MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Hundreds of parishioners who attended "listening sessions" held by the Milwaukee archdiocese to gauge response to the sex abuse scandal gave church officials an earful.
"The top is rotten," said Faythe Weber during a discussion at St. Gregory the Great Church on Thursday. "I don't believe a word they say right now. It was cover-up, cover-up, cover-up."
The session was one of six held simultaneously at parishes throughout the archdiocese. Parishioners vented their anger about the scandal and railed against the Roman Catholic church's hierarchy.
"A crime is a crime. It doesn't matter what your profession is," said Bernie Klamecki, a member of Mary Queen of Heaven. "It's hard for us to say that because of our respect for priests, but when that respect is fractured, then they have to pay for their actions."
"The hurt and the pain is deeper than I ever imagined. I'm just heartsick," said the Rev. Tom Eichenberger of St. Veronica's after listening to speakers at one of the sessions.
Archbishop Rembert Weakland attended the session at St. John Vianney Parish. Some people booed when told Weakland would not answer any questions. He spoke to some people but did not reveal any specifics about individual cases or what action the church will take.
Dorothy Slivicki, who attends St. Veronica's Parish, cautioned during the session at St. Gregory that people should be careful not to brand all priests as abusers.
"Our priest gave an apology during Mass and he didn't do anything," she said. "We gave him a five-minute standing ovation."
The session began with the reading of a letter in which Weakland apologized to anyone who was sexually abused by a priest.
After prayers, the standing-room-only crowd broke into small groups to discuss questions ranging from the definition of pedophilia to why the church didn't disclose abuse allegations against priests.
Parishioner Scott Edgerton, who claimed a priest had abused him in a sacristy in 1976, said Catholics should seize control from the church bureaucracy.
"This is not Archbishop Weakland's church. This is not Rome's church. Start getting active or you won't like where we're going," he said.
Almost everyone called for any priest proven to be an abuser to be removed from the ministry and face criminal sentencing.
More than 177 priests have been dismissed or resigned across the country since the sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston early this year.
A community commission that Weakland appointed has reviewed the archdiocese's policies for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse by clergy and issued preliminary recommendations, including a "zero tolerance" approach toward misconduct.
In other developments Thursday:
-- Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley warned Cardinal Roger Mahony that he will resort to a grand jury if the Archdiocese of Los Angeles fails to hand over all documentation on priests implicated in sex abuse. The prosecutor's office said the archdiocese had not turned over any written information as of Thursday. In a statement, the archdiocese said it has been cooperating with all law enforcement agencies and looks forward "to resolving any misunderstanding that may exist."
-- The New Orleans archdiocese said 10 priests and two deacons will soon be barred from practicing any priestly duties in response to allegations of sexual abuse. Only two of the priests are active and only one of them is in parish ministry, a spokesman said.
-- The archbishop in Hartford, Conn., agreed to forward seven recent sexual abuse complaints against priests to state authorities, according to a state official. He also agreed to use a state child-abuse hot line to immediately report any future abuse allegations lodged against a priest.
-- The Louisville archdiocese asked a court to seal all records of recent lawsuits against it alleging sexual abuse by priests. The request came as seven more lawsuits were filed against the archdiocese, bringing the total to 67 since April 19.
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Milwaukee archdiocese: http//www.archmil.org
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