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US Bishops formulate strategy for action on sex abuse

The Church should defrock any priest who sexually abuses a child in the future, and those who molested one time in the past could continue in the ministry under certain conditions, a church panel recommended yesterday.

Under the plan, priests who victimised more than one child in the past also would be removed and all such violations would have to be reported to authorities.

The proposals are in a long-awaited report by the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, whose plan will be put to a vote when bishops from around the United States meet 13-15 June in Dallas.

The committee's report leaves the bishops open to attack from those who want a sweeping zero tolerance policy, meaning the removal of all past abusers and those caught in the future. Debate over ousting errant clergy will likely be intense at the Dallas conference.

The committee's plan contains apologies to victims and stresses the bishops' commitment to reform.

``The sexual abuse of children and young people by some priests and bishops, and the ways in which these crimes and sins were too often dealt with by bishops, have caused enormous pain, anger and confusion,'' the panel wrote. ``We are profoundly sorry for the times when we have deepened its pain by what we have done or by what we have failed to do.''

A senior Vatican official said the Vatican is not preparing a public response to the committee's recommendation, as it will await decisions by the full bishops assembly at the Dallas meeting. Those decisions will then be sent to the Vatican for approval, said the official, who asked that his name not be used.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Draft For Approval: Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People
Draft For Approval: Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Clergy or Other Church Personnel
Catholics Show Little Tolerance (USA Today Poll)


5 Jun 2002