Bishops offer sex abuse plan that falls short of zero tolerance

Friday, June 14, 2002

AP Religion WriterDALLAS (AP) -- America's Roman Catholic bishops offered a sex abuse policy Friday that falls just short of zero tolerance for molesting priests. The plan would bar abusers from parish work.

Under the plan, priests who molested children in the past or commit even a single act of abuse in the future would be ousted from the priesthood. Some abusers could voluntarily withdraw from active ministry and work in a monastery or some other restricted setting.

The plan, hammered out since April and the subject of debate behind closed doors Thursday, was expected to be voted on later Friday.

If approved, the bishops would ask the Vatican to approve key parts of the plan. That would make the proposal binding law in the United States church, which has been rocked by allegations of priest abuse since January.

Some Vatican officials have indicated they oppose a full "zero tolerance" policy for abusive priests.

Another element of the proposal would prohibit dioceses from signing confidentiality agreements with victims in civil lawsuits over sex abuse, unless the victim insists.

Bishops would also report all claims of sexual abuse of a minor to public authorities. Bishop Wilton Gregory, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, acknowledged Thursday that prelates in many cases have failed to report such allegations to law enforcement.

The plan would also set up diocese review boards to look at complaints and assess the diocese's response. The boards would be made up primarily of lay people.

A national review board would annually audit whether dioceses had complied with the overall policy.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: