Catholic Panels Reach Abuse Policy Deal

By Richard N. Ostling
Associated Press, carried in Mercury News [Chicago IL]
May 18, 2004

The committee of U.S. Roman Catholic bishops that deals with sexual abuse reached an accord in Chicago Monday with a lay watchdog panel that monitors church reform policies, but details were not announced.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a telephone interview that the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse and the lay National Review Board "came together on a proposal" and both sides are "very pleased with it."

Illinois Appellate Justice Anne Burke of Chicago, interim chair of the review board, said the agreement "is in compliance with the charter" the bishops issued to deal with the abuse scandal in 2002, but she, too, said no details will be released till the full body of bishops meets in Denver next month.

An angry dispute between the review board and certain bishops has threatened to disrupt reform policies. The review board insists that the 2002 charter requires audits of compliance in every U.S. diocese each year, but some bishops opposed audits in 2004 in order to discuss the whole procedure.

In late March, Burke wrote Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. hierarchy, warning that delay would look like a rollback on reform.

The agreement came from the first joint meeting between the lay review board and the bishops' committee, which is led by Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn. Flynn's committee will present the joint proposal to the June bishops' meeting.

The review board and bishops' committee also reached a joint understanding on another potentially divisive matter, how to proceed with an expensive academic study of the "causes and context" of clergy molestation. That will now be added to the bishops' June agenda


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.