VATICAN CITY _ American cardinals emerged Wednesday from an extraordinary two-day summit at the Vatican lacking consensus on whether to expel priests found guilty of a single instance of sexual abuse against a minor.
The cardinals, summoned by Pope John Paul II to discuss the sex abuse scandal engulfing the Roman Catholic Church, said they would recommend a special process to dismiss any priest who has become "notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory sexual abuse of minors."
But whether to institute a policy of "zero-tolerance" would not be decided until the biannual meeting of the U.S. bishops to be held this June in Dallas, church officials said.
"There is a growing consensus that it is too great a risk to assign a priest who has abused a child to another ministry," said Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Yet the cardinals said that in cases that are "not notorious," it should fall to the local bishop to decide if such a priest is a threat to children and should be removed.
The final statement fell short of a blanket order for dismissal of all abusive priests, a formal backing for the "one-strike-you're-out" policy that had been much discussed since the cardinals started arriving in Rome on …