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US Bishops work overnight on sex abuse policy


US Catholic bishops, under fire for shielding priests accused of molesting children, worked into the early hours on Thursday to craft a national policy on handling pedophile priests that they hope will restore their credibility as spiritual leaders.

"We need to close the divide that has been created between those victims and their families and the bishops, to restore the trust that Catholics have historically had in their priests by ensuring that all priests are worthy of that trust," said Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The bishops were gathered in Dallas for their annual meeting, which formally opened yesterday with an address by Gregory to the nearly 300 US bishops. For most of the day, in both open and executive sessions, bishops will debate their Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

That debate, and the policy expected to emerge at the end of the meeting today are the only items on the agenda, which is being held in the shadow of the scandal over pedophile priests that started with the trial of a single cleric in Boston in January and spread around the country and the world.

Four US bishops have stepped down due to sexual abuse allegations and about 250 priests have resigned. Bishops in Poland, Ireland, Africa, Canada and Australia have also been forced to resign over similar scandals.

As the extent of the problem emerged, U.S. Catholics expressed anger over the apparent cover-up of pedophilia by Catholic leaders. Church files, made public in court cases, show bishops shuttled suspect clerics to new parishes without warning people their new priests had histories of abuse.

LINKS
Two more Catholic bishops resign (Washington Post)
Restoring Trust: A Response to Sexual Abuse (US Conference of Catholic Bishops)

SOURCE
Reuters

14 Jun 2002