By Associated Press
America’s Roman Catholic bishops, overcoming earlier protests from some church leaders, said Tuesday they had overwhelmingly approved a second round of reviews to measure how well U.S. dioceses are implementing sex abuse prevention policies.
The decision was made during the bishops’ closed-door spiritual retreat this week in suburban Denver, where time was set aside to address the clergy sex abuse crisis and, separately, withholding Holy Communion from Catholic lawmakers at odds with church teachings.
The vote on the reviews was 207-14, with one abstention, according to a news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Victim advocates and lay reformers had criticized the bishops for discussing the scandal in private and questioned whether the resistance to further audits meant church leaders were abandoning their reforms.
Archbishop Harry J. Flynn, chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Sex Abuse, said in a statement that the vote was “a clear indication of our commitment” to protect young people.
A first round of audits last year found that 90 percent of dioceses were in compliance with the discipline policy the bishops mandated two years ago at the height of the sex-abuse crisis.
Four of the 195 U.S. dioceses, including the Davenport Diocese, were not audited for various reasons.
The bishops have agreed to conduct annual audits until they complete an upcoming review of their abuse-prevention plan.
They also authorized a third study on the scandal, looking further at psychological and sexual aspects of the crisis.
Two previous studies, including one on the scope of the scandal, were released last February. The tally by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice found 10,667 molestation claims since 1950, with about 4 percent of all American clerics who served during that time accused of abuse.
This latest study, involving intensive interviews with victims and perpetrators, will take at least two years and cost several million dollars, according to Illinois Justice Anne Burke, leader of the National Review Board, the lay watchdog panel overseeing the audits and research.
David Clohessy, national director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the bishops have “committed only to the bare minimum.” He said the bishops have too much control over what auditors can review and their conclusions were flawed.
“They’ve taken an extraordinarily minimal step,” Clohessy
said. The auditors insist their investigations have been thorough and
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