Church in US meeting resistance to reforms
Three months after US Catholic bishops promised to aggressively discipline priests who molest children, observers suggest that resistance to their policy is intensifying and the plan could be coming undone.
An Associate Press report indicates that parishioners are rallying behind accused priests, clergy are suing alleged victims and complaining to the Vatican, and experts in church law are questioning whether the plan violates priests' rights.
Leaders of religious orders have accused the bishops of ignoring Catholic teaching on redemption and are allowing some abusers to continue their church work away from children.
"It is unraveling," said the Fr Richard McBrien (pictured), a liberal theologian from the University of Notre Dame.
"I don't think anybody knows where we're headed," said Philip Lawler, a conservative and editor of Catholic World Report magazine.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops insists its members are on the right track. Officials point to dioceses nationwide that have expanded their lay review boards, hired people to help victims and suspended accused priests.
At least 300 of the nation's 46,000 clergy have either resigned or been taken off duty over abuse claims since the molestation crisis erupted in January with the case of one predator in the Archdiocese of Boston. Under the bishops' policy, guilty priests are to be removed from all church work - from saying Mass to teaching school to balancing the parish's books - and in some cases from the priesthood altogether.
"If anything, the majority of the signs have been of a readiness to put the charter into effect," said Monsignor Francis Maniscalco, a spokesman for the bishops' conference.
However some bishops have delayed implementing parts of the plan, such as ousting abusers from the priesthood, until the Vatican weighs in, and several analysts predict the Holy See will reject it. Rome's approval is needed to make the policy binding on US dioceses, otherwise the policy approved June 14 in Dallas is simply a gentlemen's agreement.
US Conference of Catholic Bishops | Restoring Trust: A Response to Sexual Abuse
Essays in Theology - Richard McBrien
Catholic World Report
16 Sep 2002