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Inconclusive end to US bishops' Rome abuse trip

At the end of their two-day meeting with the Pope and other top Vatican officials on how to prevent clerical sex abuse of children, American cardinals issued an inconclusive statement.

A news conference on Wednesday evening began two and a half hours late and was only attended by two out of the twelve American cardinals. Officials explained that this was because the others had further engagements and were unable to change their plans when the schedule fell behind.

Final guidelines will be hammered out when the bishops meet in Dallas in June. On Wednesday night, the bishops' document stated that church leaders wanted to find a way to dismiss a priest "who has become notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory sexual abuse of minors." It said there should be another process for dismissing priests in "cases which are not notorious" and might be less clear-cut. It also called for a national day of prayer.

Critics have said the recommendations are much weaker than the zero-tolerance policy promised by some cardinals hours earlier.

On Tuesday, Cardinal McCarrick of Washington had told reporters that the Pope had clearly paved the way for a one-strike-and-you're-out policy for new cases of abuse by priests.

In addition to the proposals for removing priests, the cardinals also drafted a letter to be sent to priests in the United States, expressing sympathy and support "through these troubled times".

"We know the heavy burden of sorrow and shame that you are bearing because some have betrayed the grace of ordination by abusing those entrusted to their care," the letter said.

On his way out of the closing session, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said church officials wanted to find a streamlined administrative process for dismissing abusive priests, but he added that there was much concern for the rights of the accused. The Pope "is sensitive to the misuse of the administrative process," Cardinal George said, referring to John Paul's life in Poland under communism.

Restore Trust: US Bishops' website
US Cardinals Letter to Priests - text
Abuse victims upset by Church 'inaction' (BBC)
Analysis: US cardinals get message (BBC)
Cardinals agree on treatment of sex abuse priests (Scotsman)
Cardinals at crisis meeting say no change on celibacy (Irish Times)
Cardinals unite against paedophilia (Times of India)
Dismissals for 'Serial' Cases but Leeway Is Possible in Others (New York Times)
Paedophile priests face expulsion (BBC)
Paedophile priests in US face expulsion (Times (London))
Pope to announce crackdown on child sex abuse (Guardian)
U.S. Cardinals See Need to Reaffirm Moral Lessons (Los Angeles Times)
US cardinals reject 'zero tolerance' of sex abuse (The Independent)
US Catholics worry for future (BBC)
Vatican to announce tough new policy on sex abuse (Irish Times)

Independent Catholic News

26 Apr 2002