ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Following a display of fireworks,
Armed Forces hymns and rappellers unfurling a huge
American flag, leaders of the nation's largest
Protestant denomination offered conciliatory words for
their counterparts in the Roman Catholic Church.
At the Southern Baptist Convention's annual
meeting, some speakers warned delegates against
passing judgment as Catholic bishops prepare to
discuss what to do with sex-offending priests.
"We shouldn't enjoy this Catholic mess too much,"
the Rev. Bobby Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church
of Daytona Beach, Fla., said Sunday during a service
sponsored in St. Louis by the Conference of Southern
Baptist Evangelists. "We're waiting on the other shoe
to drop, and when it does, don't be surprised if there
is more and more within our ranks."
The Conference of Catholic Bishops is scheduled to
meet in Dallas later this week to discuss policies
regarding priests who sexually abuse youngsters. The
discussion is expected to focus on calls for
zero-tolerance for priests who molest children in the
future and a second-chance policy for those guilty of
It is difficult to estimate the number of abusive
Protestant ministers. While Catholic churches answer
to a central authority, in the Baptist denomination
and other Protestant faiths, each local church handles
Southern Baptist officials expect some kind of
resolution to be presented this week concerning sexual
misconduct by clergy in the 16-million-member
The Rev. Frank Ruff, the Catholic bishops' liaison
to the Southern Baptists, said he thinks most people
attending the convention realize that this is not
exclusively a Catholic problem.
"Our dirty laundry is out there for everybody to
see -- and it's pretty dirty," he said. "But I think
everybody here in leadership knows that there's a fair
amount of sexual abuse that goes on in all
institutions, in all churches, in all schools, in
many, many families."