Catholics to Review Sex-Abuse Policy

Pioneer Press [Minnesota]
October 12, 2004

In a letter sent to Roman Catholic bishops of the United States, Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced a nine-month review process of the bishops' policy enacted at the height of the clergy sex-abuse crisis.

That policy, adopted at an emotional June 2002 assembly in Dallas, included a permanent ban of guilty priests from church work. The bishops at that time called for the policy to be reviewed in two years.

Flynn, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, said the review should be completed by next June's assembly of bishops.

The 2002 policy required dioceses to put safeguards in place against abuse and to hire victim assistance coordinators. Among other reforms, it outlined the process bishops should follow in investigating molestation claims.

The centerpiece of the plan was a pledge that any priest who molested a minor would never again be allowed to serve in the ministry. Victims demanded that the policy be adopted because some bishops had previously moved abusive clergy among churches without telling parishioners, leaving children vulnerable.

Many priests and others in the church protested this provision, however, which was dubbed "zero tolerance," saying it ignored research that found that some molesters could be rehabilitated. They claimed the policy also violated Catholic teaching on forgiveness.


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