VATICAN CITY – The Canadian cardinal considered one of the top choices for the papacy says he thinks the Catholic church’s handling of its sex abuse scandals can be held up as a positive example.
In an interview with CBC television Marc Cardinal Ouellet defended the church, saying it had to bear a great deal of public scrutiny when stories of abuse came to light.
“But it is not a Catholic problem; it is a human problem,” he said.
“Most of the abuse occurred in families in very general in society, and my hope is what was done by the Catholic Church, which is not yet perfect, but could be also of example for others in society. And I hope it will create an atmosphere in the whole society for respect of youth, for creating, you know, a safe environment everywhere you know in sports environments and others.”
Ouellet added that the issue of abuse within the church was still one that had to be dealt with very carefully, but he said he was satisfied with the practices of monitoring members of the clergy which were are currently in place.
Quebec-born Ouellet has come under fire in the past from critics who said he remained silent on the issue of sexual abuse by priests in his home province.
In the interview which aired Monday night, Ouellet said the church has learned from its mistakes and has “apologized many times” for cases of abuse that have hurt its reputation.
“Everything that was bad, you know is so regretful,” he said.
When asked if the church had apologized enough, Ouellet mused aloud, “so I think…enough? Who knows?”
Ouellet is being touted as a possible candidate to succeed Pope Benedict, who announced his resignation last month citing a lack of strength to do the job.
The 68-year-old Canadian serves as head of the powerful Congregation for Bishops, which vets bishop nominations worldwide.
He has created controversy in the past with his conservative views.
The former Archbishop of Quebec City drew considerable criticism when he ignored the wishes of many of his priests and banned the practice of general absolution — a type of mass-forgiveness ceremony that allowed Catholics to avoid the discomfort of the confessional.
The practice, dismissed by purists as a shortcut, was favoured by many priests because it often boosted attendance.
Ouellet is also remembered in Quebec for anti-abortion remarks he made in 2010, which provoked angry reactions from women’s rights activists and a number of politicians.
The cardinal had told media that abortion was unjustifiable, even in cases of rape.
Ouellet has also spoken out against gay marriage, calling it “a big crisis, not only a moral crisis, but an anthropological one. We don’t know what it means to be a human being anymore.”
Pre-conclave meetings began Monday at the Vatican, at which cardinals organize the election of the next pope, discuss the problems of the church and get to know one another before voting.
No date has been set yet for the conclave and one may not be decided on officially for a few more days.