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Amid sex abuse furor, Catholic leaders can rebuild trust

A contemporary adaptation of an old Catholic practice could prevent future sex abuse.

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From Mexico to Belgium, a new set of sex abuse accusations against the Roman Catholic Church – and the protests that go along with these accusations – have underscored a serious crisis for the church.

The furor over the possible role of Pope Benedict XVI in covering up sexual abuse cases in Germany and the United States even disrupted traditional religious services during Easter, the holiest season of the Christian liturgical year.

Acutely aware that the whole world is watching, Catholics everywhere are asking: How do we restore trust and confidence in our church leaders? How do we begin again?

IN PICTURES: Pope Benedict

Fortunately, the church can answer these questions partly by drawing constructively from its rich past. Catholicism is a faith structure built on important landmarks in tradition and history. Too often, these have been overlooked or misused for ideological or political reasons; the "left" often dismisses it, while the "right" tends to idealize it.

But consider this: In the early Middle Ages, members of monastic communities met regularly in assemblies called "chapters." They'd discuss monastery business, hear a sermon or lecture, or receive instructions from the abbot. One of these meetings was called the "chapter of faults."

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