Church Votes for New Abuse Rules

June 14, 2002


CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm Catherine Callaway at the CNN center in Atlanta. LIVE FROM Dallas, the church sex crisis is just one minute away.

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America's Catholic bishops vote to strip all power from priests who sexually abuse children, but the plan voted on just two hours ago would not kick such priests out of the clergy and that is the focus of LIVE FROM Dallas which begins right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two hundred and thirty-nine yes, 13 no. No abstentions. The action item passes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A crucial vote.

BISHOP WILTON GREGORY: From this day forward, no one known to have sexually abused a child will work in the Catholic Church in the United States.


ANNOUNCER: Priests who abuse, barred from parishioners, but kept in the clergy.

Did the pope influence the decision in Dallas? And will the Vatican approve the Bishops' plan? We'll go live to Rome for reaction.

He told the clergy of his years of torment.


DAVID CLOHESSY, S.N.A.P. NATIONAL DIR.: I could describe nights curling up in the fetal position and sobbing hysterically while my wife Laura (ph) simply held me.


ANNOUNCER: And he called for changes from the church.


CLOHESSY: We don't just need phrases and catch words. We need real action.


ANNOUNCER: We'll ask a survivor if the bishops' plan to punish priests who abuse goes far enough.

LIVE FROM Dallas, "The Church Sex Crisis". Now Leon Harris.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening from Dallas. Here just a short time ago the U.S. bishops here did finally come up with their long-awaited policy on what to do about sexually abusive priests in their ranks. As expected their new policy does determine that priests who offend from here on out will be defrocked.

Now for past offenders, there is something of a technical distinction afoot with them. And of course it all has to be approved by the Vatican in the end.

Our Jason Carroll has all the details.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The action item passes.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After debate, revisions, and heart-felt words from victims, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops finally adopted a national policy on sexual abuse.


BISHOP WILTON GREGORY, PRESIDENT USCCB: From this day forward, no one known to have sexually abused a child will work in the Catholic Church in the United States. We bishops apologize to anyone harmed by one of our priests, and for our tragically slow response in recognizing the horror of sexual abuse.


CARROLL: The policy is a stronger version of a draft originally proposed last week. It closes a loophole that would have allowed one- time offenders to remain in the priesthood. The amended deicing plan says that effective immediately, for even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor, past, present, or future, the offending cleric will not remain in ministry and will not receive a future assignment. Throughout the day, the bishops spoke of their concerns about the policy.


REV. JOSEPH SULLIVAN, DIOCESE OF BROOKLYN: Do I believe we have to come to a standard not of zero tolerance, but a standard of forgiveness. And I think in some ways we have arrived at a standard of unforgiveness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need strong support of this document to begin to restore the credibility of the church and its moral authority.


CARROLL: The term zero tolerance not used because the policy would allow some priests who voluntarily withdraw from ministry to stay under the watchful eye of the church, perhaps in a monastery.


PHIL SAVIANO, VICTIM: But the truth is, is that person is still going to be a criminal, still going to be a child molester, is still going to be a threat to children.


CARROLL: Another point under consideration, how will the Vatican respond to the policy? Clergy here are saying they don't need Rome's approval.


CARDINAL THEODORE MCCARRICK, WASHINGTON: What I believe is happening, we complete this document. We all vote to approve it. It becomes what we do in the United States.


CARROLL: The policy also says that allegations of abuse must be reported to civil authorities, although it does not say exactly when it should be reported to civil authorities. Still unclear, how exactly they're going to enforce this policy because there's nothing in it that clearly spells out how a bishop who chooses not to follow it will be punished.

Also a final point, this is a voluntary policy, which does not require Vatican approval. If it is to turn out to be some sort of a mandatory policy, that Leon, will require the Vatican's approval.

HARRIS: All right Jason, we do happen to have some news, a development on that matter of accountability. We are just now hearing that this national review board that's going to be put in place here, which is supposed to provide public scrutiny ...


HARRIS: ... of the bishops to make sure they do their job, we understand now there's been an announcement about a rather key and prominent addition being made to that board and you just heard about that.

CARROLL: Yes, that's correct. Governor Frank Keating from Oklahoma, a two term governor, is in fact going to chair that national review board that's going to be set up by the U.S. Conference of Bishops. Just a quick explanation of what that review board is going to be all about.

Basically that review board is going to monitor how these diocese across the country are responding to this policy and once they have come up with some sort of an outline of how these bishops have responded to the policy, they're going to publish it in some sort of a report, and Governor Frank Keating from Oklahoma, it turns out, is going to chair that committee.


GOV. FRANK KEATING, (R), OKLAHOMA: This is a challenge to Christianity in our country, not just to Catholicism. And it is a horrific and pitiful statement of ministry that people who have been ordained to the priesthood would do such things. So I want Bishop Gregory to know and his colleagues that we, the members of the Catholic lay community, will be hard down and committed to make sure that we provide to the faithful, with you, and with God's blessing, a commitment that we will sin no more.


CARROLL: Governor Keating, a two-term governor from the state of Oklahoma. He's also a former U.S. attorney, in addition to being a former FBI agent, as well as a former prosecutor. Also we're being told that another person who will be sitting on that committee headed up this national committee will be an appellate court judge from Chicago.

So it appears that the U.S. Conference of Bishops are very serious about getting a number of qualified people on this national review board that's going to be monitoring exactly how the bishops are responding to this policy.

HARRIS: We're talking people with legal and law enforcement and investigatory backgrounds there too. Jason Carroll, good job, thank you very much, appreciate that.

Now as we've been reporting all along, this is a huge shift in policy the bishops have come up with. And earlier today and there was some question as to whether or not these bishops might have found themselves on something of a collision course with the Vatican. Still not clear exactly what the Vatican's response is going to be.

Let's check in with our Alessio Vinci. He's reporting now live from Rome. Maybe Alessio has heard something by now. Alessio, what's the word? Any result - I'm sorry reaction at this particular point over there?

ALESSIO VINCI, ROME BUREAU CHIEF: Of course no reaction here from the Vatican yet. First of all, it's 2:00 in the morning here, but we do not expect any kind of reaction from Vatican officials here who, off the record (UNINTELLIGIBLE) have been telling us that they were very much concerned about where the bishops meeting in Dallas because they were concerned that the bishops and the cardinals would have acted under tremendous pressure, both from public opinion, from the media, as well as from abused victims, groups of the abused and the victims.

And therefore the Vatican officials believe that perhaps the bishops would have come up with some solutions, the so-called zero tolerance, for example, that would have called for the immediate defrocking of a priest, and they were very much concerned that this is not any way -- a way to resolve the problem of sex abuse.

When the cardinals came to Rome back in April, the Pope made very, very clear in a speech to them saying that there was no room for those who harm the children in the Catholic Church, and this sets of rules that the U.S. Bishops have now adopted certainly are in line with that. But Vatican officials certainly will express some degree of backing, if you want to, with this new policy because it does not call for the immediate defrocking of the priests.

Vatican officials also telling me earlier this week that they were very much concerned that a tough policy would have, in their words, destroyed priesthood. There's already a lot of concern about not enough priests coming to the church, not enough priests enrolling, or people enrolling to become priests, and therefore they were very much concerned that a tough policy against the priests would have very much hurt the church as opposed to solve the problem -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well Alessio, have you heard over there when the Vatican would expect to have this document in their hands for their perusal?

VINCI: Well we do understand from U.S. Bishops that the Vatican will - that they will forward the document to the Vatican in the coming days or weeks. Now it could take the Vatican months to go over this document.

There is going to be different laws, a lot of the fine print. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) officials, several congregations are involved in dealing with this issue will have to go over this document and eventually send its recommendation back, its recognition, as you say, of the Vatican, back to the U.S. bishops to make it binding in the United States - Leon.

HARRIS: Alessio Vinci reporting live for us from Rome. Thank you very much. Now just after that vote was tallied here and this overwhelming majority decision was reached, I had a chance to sit down with the vice president of this council -- this conference of U.S. Bishops, Bishop William Skylstad, and he told me that he thinks that what we are poised on right now is a watershed moment of the American church.


BISHOP WILLIAM SKYLSTAD, V.P. U.S. CONF. OF BISHOPS: That was a very strong affirmation of our work the last couple of days. I think there was some concern amongst the bishops whether or not this charter would be approved strongly. And it was approved overwhelmingly by - not unanimously, but overwhelmingly. So I think yes it does give a very strong message.

HARRIS: Well you know one of the other things that we in the press and those among the victims, families and the survivors were looking for was some more accountability of the bishops themselves. Why did we not see that here?

SKYLSTAD: The discussion yesterday focused on that question. And it was decided that they would move from this document, the accountability of bishops, to another forum. So the bishops like the ministry committee will take on this responsibility of looking at the accountability of bishops.

That discussion came up this afternoon and rather than focusing in on the accountability of a bishop with regard to the charter, there is considerable discussion about expanding that, and so I think it's -- that moved in a positive direction. It was separated from the charter itself.

HARRIS: Well as you know, the critics amongst those folks that I mentioned before, the victims' families and the survivors themselves were saying that they wouldn't be happy and they wouldn't believe that the church was serious unless some bishops were held accountable and actually may have been removed in this case. That's not going to happen. Are you anticipating a lot of rejection of this agreement here?

SKYLSTAD: Our role as bishops is not to remove another. That's the Holy Caesural (ph). However late this afternoon in our discussion of a day of prayer and fasting that was to be on September the 14th. That was changed to August the 14th before the feast of the assumption and the day is to focus on the penance and the fasting of the bishop, not on the population, not amongst the population in general. They will be invited to participate, but the focus would be on us - on us bishops in terms of that prayer day (UNINTELLIGIBLE) day of fasting.

HARRIS: OK, but can you explain to us why this is not being described or it's not even being detailed as a mandatory policy. I know you're saying that it's a policy that every diocese is going to have to follow. But for instance, Cardinal Egan was quoted in the "New York Times" saying that well a national policy is one thing, but it's the local policy that takes precedence. And that seems to indicate that perhaps there is wiggle room here. SKYLSTAD: The charter can be implemented immediately as we passed it this afternoon, and should be implemented immediately. The norms and the summary of the charter will go to Rome, will go to the Holy Seed (ph), the Vatican, and if they are approved, then those norms would be mandatory for every diocese in the country.

So it's not optional for a diocese then to follow the charter. However, having said that, I think there is such a strong sense of solidarity amongst the bishops to do this right, to be accountable to one another, that I couldn't foresee a bishop opting out from -- immediately from following through on the charter.

HARRIS: All right well going by the language there also, you're saying that offending priests, those who have committed in the past, committed acts in the past, will be removed from the ministry.


HARRIS: Can you be more clear on exactly what that means? We understand that means they cannot perform mass. But some are concerned that it doesn't necessarily spell out exactly what it is they can and cannot do.

SKYLSTAD: They cannot officially, publicly, minister in the name of the church. So they might be able to live in a retirement center someplace or they might be in a monastery or some kind of setting for retired priests, but they cannot minister officially, publicly as a priest in the church.

HARRIS: Well some think that that means they will still be called priests and that is not a complete condemnation of what they did.

SKYLSTAD: Well, the -- that's part of the discussion we had today, that if -- in the old - in the original charter that if a - if a priest had abused twice or more, then he would be removed from priesthood. He would be removed from the clerical state. This new charter that was approved this afternoon, is quite not - is not quite that harsh. I think there's some feeling that the previous charter approved would be pretty harsh.

Not only that, it left an opening for a priest who had abused only once, that he could possibly after review by a diocese and committee, and after the people would be told that he had abused if they would be agreeable to his functioning, that would be possible. However, the charter today approved does not allow that.


HARRIS: As important as this decision is for the U.S. Church, Bishop Skylstad also told me that he believes this could pent (ph) from some big changes to come in the church in Europe as well.

Stay with us, much more on this momentous decision after the break.

ANNOUNCER: Next, a diocese that's dealing with abusive priests.


BISHOP CHARLES GRAHMANN, DALLAS DIOCESE: We're not going to let that happen to us. You know we're going to dig down in and find out what's going on, and do something about it.


ANNOUNCER: But some of the faithful are frustrated.


SYLVIA DEMAREST, VICTIM'S ATTORNEY: The Dallas policy is a joke.


ANNOUNCER: Is the church doing enough? A controversial case when we return.



ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... of protecting Father Rudy Koss (ph). Koss (ph) is serving a life sentence for sexual misconduct. Since then the diocese created what's known as the safe environment team, a program designed to investigate priest and church volunteers that work with children. Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann says it's a program other dioceses should copy.

BISHOP CHARLES GRAHMANN, DALLAS DIOCESE: I thought that after what we went through, the diocese would pick this up quickly and say we're not going to let that happen to us. You know we're going to dig down in and find out what's going on and do something about it. But ...

LAVANDERA: But the bishop says, not everyone in the country paid attention. Critics, on the other hand, called the program window dressing.

SYLVIA DEMAREST, VICTIM'S ATTORNEY: The Dallas policy is a joke.

LAVANDERA: Sylvia Demarest represent some of the abuse victims that sued the Dallas diocese. She says church leaders haven't done enough to solve the problem for one main reason.

DEMAREST: I don't think they really want to address the issue because I think they understand that if they had to remove every priest who was unsuited for ministry, that they would have an even worse priest shortage than they have now.

LAVANDERA: The fallout from the Koss (ph) scandal has influenced how future priests are brought up through the seminary. Father Michael Duca says conversations with today seminary students involve intensely open discussions about improper sexual behavior. FATHER MICHAEL DUCA, HOLY TRINITY SEMINARY: I will tell them not only if you do these things now, leave the seminary. You're not ready for formation. You're not ready to enter into this life.

LAVANDERA: And there's been even more painful change.

That red brick building is St. Anne School (ph). It's considered by many a historical landmark in Dallas because it sits in a part of town that used to be known as little Mexico.

But it's now part of a hot highly developed business area and the Dallas diocese was forced to sell off that land a few years ago to help pay for the multi-million dollar sexual abuse settlement. That move angered many Hispanics in Dallas, most of whom are Catholic.

After the Rudy Koss (ph) incident the hope was the Dallas Catholic Church had moved past its darkest moments. But five years later, there are still lessons to learn.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.


HARRIS: And some are still learning those lessons. As a matter of fact we just learned that while the bishops here were placing their vote here just a little while ago, a jury in Omaha, Nebraska voted to award $800,000 to an altar boy -- former altar boy, I should say and his mother. The boy is 23 now. He, too, was sexually abused by a priest.

Stay with us, more to come after a break.


CLOHESSY: They were soaked with tears.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about nightmares, depression, sexual problems.


ANNOUNCER: He was sexually abused by a priest and he's got a message for the clergy.


CLOHESSY: The greatest honor survivors could be given by you gentlemen would be simply of course to radically change your behavior.

(END VIDEOCLIP) ANNOUNCER: Does the bishops' plan to punish abusive priests sit well with the survivors? We'll find out when we return.



GREGORY: You will never be given another chance through our church to do it again. And finally, this charter says in concert with the Holy Father, there is no place in the priesthood or the religious life for anyone who would abuse a child.


HARRIS: Well the vote was in, and it was a big overwhelming victory for those who were voting for this new policy against sexually abusive priests. The vote was 239 to 13. But was that margin big enough?

Did it send a big enough message? And can this future and this present now repair the past? Well we will ask that question of our next guest. He is David Clohessy. He's the national director for the victim's group, S.N.A.P., the Survivors Network for Those Abused by a Priest.

Thanks for coming by and taking time to talk with us. I have to ask your reaction, because I heard your words the other day when you made your remarks at the opening of this conference. When you said that the bishops' past actions and the priests' past actions were like putting a dirty bandage on an infected wound. Is this something that will cure that?

CLOHESSY: Well it's a newer bandage, a cleaner bandage, a broader bandage, but fundamentally the wound still needs to be cleansed. The church specifically need to be cleansed of these men who have been - who have molested children.

Maybe it is only once or maybe it's only once that they've been caught. But these men still do not deserve to call themselves Father and the church will not be safe until they're removed.

HARRIS: Well they're -- we're being told that they're going to be removed from the ministry, and they're going to be put in places where they won't have any access to anyone else. They won't be able to practice in public at all. That's not enough?

CLOHESSY: Where do other child molesters get removed to? They get removed to jail because when they're locked up, that's when we know that kids are safe. It's a fallacy to believe that any human being can be monitored 24 hours a day. And if a man is taken from an inner city parish where he's molested children to a rural monastery, he's not cured. He's simply transferred.

CLOHESSY: Let me ask you to respond to the words of Bishop Gregory, the president of this conference. He says this policy is one of the greatest efforts anywhere in addressing sexual abuse of minors - anywhere he says, and he says the charter ensures that young people are protected, that victims are truly listened to and assisted, and that all priests are trustworthy, and all bishops will act responsibly. You don't take him at his word?

CLOHESSY: No. I would love to be able to take him at his word. Unfortunately, we and the Survivors Network have been involved for 12 years, and we've seen many, many very eloquent promises in the past. When the safety of kids are at stake, we have to judge these men based on their deeds, and not on their words.

It's going to be very tempting for people to hear these eloquent comments, these apologies, and to turn their attention elsewhere and think the problem's been solved. But words alone don't make children safe.

HARRIS: Well let me ask you about one of the deeds that's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we've seen manifest so far. We heard the announcement this evening -- are you aware of the announcement of this national review board that's going to look at all cases, and that the Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating is already committed to being on that board, and that he's got a law enforcement background as a former FBI agent and basically that signal is being sent that this conference is very serious about putting people like him on this panel.

CLOHESSY: Any step towards having independent voices, having laypeople, having folks with a professional law enforcement background, any involvement of those kinds of people is encouraging -- absolutely. The question is bishops are the lord of their kingdom. And the question is will they seed (ph) some power and will they let those boards and those lay panels really have sanctions against bishops who cover up? That's the key question.

HARRIS: Well you may be encouraged by these words, we also Governor Keating, and I'd hate to surprise you with these words ...


HARRIS: ... because I don't think you've had a chance to listen to them. He says that a bishop who does nothing is - he is an accessory to a crime and is guilty of obstruction of justice. Now that's pretty serious words for someone who is actually going to come and be on this panel, is it not?

CLOHESSY: We -- those are strong words and we couldn't agree more and in fact in the Survivors Network we've said those words ourselves. But the question remains will Governor Keating have the ability to translate those words into action? Will he be able to demote or defrock or in any way discipline a bishop? That's the - that's the root question that's not been answered.


HARRIS: And you want to make sure that happens?

CLOHESSY: We have to be. Kids have to be safe, and it's going to take real action to make that happen. HARRIS: David Clohessy, we'll be watching to see what happens. Thank you very much for your time. We sure appreciate it. Take care.

We'll take a break right now. When we come back, we'll check in and talk to our analyst from Rome to see what the view there may be. Stay tuned.


HARRIS: Time now for your opinion. Has the new policy on sex abuse adopted by the U.S. Catholic bishops bolstered your faith in the church? To take the quick vote, just head to, AOL keyword there, of course, is CNN. Right now, those of you who have logged in already, 84 percent of you say no.

All right, let's talk now with our correspondent for "Inside the Vatican" to give us some perspective about what perhaps may be happening there in the Vatican. We're joined now by Delia Gallagher who's been watching these proceedings with us throughout the day and the last couple of days as well. A couple of things before we get to that, number one this issue of accountability. That was going to be one of the big sticking points that everyone was talking about.


HARRIS: Do you think it was adequately addressed there?

GALLAGHER: I think that tonight we saw just now at the press conference, we saw that addressed with Governor Keating, and this committee that is a lay committee made up of lay people, headed by Governor Keating, which will in a certain sense provide accountability for the bishops and their diocese.

They're going to uncover any past cases. What's happened they're going to do statistics as to how many priests we're actually talking about and Governor Keating himself just said, you know, he was asked if you came across a bishop who was responsible for moving a priest around to different diocese as we know happened, what would your response be to that, and he said "I would request that that bishop resign. That would be my recommendation." He actually would say that that bishop, according to civil law, is an accomplice to the crime.

So he used very strong language, and I think that this will provide some level of assurance to Catholics that there is a lay body that is providing some accountability for what the bishops are doing.

HARRIS: Okay, well the key body we want to hear about now is the Vatican. What do you think is going to be happening there within the next few hours?

GALLAGHER: Well, the Vatican the same thing. I think the Vatican is going to be following closely what this document says. It might not necessarily go for (inaudible) the official approval, stamp of approval from the Vatican. That's going to depend on the U.S. bishops whether or not they choose to bring that to the Vatican's attention. But as Bishop Gregory just said to us in the press conference, he said we're in constant contact with the Vatican. He said the Vatican has e-mail and we are constantly - you know, this idea that the Vatican is over there in Rome, of course with modern technology we are all connected, and so I'm sure that behind the scenes, there's been a lot going on that we don't even know about.

HARRIS: And this despite all the talk that we heard about the Vatican not being with the 20th and 21st Century. There you go.

GALLAGHER: Well, they're getting there.

HARRIS: All right, Delia Gallagher, thank you very much.

GALLAGHER: Thank you.

HARRIS: We'll talk with you later on and that's going to do it for us for right now here in Dallas, back to you, Catherine, in Atlanta.

CALLAWAY: All right, Leon, great job out there, incredible day in Dallas, wasn't it?

HARRIS: It has been. It's been a remarkable day.

CALLAWAY: All right, thanks, Leon Harris in Dallas. Well, the Catholic Church is not the only institution where children fall victim to sexual abuse. Classrooms are also a place where they are vulnerable and "CNN SATURDAY MORNING" will look at sex abuse in schools with interviews with a sex abuse victim and a perpetrator. We'll also have tips on how to protect your child. That's tomorrow morning beginning at 7:00 a.m. Eastern time. Stay with us everyone. We're back in just a moment.


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