Study: No clergy abuse, gayness tie

BALTIMORE - A preliminary report commissioned by the nation's Roman Catholic bishops on the roots of the clergy sex-abuse scandal found no evidence that gay priests were more likely than heterosexual clergy to molest children, the study's lead authors said yesterday.

The full $2 million study by researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice won't be completed until the end of 2010. But the authors said their evidence to date found no data indicating that homosexuality was a predictor of abuse.

"What we are suggesting is that the idea of sexual identity be separated from the problem of sexual abuse," John Jay's Margaret Smith said in a speech to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The question has been raised repeatedly within and outside the church because the overwhelming majority of known victims were boys. - AP

Kidnapper offers plea and apology

SALT LAKE CITY - Seven years after she was abducted at knifepoint, Elizabeth Smart finally got an apology - and a guilty plea - yesterday from one of her kidnappers.

"I am so sorry, Elizabeth, for all the pain and suffering I have caused you and your family," Wanda Eileen Barzee said. "It is my hope that you will be able to find it in your heart to forgive me."

The appeal came minutes after Barzee, 64, pleaded guilty in federal court to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor. Sentencing was set for May 19, with Barzee expected to receive 15 years in prison, with credit for about six years served.

Smart was 14 when she was taken in June 2002 from her Salt Lake City bedroom. Nine months later, Barzee and her now-estranged husband, Brian David Mitchell, were arrested after they were spotted with Smart.

Now 22, Smart was not in court to hear Barzee's apology. But her father, Ed Smart, said outside court that forgiveness was possible.

Barzee will cooperate in state and federal cases against Mitchell. - AP

Atlantis is given space inspection

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Atlantis' astronauts scoured their space shuttle yesterday for any signs of launch damage while pursuing the International Space Station.

The early word was that the shuttle appeared in good shape. "No issues so far," said LeRoy Cain, chairman of the mission management team.

Atlantis and its crew of six will hook up today with the space station. The shuttle astronauts, led by commander Charles Hobaugh, spent much of their first full day in orbit inspecting Atlantis' thermal shielding, using a 100-foot, laser-tipped boom.

Officials believe that three small foam pieces peeled away from Atlantis' tank Monday but say that happened too many minutes after liftoff to pose any danger. - AP

Elsewhere:

The Senate will open its session today by saluting Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D., W.Va.) as Congress' longest-serving member. Byrd, who was already the longest-serving senator, turns 92 on Friday.

A measure to let voters decide whether to ban same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia cannot go on the ballot because it would violate a city human-rights law, the Board of Elections and Ethics ruled yesterday. The D.C. City Council is expected to approve same-sex marriage next month, but opponents wanted voters to weigh in.

Jason Rodriguez, 40, who authorities say killed one person and wounded five on Nov. 6 when he opened fire at an Orlando, Fla., consulting firm, was indicted yesterday.