The Pope John Paul II urged the 20 visiting U.S. bishops to make sure they are raising mature and balanced priests and follow up on them even after their ordination to ensure that they are schooled in chastity, celibacy and church theology, May 6, 2004.
"Proper formation in chastity and celibacy remains an essential component of seminary training, together with the presentation of a solid and correct theological understanding of the church and the priesthood," John Paul told the bishops.
That includes a "clear and precise identification" of those positions incompatible with church teachings, the pope said.
While the pontiff did not explicitly mention the rampant U.S. church sex abuse scandals during his comments, the archbishop of Detroit - the Cardinal Adam Maida, mentioned it in his speech to the pope in a surprisingly positive way.
The sad saga of the sex scandal produced some positive fruits for the faithful, said Maida.
"More than ever, Catholic laity appreciate the unique and necessary role of the ordained ministerial priesthood," Maida said. "They are deeply grateful for the great sacrifice being made by the majority of faithful, hardworking priests who are humbly living their vows of celibate chastity."
Several months earlier, the Research Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a full-blown study of the extent of the clergy sex scandal. The study found that an astounding four percent of American clerics since 1950 have been accused of molestation. Eighty one percent of those molested from the 4,392 alleged attackers were males, and more than half of the victims were between the ages of 11-14.
The churchmen, all from Michigan and Ohio, are the latest group of American bishops to visit the Vatican on their "ad limina" visits, which bishops make every five years.