Commission makes revisions to U.S. bishops' abuse policy

Thursday, October 31, 2002

VATICAN CITY -- A joint American-Vatican commission has completed revisions to the U.S. bishops' sweeping discipline policy for priests who sexually abuse children, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Neither the Vatican nor the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released details of the revisions, which were made with extraordinary speed for the Holy See -- over two days of meetings. Victims groups have expressed concern that the Roman Catholic hierarchy will severely weaken the strictest parts of the bishops' plan.

But Cardinal Francis George, one of the U.S. members of the commission, said in a statement that he believed the goals of the policy, "to protect minors and to reach out to victims," have been preserved and the rights of accused priests have been protected.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops' conference in Washington, D.C., said no further information would be released Wednesday.

U.S. bishops will vote on the recommended changes at their national meeting Nov. 11-14 in Washington, then will return the policy to the Vatican for a final review.

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