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O'Connor says sex scandals put everyone 'under suspicion.' (John Cardinal O'Connor; Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez) (Cover Story)

ROME -- Allegations of sexual misconduct by Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez of Santa Fe, N.M., are a tragedy for the church, the individuals involved and, in a particular way, for all the archbishop's brother priests, New York Cardinal John O'Connor said March 10.

"It's getting increasingly difficult for some priests and some bishops to hold their heads up. Everyone is under suspicion," the cardinal said in a speech at North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome.

The cardinal's presentation to the audience -- made up mostly of U.S. seminarians and young priests working or studying in Rome -- focused on Pope John Paul II's 1992 apostolic exhortation on priestly formation. Without naming Sanchez, the cardinal said he could not honestly talk about formation while ignoring the accusations published the same day "about an archbishop in the United States reportedly involved sexually with several women."

The central point of the cardinal's talk was that priests must form a community of friendship around the sacrament of the Eucharist. Candidates for the priesthood and those already ordained must learn to be true friends to one another, share one another's burdens and confront one another when necessary, the cardinal said.

"Real damage has been done in many cases -- real horrifying damage," he said. O'Connor said the allegations aganst Sanchez arose in connection with investigations in the Santa Fe archdiocese about several priests accused of sexual misconduct.

"Undoubtedly, as the story unfolds, the archbishop will be accused not only of personal misbehavior but of some kind of cover-up attributable to the fact that, because of his alleged personal life, he turned his head to what was happening in his diocese," O'Connor said. Attacks on the church and its priests have been "merciless," the cardinal said.

The allegations of sexual misconduct and the widespread media attention they receive hurt the morale of priests and have contributed to the declining number of vocations to the priesthood, O'Connor said.
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Author:Wooden, Cindy
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Mar 19, 1993
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