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Pope has kind words for Sanchez, while warning of scandal.

WASHINGTON - Pope John Paul II on March 18 urged compassion in dealing with the "painful" scandal of alleged sexual impropriety by Santa Fe Archbishop Robert Sanchez.

Addressing a group of U.S. bishops before Mass in his private chapel, the pope said: "Here at the altar of the Lord, my thoughts turn to the person of our brother from Santa Fe. Above all, we must keep in our prayers the entire painful event surrounding his name."

"We think also of the scandal involved. And we pray to God for the persons directly affected by his actions," he said. The pope emphasized temptation easily exposes human dignity and the episcopal ministry to danger and said: "Woe to the one who gives scandal."

But he likened the situation to Christ's fall on the way to his crucifixion, and said: "It is always necessary for man to rise again from where he has fallen. And this rising again, though difficult, is always possible.

"A person's fall, which in itself is a painful experience, should not become a matter for sensationalism. Unfortunately, however, sensationalism has become the particular style of our age.

"In contrast, the spirit of the gospel is one of compassion, with Christ saying: |Go, and sin no more.'"

Meanwhile, the U.S. bishops are taking steps to curb sexual misconduct. New Orleans Archbishop Francis B. Schulte and Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl issued policies March 11 dealing with clergy sexual abuse.

And the Chicago archdiocese on March 9 announced that it had set up a regional toll-free number for reporting claims of sexual misconduct by clergy and church workers.

An important element in the New Orleans and Pittsburgh policies was the establishment of an independent review board to assess allegations. Last year, Chicago was among the pioneers in forming such a review board, and a growing number of dioceses since then have adopted the review-board model.

Meanwhile, some church leaders have expressed concern that the media and opponents of clerical celibacy would use the Sanchez scandal to revive the celibacy debate.

In fact, on the ABC-TV news program "20/20" on March 12, Barbara Walters mentioned the revelations about Sanchez as she introduced a segment on priests in love with women.

"As always," she said, "incidents like this one turn the spotlight on the controversial issue of celibacy in the priesthood. Is the Catholic church asking too much when it requires priests to give up all sexual intimacy?"

The "20/20" piece, which featured stories of three priests struggling with celibacy, included a defense of celibacy as a church rule by Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, who said celibacy in priestly ministry "is intended to demonstrate to people that there are values beyond even the most precious human values like wife and family."

"The world of those (priests) who are unfaithful is quite small indeed," he said.
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Title Annotation:Archbishop Robert Sanchez
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Mar 26, 1993
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