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 CNS Special report:
 Coverage of John Jay report, National Review Board study.

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Transmitted 02/27/2004 11:45 AM ET

U.S. seminarians work to ensure they are not part of abuse problem

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- While saddened by the scope of the clerical sex abuse scandal, U.S. seminarians in Rome were preparing in every way they could think of to ensure they would be part of the solution.

"It pains the men," said Msgr. Kevin C. McCoy, rector of North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome.

Msgr. McCoy spoke to Catholic News Service Feb. 27, the day a 50-year statistical study of U.S. clerical sex abuse was published in the United States, along with a report by the U.S. bishops' National Review Board.

The exclusively lay review board called on seminaries to "deal with issues of sexual conduct more openly and more forthrightly" and to improve processes for screening and educating potential priests.

Among the North American College's 152 seminarians from 78 dioceses, there was talk about what the two documents would say even before they were released, Msgr. McCoy said.

"The men see the church for the love and care it has been for them," he said.

"They know the church is made up of saints and sinners, and the fact that sin has hurt such a precious gift as children pains them," he said.

"They know it is part of history, but they want to make sure it is not a history that repeats itself," Msgr. McCoy said.

Especially over the past 10 years, he said, North American College has increased its focus on helping seminarians prepare for living a healthy, happy life as celibate priests.

Weekend conferences with psychologists, discussions with lawyers, training sessions with risk-management specialists, talks by seminary staff members and individual counseling are regular parts of the seminary program, Msgr. McCoy said.

Celibacy, intimacy and personal boundaries "are topics pursued aggressively both with their spiritual advisers and with the formation staff," he said.

"The whole idea of formation for celibacy has changed dramatically," he said. "A priest educated in the 1950s probably would say it is a whole different seminary."

The seminarians, he said, "want to be good brothers who support and look out for each other" during their seminary training and later as priests.

"They know priests must be priests for each other," he said.

They do not want to promote a type of clericalism where abusers are hidden and protected, Msgr. McCoy said, but rather a brotherhood of priests "who won't just watch another priest isolate himself without asking questions."


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