VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II yesterday told bishops in the United States, where the Roman Catholic Church has been embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal, to clean up seminaries so that future priests would live by the rules.
In an address to a group of bishops visiting Rome, the 83-year-old pope said candidates to the priesthood had to fully understand that they should lead a celibate life.
''As a spiritual father and brother to his priests, the bishop should do everything in his power to encourage them in fidelity to their vocation and to the demands of leading a life worthy of the calling they have received," he told them.
Bishops were held largely responsible for the scandal that swept the US church in 2002, when it was discovered that many of them moved priests known to have sexually abused minors from assignment to assignment instead of defrocking them.
The pope said bishops had to keep up dialogue with priests and seminarians and correct them if needed. Candidates to the priesthood had to accept a ''life of celibate chastity as the expression of a radical commitment to follow Christ." In two studies released in February, more than 10,600 children said they were molested by priests since 1950 in an epidemic of child sexual abuse involving at least 4 percent of US clergy.