Pope Wants Priest-Parishioner Distinction

January 10, 2004

VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II on Saturday said priests must draw the line between public opinion and their clerical duty, an issue that has become more pressing as the Church deals with sex abuse scandals in the United States and around the world.

Following the scandal, many Catholic lay people demanded more say in policy and practices dealing with clergy who abused young people.

In a speech to members of the Vatican office dealing with clerical matters, John Paul agreed the issue of lay participation "needs to be updated" but he wasn't specific. He said: "It is necessary to safeguard a balanced relationship between the role of lay people and that which properly belongs to the diocesan priest or pastor."

"Legitimate pastors, in the exercise of their office, should never be considered as simple executors of decisions stemming from majority opinions coming out of Church assemblies," the pope said. "The structure of the Church cannot be conceived on simply human political models."

"Pastors have the task of forming, supporting and sanctifying the people of God, while lay faithful, together with them, take active part in the mission of the Church, in a constant synergy of efforts and in respect for their vocations and specific gifts," John Paul said.


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