Boston Cardinal Bernard Law said Sunday that expectations for reform following the recent summit of cardinals were too high, reiterating that the creation of a national policy on sexually abusive priests would have to wait until a Catholic bishops conference.
"As a group of cardinal archbishops, we were able to say that there were certain things that we felt we would like to bring to that June meeting," Law told the congregation at the beginning of Mass at Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross. "We were not there to make decisions."
Cardinals across the country are reporting back after a two-day gathering in Rome, where they agreed they would recommend a process to defrock any priest who has become "notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory sexual abuse of minors."
During the short statement, Law did not address calls for his resignation. But he referred to himself and his fellow priests as "wounded healers."
"These are not easy days to serve in the pastoral role that is mine," Law said during the special Mass dedicated to hope and healing.
"All of us are wounded healers," he said. "And when we remember that, we are able to be the people that we should be... When we are not that, we degenerate into anger and division. And that's not who we are. That's not who God calls us to be."
Law also called for a special day of prayer about the sexual abuse crisis, to be held during the Pentecost celebrations, which start May 10.
Appearing on morning news shows Sunday, U.S. cardinals who attended the Vatican meeting last week indicated there still was no agreement on whether clergymen accused of sexual abuse should be expelled from the priesthood.
Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington said he supported ousting any priest accused in the future but said the cardinals were divided about whether the policies should apply to past allegations.
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who appeared on several shows, said there still needs to be some discussion on the "one strike and you're out" approach. On NBC's "Meet the Press," he said "mandated sentences" may not be the answer and that cardinals needed some discretion.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, at its June meeting in Dallas, is expected to vote on whether to approve a national policy that will be binding on every diocese.
Cardinal Edmund Szoka, past leader of the Detroit archdiocese, argued Sunday that pedophilia is no more prevalent among priests than it is in any other profession. Szoka, who now works at the Vatican and attended last week's summit, was the commencement speaker at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit.
"We don't deny the problem of pedophilia. We deeply regret it. We are ashamed of it and will do whatever is necessary to correct it," said Szoka, 74. "But we do reject the attempts to discredit the priesthood and the Catholic Church."
The sex abuse scandal began enveloping the church in January after revelations that the Archdiocese of Boston had shuttled now-defrocked priest John Geoghan from parish to parish despite repeated allegations that he was a pedophile.
Geoghan has been accused of abusing more than 130 children, and is serving a nine- to 10-year prison sentence for abuse.
The calls for Law's resignation increased this month with the release of 1,600 archdiocese documents that reveal the Rev. Paul Shanley's involvement with the North American Man-Boy Love Association.
In civil lawsuits, the former "street priest" has been charged with repeatedly raping young boys during his tenure at a Newton parish in the 1980s.
Law has denied that his resignation was discussed at the Vatican and, through a spokeswoman, said he will not be leaving the archdiocese prior to a scheduled June 5 deposition in a civil suit filed by one of Shanley's alleged victims.
About two dozen protesters picketed outside the Boston Cathedral on Sunday in rainy, cold weather. To enter the church, parishioners had to find their way through the protesters, police and the media.
"They don't see the good side of Cardinal Law," said Brother James Curren of the Little Brothers of St. Francis in Roxbury, a Catholic order. "A lot of people have made mistakes in judgment. No one defends the priests who committed sins."
In other developments:
A priest in Tampa, Fla., was suspended while diocesan officials investigate allegations by two people of sexual misconduct by the priest 14 years ago. The Rev. Robert Morris, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church, denied the accusations, telling parishioners Saturday that he expects to be reinstated.
In Alma, Mich., a priest resigned a week after admitting to members of two parishes that he engaged in "inappropriate sexual behavior" more than 16 years ago. Also, the Diocese of Grand Rapids announced that a priest resigned after accusations of inappropriate sexual contact with a teen 23 years ago.
In Ohio, a 61-year-old priest resigned after Cincinnati Archdiocese officials confronted him with a report that he sexually abused a minor while serving at another parish several years ago.
On the Net:
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston: http://www.rcab.org/