Pope Benedict XVI has vowed to keep out paedophiles from the establishment altogether and said that he is deeply ashamed over child abuse scams that have buffeted the church in the US.
While on his way to the US for his maiden visit to the country, he agonized over the issue that cost the church $2bn in compensation settlements.
AdvertisementBut he was also confident that such scandals would not recur and said, "We will absolutely exclude paedophiles from the sacred ministry."
And while in the US, he took up the theme forcefully while addressing bishops at a national shrine in Washington Wednesday evening.
He faulted them for not rising to the occasion, saying, "Responding to this situation has not been easy and, as the president of your episcopal conference has indicated, it was sometimes very badly handled," he said.
He was referring to comments made earlier by the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago.
Cardinal George had said the consequences of the scandal and its poor handling by the clerical hierarchy "makes both the personal faith of some Catholics and the public life of the church herself more problematic".
But the Pope also seemed to feel things might not have come to such a pass had there not been a collapse of values in the country.
Pope Benedict asked: "What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?"
During the first Papal visit to the White House for almost 30 years, the German Pope also urged Americans to use their faith to inspire "reasoned, responsible and respectful dialogue."
BBC Rome correspondent David Willey, who is travelling with the pontiff, said Pope Benedict studiously avoided any direct reference to the war in Iraq or to the current campaign to elect a successor to President Bush.
He did, however, make an oblique reference to the tragic sacrifice of human lives caused by past conflicts and by implication, as a result of the current war in Iraq.
The topic was discussed in the private talks, the White House said, with the leaders expressing concern about the plight of Iraq's Christian minority.
A joint statement said they both hoped for a "prompt and comprehensive solution to the crises" plaguing the Middle East.
One key issue the Pope said he would raise was immigration, as he feared the danger of family break-ups caused by mass migration of mainly Catholic people from Latin America.
The statement said the leaders considered "the need for a coordinated policy regarding immigration, especially their humane treatment and the wellbeing of their families".
On Sunday the Pope will visit Ground Zero, the site of two of the 11 September 2001 attacks.