Saginaw Bishop Predicts Severe Action at Catholic Conference

Associated Press State & Local Wire
June 12, 2002

Roman Catholic bishops meeting in Dallas will adopt a severe approach to priests who commit child sexual abuse, says Saginaw Bishop Kenneth Untener.

The three-day U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops begins Thursday. It is a response to the nationwide sexual abuse scandal in the church.

Untener said he expects that "a trend toward severity" in dealing with priests who commit child sex abuse will prevail during the meeting.

He said he expects to follow that direction but would not commit himself to any specific proposal, such as one-strike-and-out for any abusive priest, The Saginaw News reported.

"All along, I have asked for feedback from lay people and from pastors to talk about the proposals," Untener said. "I'm going to listen to discussion first. There will be some lay people who are experts in the field, and we need to listen to them."

For example, a proposal from the conference's Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse would require notifying law enforcement of all allegations. Untener said he had questions about that plan.

"Sometimes you may have a person (with an allegation) who doesn't want that, who doesn't want law enforcement involved," he said. "Unless that's the situation, then I would say yes, there should be immediate notification."

In the past seven weeks, two priests in the diocese have resigned after admitting sexual misconduct - the Rev. John E. Hammer of St. Mary Catholic Church in Alma and Mount St. Joseph Catholic Church in St. Louis, and the Rev. Leonard F. Wilkuski of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Bay City.

The Saginaw diocese has about 142,000 members in 110 parishes.


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