Bishops' Pact Still Needs OK of Vatican

By Robin Washington
Boston Herald
June 17, 2002

The newly minted policy by American bishops mandating the removal of Catholic priests charged with child sex abuse may face a more difficult time getting approval from the Vatican, a leading cleric said yesterday.

Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said many Vatican leaders do not understand the U. S. legal system and consider church penance punishment enough for wayward priests.

But, Gregory said on NBC's "Meet the Press," he was confident the Vatican would approve the policy endorsed at the bishops' Dallas meeting last week.

"They know the seriousness of the matter," he said. "They have expressed their overwhelming desire to assist us."

The policy must be approved by the Holy See before it can become church law, a process that could take months and further frustrate victims' groups, who denounced the plan as not strong enough.

They also endorse statements by Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, named by Gregory to head a sex abuse oversight committee, arguing that bishops who coddle pedophile priests be held responsible.

"I like it strong. I like it tough. Let's see it implemented," alleged victim Steve Lewis of Lynn said outside Holy Cross Cathedral.

Absent was Bernard Cardinal Law, who regularly celebrates Mass at the Mother Church except during the summer.

Protester Mary Scorzoni of Danvers said demonstrations would likely continue regardless of Law's attendance.

"This is a place that people know they can find support if they're a victim or survivor," said Scorzoni, whose brother, Steven Lynch, was allegedly molested by the late Rev. Samuel Lombard three decades ago.

In March, Lynch brought his protest inside the cathedral when he verbally accosted Law from the aisles. Lynch's court appearance on charges of disturbing a religious service and disturbing the peace has been continued to June 24. On Friday, his lone accusations against Lombard were joined by those of a North Shore woman, who filed suit saying she too was sexually assaulted by the priest, though as an adult.


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