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US religious orders consider retaining abusive priests

Leaders of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men in the United States, which will meet next month, say the orders are unlikely to take the same approach as the nation's bishops.

One-third of US priests belong to religious orders, and their fates will be determined not by bishops, but by the major superiors and provincials who lead their orders.

The bishops agreed last month in most cases to seek to remove from the priesthood priests who had sexually abused a child or an adolescent. But the leaders of the conference of superiors say they do not expect to take that step.

The reason, they say, is that the relationship between a bishop and the priests of his diocese is very different from the relationship between a major superior and the priests, monks and brothers in a religious order.

Conference executive director Fr Ted Keating said: "Whether he's sick, or in prison, or charged with something, [an abusive religious priest is] still a member of the family, and we take care of him and watch out for him, even though we would not tolerate what he did in any way."

"Many of these men who are real sexual abusers are sick men, some who have been sexually abused themselves when they were young, or who are disturbed with compulsions," he said.

Meanwhile a priest who was accused of molesting two women has sued the Archdiocese of Miami for ruining his reputation by publicising the allegations. The two women sued Fr Jan Malicki in 1998, claiming that he molested them at St. David Catholic Church in Davie, Florida. The archdiocese suspended Malicki, but prosecutors never filed charges because they felt they couldn't win a conviction.

And Germany's Cardinal Karl Lehmann said his country is likely to see more revelations of sexual abuse
of children by priests, following news last week that four German priests are under investigation. Lehmann said yesterday that the Church must deal aggressively with sexual abuse and called for common guidelines to prevent and deal with abuse, as well as greater involvement by external experts.

Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM)

New York Times (requires registration)/AP/AP

23 Jul 2002