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US Bishops divided over reassignment of priest sex offenders

As US cardinals prepare for next week's unprecedented Vatican summit on clergy sex abuse, their fellow church leaders remain divided over whether to reassign some abusive priests.

The bishops agree that pedophiles should be removed. And they're solidly against reassigning repeat offenders. But some bishops believe there are priests who can be rehabilitated with counselling and close supervision, said Monsignor Francis Maniscalco, a spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The question is being debated among bishops as they wait for the outcome of next week's meeting of the pope, Vatican officials and US cardinals, and plan for a June conference when they will vote on a national response to the crisis.

Researchers on sexual disorders agree that some offenders can be taught to control their behavior. But these same experts warn the level of distrust about how the church has handled abuse claims should make bishops cautious.

``Given the experience the church has had up to now with a fair number of failures with the policy, they're going to need to bend over backward to assure that there aren't any occurrences,'' said David Finkelhor, who directs the Crimes Against Children Research Centre at the University of New Hampshire.

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said now is not the time to even consider such a reassignment proposal.

``At a bare minimum, I think the bishops should adopt a five- or 10- year moratorium on reassigning any priest who molests a youngster,'' he said.

Crimes Against Children Research Centre
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Cardinal McCarrick Urges Uniform Policy on Abuse Allegations (Zenit)


19 Apr 2002