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Poll says new US Bishops' abuse policy not good enough

An overwhelming majority of US Catholics say their bishops still have not gone far enough to protect children from abusing priests, and they are deeply divided over the new guidelines adopted by bishops to deal with sexually abusive clergymen, according to a Washington Post survey.

Slightly more than half of all American Catholics and a larger majority of non-Catholics said they disapproved of the policy passed by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops last week in Dallas, which would permanently bar abusive priests from all church-related public duties but would not automatically remove them from the priesthood.

Two-thirds of Catholics said the bishops' guidelines fail to do enough to address the problem of child abuse by priests, a view shared by three-quarters of the general public.

"Just pulling them out of the public eye won't do it at all," said 44 year old Illinois homemaker Sharon Franckey. "I think they should lose their priesthood."

But the survey also found that a growing majority of Catholics trust their church to handle the issue of abusive priests in the future. And the overall rating of the church among Catholics remains broadly favourable. Taken together, these findings suggest that Catholics' faith in their church remains strong, even as their doubts about church leaders continue to grow.

Meanwhile a grand jury is looking into whether criminal charges could be brought against Cardinal Bernard Law and other church leaders in the sex scandal that has engulfed the Boston Archdiocese, a law enforcement source said yesterday.

The grand jury convened by Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly has been investigating for weeks whether Law and other leaders broke the law in allowing priests accused of molesting children to remain in positions where they could continue to abuse youngsters.

A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the chances that charges would be filed against Law or other top officials are small because of the statute of limitations and the difficult standards for prosecuting someone as an accessory.

Restoring Trust: A Response to Sexual Abuse (US Bishops) Clergy Abuse Tracker


20 Jun 2002