The head of the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops' conference says he disagrees with those who believe that allowing priests to marry or ordaining women would help end the church's current sex abuse crisis.
"Not only would it not help, but it still remains contrary to the teachings and traditions of our church," said Bishop Wilton Gregory. "We cannot address the crisis by denying who we are as a people of faith."
Gregory, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the molestation scandals involving priests will end only when church leaders take definitive steps to restore parishioners' trust.
"The crisis will end when we, as bishops, can convince our people and pledge ourselves to making sure that children are safe," Gregory said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Gregory left the door open to asking the Vatican to approve a binding sex abuse policy for American clergy.
The conference serves as the church's national voice on social and religious issues, implementing policies set in Rome. As president, Gregory can influence -- but cannot decide -- what actions the bishops take.
"There's a possibility that we might propose some action that would need validation by the Holy See," said Gregory, who leads the Diocese of Belleville, Ill.
About 10 years ago, the conference proposed guidelines for handling sex abuse cases involving clergy, but bishops have been free to set their own policies.
If the bishops wanted to take stronger action, such as imposing rules for handling sex abuse cases that would be binding in all U.S. dioceses, they would need the Vatican's approval.
"We, as bishops, have to guarantee that in the future, no priest who has been accused of a credible molestation against a child, is ever put back in a position of pastoral responsibility where he can act out again," he said.
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