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Latin America confronts sexual abuse by Catholic priests

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"The future of the global church really hinges on Latin America," says Andrew Chesnut, an expert on religion in Latin America at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. "The Charismatic Renewal has revitalized the church in many Latin American countries, most notably Brazil, but sex- abuse scandals, which are only a matter of time, could easily result in further defections from the church."

Some regional leaders have rushed to the support of the Vatican, which has dismissed the criticism as a "hate campaign." The Latin American Episcopal Conference wrote a letter of solidarity to the pope. The Archbishop of Santiago condemned the "unjust criticism received by the pope by some of the international press." And in a letter dated March 30, the bishops of Paraguay expressed their support for the pope against the "attacks" he has received. Many parishioners also say the pope has been treated unfairly

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