Sex, power scandals to loom over Vatican pre-vote talks

Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:16pm EST
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The sex and power scandals haunting the Catholic Church look set to play a big role in meetings before next month's papal election after two senior cardinals called on Tuesday for more internal debate about them.

A leading support group for victims of clerical sexual abuse also made what it called a "last-ditch plea" to Pope Benedict to use his authority before resigning on Thursday to discipline bishops who have protected predatory priests in their dioceses.

The abuse issue took on new urgency after Scotland's Cardinal Keith O'Brien, accused of improper behavior with young priests, quit as Edinburgh archbishop on Monday and pulled out of the Sistine Chapel conclave to elect a new pope.

A Scottish Catholic Media Office spokesman has said O'Brien was taking legal advice and contested the "anonymous and non specific" allegations against him.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, now the only British prelate due to attend pre-conclave talks among cardinals at the Vatican next week, said in London the sexual abuse of children was the most serious scandal in the Church.

"That will be one of the main things the cardinals will be discussing," said Murphy-O'Connor, who cannot vote because he is over 80 years old but can join the cardinal electors in their closed-door discussions about the challenges for the next pope.

French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran said in a newspaper interview that the cardinal electors, who number 115 after O'Brien stepped down, should also be informed about a secret report on Vatican corruption prepared for Pope Benedict.

The retiring pontiff has decided to reserve the report for his successor, but the three cardinals over 80 years old who drew it up will be allowed to inform the cardinal electors about some of its findings during next week's consultations.   Continued...

A general view of Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican February 23, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard