will begin at last.

"The Church has been my rock and I'm not going to abandon it. But I won't pretend it's perfect, either.

"I support my priest and all the wonderful priests who are doing so much to help their fellow human beings. We need the good priests more than ever now."

Fellow actor Martin Sheen, who is set to play Bishop Fulton Sheen in a new film, also believes in Church reforms.

A friend of The West Wing star revealed Sheen told him: "I'm having nightmares over this. The Church needs to be overhauled but I'll always remain a Catholic."

CAPTION(S):

FAITH: Star Martin Sheen; DEVOUT: Mel remains Catholic despite scandals
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 20, 2002
Words:351
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