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Vatican, bishops agree on new rules

The Vatican has quickly reached an agreement with four US bishops on proposed changes to a sexual abuse prevention policy that church officials say will beef up priests' rights but also protect children.

Vatican and US Church officials have declined to release details of the changes, which were sought by the Vatican after top officials there expressed concern about the US policy approved by the American bishops in Dallas in June. The Vatican was concerned that the US bishops had endorsed too broad a definition of sexual abuse, had ceded too much power to lay boards, and had taken away too many due process rights from accused priests.

In a brief statement on Wednesday, the leading American negotiator maintained the proposed changes will still protect children, but will respond to the widespread concern about priests' rights voiced by critics of the bishops' policy over the last four months.

"We believe that the goals of the Dallas decision, i.e. to protect minors and to reach out to victims, have been preserved," said Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago. He said the documents would now more fully "respect the rights of priests who have been accused."

The Vatican's only comment came in the form of a two-sentence statement, in Italian, declaring that the four bishops named by the pope, and the four bishops named by the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, had reached agreement after just two days of talks in Rome. In the statement, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls described the proposed changes as "suggestions."

Boston Globe

After 2 days, joint group proposes draft revisions to sex abuse norms (Catholic News Service)
Proposals on Sex-Abuse Norms Due in November (Zenit)
Law Meets With Alleged Abuse Victims (AP)

1 Nov 2002