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Vatican set to pronounce on US bishops' abuse strategy

The Vatican next month will make known its position on the new US bishops' strategy to eradicate sex abuse among clergy, a policy expected to raise objections at the Holy See.

The Vatican press office yesterday said it would not comment about a report by the National Catholic Reporter, a liberal, U.S.-based publication, that the Vatican would not grant legal approval to the guidelines, adopted in June at a Dallas meeting of U.S. bishops.

Without Rome's approval, the bishops' policy amounts to a gentlemen's agreement, as opposed to being enshrined in church law and binding on all American dioceses.

The report in the 27 September edition of the NCR released on Saturday was similar to a recent spate of other articles quoting unnamed sources as saying that the Holy See has several problems with the guidelines, especially those which deal with the protection of priests who have been falsely accused of sexually abusing minors.

In other news, US Catholic Conference President Bishop Wilton Gregory (pictured) had allowed a priest continue working despite allegations of inappropriate behavior with boys and adults. Gregory suspended the priest on Friday pending an investigation, the third involving the same priest since the late 1980s.

"I regret not having asked the review board to reconsider this matter in light of the charter immediately after our Dallas meeting," Gregory of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill., said in a written statement on Friday.

Gregory, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, had returned Friedman to parish work in 1995, even though the priest had been removed from a previous post and sent to counselling after complaints. The bishop said in an interview this week that he reinstated Friedman at the recommendation of the review board, which had investigated at least one allegation of sexual misconduct between the priest and a minor at a church youth camp.

Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane in Washington state, is also under the spotlight after revelations that a former priest in the Spokane Diocese with ties to Skylstad had a long history of abusing boys.

In the UK, police are examining claims that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, while Bishop of Brighton and Arundel in the 1980s, turned a blind eye to a priest he knew to have paedophile tendencies who was later convicted of sexual offences.

The Sunday Mirror newspaper claimed police were looking in to whether there was evidence the Cardinal knew an offence had been committed and performed an act intending to impede a prosecution or whether he did any act to pervert the course of justice. It said the priest in question was finally jailed for five years in the mid-1990s for serious sexual offences.

And in Australia, the Sisters of Nazareth were the subject of a 60 Minutes television report last night repeating recent allegations of abuse to girls in orphanages in Brisbane and New Zealand.

Rome expected to reject Dallas norms (National Catholic Reporter)
WSB - AP/Boston Globe/Newsday/London Evening Standard/60 Minutes

23 Sep 2002