Clergy Scandal ''Drove me to my Knees,'' says Bishop Gregory

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, the outgoing head of the American Roman Catholic Church, said clergy sexual-abuse crisis "drove me to my knees," although he was thankful to "strengthen and help the church [he] loves."

"Had I been able to script my presidency," said Gregory to the Associated Press during a Nov. 8 interview in Elleville, Ill. "I would certainly not have given myself this particular drama to live. But I was able to do something to strengthen and to help the church I love."

Gregory, who took the office in November 2001, suffered through all stages of the nationwide clergy sex-scandal that erupted in January 2002.

"From a spiritual point of view, it drove me to my knees," the bishop said. "I used the sacramental life of the church to buttress me. Celebrating Eucharist and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation probably have never meant more to me as a believer than they did in the past three years."

Gregory, the first black bishop to lead American Catholicism, helped stabilize the scattered church at the height of the scandal by spearheading the "zero-tolerance" standard on clergy ordinations. Gregory explained that the zero tolerance policy was necessary to reassure parents of their children's safety as well as to remove public suspicion surrounding innocent priest.

Gregory also publicly apologized on behalf of the shaken church for the actions of the priests who served before his time

Catholic Bishops will elect their next president during the Bishops' conference in Washington D.C., next week.