Church newspaper clarifies remarks questioning priests and celibacy, homosexuality

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2002

BOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Archdiocese's newspaper denies that it intended to challenge Catholic church policy when it published an editorial recently raising questions about priest celibacy, ordination of women and homosexuality.

A new editorial published Thursday in The Pilot, the nation's oldest Catholic newspaper, says the article, ''Questions that must be faced,'' took on ''a life of its own'' and was misinterpreted.

Last week's editorial on Boston's child-molestation cases raised questions about whether there would be fewer scandals if celibacy was optional for priests, and whether the priesthood attracts an unusually high number of homosexual men.

''These scandals have raised serious questions in the minds of the laity that simply will not disappear,'' the article said.

The editorial was written by Monsignor Peter V. Conley, the paper's executive editor who is said to be a close confidant of Cardinal Bernard Law, Boston's archbishop.

Last week's editorial was intended to ''take notice'' of questions raised during a convocation held in Boston earlier this month, The Pilot said, even though that editorial made no mention of the convocation.

Cardinal Law, in a statement last week, downplayed the editorial. His spokesman had said the archbishop was unaware the article would be published.

Philip Lawler, editor of The Pilot from 1986-88 and now editor of Catholic World Report, called the latest editorial an attempt to undo last week's damage.

''It's baloney,'' Lawler said, adding that last week's editorial was ''certainly putting the ball in play, and it is just awfully hard for me to imagine you could do that without realizing what you're doing.''

The latest editorial also blamed the media for misinterpreting last week's statement, saying most reporters said they hadn't read the entire text.

Lawler said that statement misplaces responsibility.

''This speaks to the whole reason we're in this trouble -- people blaming the media instead of telling the truth,'' Lawler said.

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