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Baltimore's Cardinal Keeler Remarks on Sex Abuse Scandal

Aired May 14, 2002 - 15:50   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Listening right now to Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore. We want to dip into that and listen to his thoughts on the priest abuse scandal.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CARDINAL WILLIAM KEELER, ARCHDIOCESE OF BALTIMORE: Our new national policy should be clear, should be unambiguous, should protect children, should afford outreach to victims.

And, incidentally, this afternoon, as part of our program, we prayed for victims of sexual abuse. Our new effort should also protect victims, so that they are not victimized again, and should also ensure that the rights of priests are respected, and rights of others. And this is why we talk about credible allegations and we always have a process of testing the truth.

But here, because we have, since '84 on, been reporting cases to the civil authorities if there is a crime involved, if there is something criminal to be pursued, their investigation is the one that we count on to turn up details.

And with that, I think I am ready to take questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me direct the questions.

KEELER: All right.

QUESTION: Father Maurice Blackwell was shot last night by someone who alleges that he was abused by him in 1993. Your reaction to that shooting, your knowledge of these allegations?

KEELER: I am appalled that another act of violence has occurred in the city of Baltimore and that a tragedy touches a person that I have known personally.

This afternoon, when our priests were together, we prayed for all victims of abuse in even alleged cases. We prayed also for Father Maurice Blackwell that the Lord be with him to give him strength.

I think it is a tragedy that another episode of violence has occurred in our city. We have too much of that tragedy. And we have too much violence in our world today.

QUESTION: And what about the allegations...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... actions taken regarding Father Blackwell (OFF- MIKE)

KEELER: I am going to let Ray Kempisty, who has done the homework on all these things, address those specific kinds of questions.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

KEELER: Pardon me?

QUESTION: Were you involved in that decision?

KEELER: I was, but he is going to talk about the details.

QUESTION: Tell us something about the meeting. Could you tell us a little bit about how The priests were, what the reaction was, the kind of things they were talking about?

KEELER: Well, first, I would like to say we had a terrific turnout. I think it's the largest participation on the part of the priests of the archdiocese that I have seen in some time. Many retired priests came, as well as most -- all of our active priests. There were about 175, all told.

Initially, a presentation was made by Dr. Robert Wicks, who is a psychologist that chairs the pastoral psychology program at Loyola College here in Baltimore. Then the priests responded in their small table discussions to three questions.

The third question was one that I would like to relate their answer to right away. It is, "What kind of support are you receiving in your parish or ministerial setting?" And, invariably, it was a very strong support. And that leads me to say also that from our priests hearing this kind of support, I feel very supported, too.

They were asked to reflect on possible improvements or ideas for our archdiocesan policy and for the national policy that we'll be working on. And the first question was really, "How have you been impacted by what has occurred in these recent months?"

QUESTION: Your memo about this meeting said that you were going to explore the hurts, hopes and fears of priests. What did you hear about their hurts, hopes and fears?

KEELER: Hurts: Many said that they hesitate to wear their collar when they go out. A number of them said that. Hopes: Several spoke in a very spiritual...

HEMMER: All right, Archbishop Keeler there in the town of Baltimore, saying he met with about 175 area priests earlier today to talk about the priest abuse scandal. You heard him talk about protecting children and helping victims. Also, before we joined that briefing, he talked about developing a national standard going forward to deal with this, and also the fallout, again, from a priest who was shot yesterday, shot by a man police say was abused, or claims to be abused. Dontee Stokes is the man's name, 26 years of age -- that priest, the Reverend Blackwell, now in serious but stable condition in an area hospital there in Baltimore. More as we get it.

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