Two Bishops Step Down in Catholic Sex Scandal; 1 Had Affairs; 1 Accused of molesting.(PAGE ONE)

Article excerpt

Byline: Larry Witham, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Two U.S. Catholic bishops resigned yesterday amid accusations of sexual misconduct, two days before the nation's bishops will meet to discuss policies for sexually abusive priests and homosexuality in the priesthood.

The Rev. James McCarthy, a bishop in the Archdiocese of New York who was an assistant to Cardinal Edward Egan, stepped down after admitting to having multiple affairs with women. Father McCarthy, 59, was the fourth U.S. bishop to resign in a sex scandal since January.

Earlier yesterday, Lexington, Ky., Bishop J. Kendrick Williams resigned after being accused of molesting children decades ago.

In a statement, Father Williams, 65, denied the accusations of abuse made by three men in 1969 and 1981, while he was a parish priest in Louisville.

The resignations came as the U.S. Catholic bishops prepared for tomorrow's annual midyear meeting in Dallas, where they will consider establishing national enforcement rules for sexually abusive priests, such as defrocking them after one credible complaint.

Usually low-key and drawing little media coverage, the gathering has garnered significant attention as the sex scandal has grown since the January conviction of a pedophile priest in the Boston Archdiocese. Four bishops and at least 225 of the nation's more than 46,000 Roman Catholic priests have been dismissed or have resigned since the scandal erupted in Boston.

Court papers showed that Boston Cardinal Bernard Law knew about sexual-abuse accusations against clerics but allowed the priests to keep working.

"Our foremost goal is to protect children and young people," Minneapolis-St. Paul Archbishop Harry J. Flynn, head of a panel on abuse, said before this week's meeting, which ends Saturday.

"One essential way to do that is to say clearly, 'If you abuse, you are out of the priesthood,'" the archbishop said.

The more than 300 active bishops are sharply divided on whether priests with even a single complaint against them in the past 40 years must be retired or laicized, which means revoking their priestly status.

Some fear the tougher approach would start a witch hunt.

Critics of the bishops, however, don't trust them to enforce a "zero tolerance" policy on their wayward brethren.

"The overall problem with the 'one strike and you're out' is that the bishops still want to be umpire," David Clohessy of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said yesterday. "Secular authorities should make that call."

The bishops, whose decision must be approved by Rome, also will consider creating a commission to look into past failures to police the abuse problem.

Yesterday, the conservative policy group Family Research Council issued a report calling on the bishops to openly discuss homosexuality among clergy, saying that "1 to 3 percent of the population that is sexually attracted to the same sex are committing up to one-third of the sex crimes against children."

"The evidence indicates that homosexual men molest boys at rates grossly disproportionate to the rates at which heterosexual men molest girls," said the council's report, compiled by Timothy J. Dailey.

"We don't want to single out the Roman Catholic Church, but unfortunately it has come to the forefront," Mr. Dailey said. …