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Penn State scandal "opens wound" in Catholic Church

Dolan addresses the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore
Dolan addresses the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore

By Jason Tomassini

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - The top U.S. Catholic bishop said on Monday that a child sex abuse scandal at Penn State University "opens a wound" within the church, which remains scarred from its own similar controversies and cover-ups.

"We know what you're going through," Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told a news conference in Baltimore where hundreds of bishops have gathered for their national meeting.

Dolan declined to offer advice to Penn State University on how to deal with its scandal, because the church "has not been a good example of how to deal with this in the past," he said. "No one has suffered more than the Catholic community."

"Whenever this issue has come into public view again as it has with Penn State, it opens a wound," Dolan said."

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged on November 5 with sexually abusing eight boys over more than a decade. Two university officials have also been charged with failing to tell police when a graduate assistant told them he saw Sandusky raping a boy in a campus shower.

The Penn State scandal has drawn comparisons to the child abuse controversies that rocked the Catholic Church, whose top officials were also accused of a decades-long cover-up of the abuse of children by priests.

The U.S. Catholic Church has paid out some $2 billion in settlements to victims, bankrupting a handful of dioceses.

Dolan said the Penn State scandal was proof that sex abuse was "widespread" and not associated with a particular faith. "One of the things we've learned is, tragically, it's people who have earned positions of trust," he said.

Before becoming archbishop of New York, Dolan served as archbishop of Milwaukee, following a large sex abuse scandal there. At a previous post as bishop of St. Louis, Dolan also dealt with sex abuse allegations within that diocese. (Editing by Michelle Nichols and Cynthia Osterman)

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