March 15, 2002

BOSTON (AP) - The Boston Archdiocese's official newspaper says the Roman Catholic Church must face the question of whether to continue to require priests to be celibate.

In a special issue on the priest sex abuse scandal, the lead editorial of The Pilot newspaper said the celibacy issue raises tough questions such as whether there would be fewer scandals if celibacy were optional for priests and whether the priesthood attracts an unusually high number of homosexual men.

``Even if our present woes in the archdiocese were suddenly to disappear, these questions have taken on an urgency that will not quietly slip away,'' read the editorial published Thursday.

Also included is a defense of Cardinal Bernard Law by former Boston mayor and ambassador to the Vatican, Raymond Flynn, as well an article on what parishioners should tell their children about sex abuse.

The church has been under fire after it was revealed that officials knew about child sex abuse allegations against defrocked priest John Geoghan, but did little to stop him. Geoghan has been accused of molesting more than 130 children in six parishes over 30 years. He is serving a nine-to-10 year prison sentence for fondling a 10-year-old boy.

As part of new ``zero tolerance'' policy of sex abuse, the archdiocese has turned over to prosecutors the names of more than 80 current and former priests suspected of child abuse in the past 50 years.

The lead editorial, written by Monsignor Peter Conley, the paper's executive editor, says the New Testament ``clearly prizes'' priestly celibacy, but notes that most Americans don't understand it. It also says that married clergy would not be a ``panacea,'' noting the divorce rate.

Pope John Paul II has repeatedly insisted on celibacy for priests.

``Would abandoning celibacy be the proper answer to new data from the contemporary sciences or would it be surrendering to popular American culture?'' Conley wrote.

The paper also encourages greater attention to the question of homosexual orientation and the priesthood, and asks if there are truly valid ways to screen priests for sexual orientation.

The editorial says that ``evidence now seems to indicate that (homosexuality) is a genetically inherited condition.'' It adds that though the church puts a high moral value on its teachings about sexuality, including its teaching that the practice of homosexuality is wrong, it is not a higher value than its teaching on truth and honesty.

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