New York Archdiocese Falls Short in Sex Abuse Review

By Art McFarland
WABC [New York]
January 6, 2004

The Archdiocese of New York is under fire for not complying with a new policy to prevent sex abuse by priests. It is just one of handful of dioceses nationwide that's not following the rules.

There has been 90 percent compliance with the anti-sex abuse guidelines. The fact that New York is not included in that compliance may be troubling for some area Roman Catholics.

The intent of U.S. Catholic officials was very clear.

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, President, USCCB: "During established meetings, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops adopted the charter for the protection of children and young people, which stipulated that each diocese would implement specific policies and procedures."

But still, the nation's most important archdiocese here in New York is on the short list for non-compliance. The rules were adopted in June of 2002 when the sex abuse scandals were at their height, grabbing almost daily headlines. Cases such as that of former Catholic priest and convicted child molester John Geoghan sent a shockwave through the Catholic Church in the U.S.

The policy that resulted calls for:

Any priest guilty of sexual abuse be kept away from all public, church-related work.

Steps to prevent molestation.

Strict background checks for all priests and lay workers.

The bishops' conference says its review has been extensive.

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory: "We assessed the diocese's polices to respond to abuse complaints, sought evidence of outreach programs for victims of abuse, judged how the largely lay review boards that monitor abuse cases were utilized, looked for policies on removing from ministry priests who had abused children and youth, and documented the existence of safe environment programs to prevent abuse from occurring in the future."

The New York Archdiocese told Eyewitness News by phone that indications of its non-compliance are minor. Catholic officials here say they are simply working out details of the so-called "safe environment" program, which is part of the guidelines. We will have more on their reaction as we continue to follow this story.


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