Criticism of US bishops' decision on abuse policy


Seeking to rebuild confidence in a church rocked by a sex abuse scandal, US Catholic bishops have agreed to bar paedophile priests from acting as clerics, but stopped short of automatically expelling them from the priesthood.

Leaders of the US Catholic Church voted yesterday to bar sexually abusive clergy - including those guilty of a lone offense - from priestly duties. Abusive priests will not be able to serve in a parish, say public mass, work in a parochial school or charity, don clerical garb or represent themselves as priests.

For those priests, "the offender is to lead a life of prayer and penance," the US bishops ruled.

The approved charter was not a "zero-tolerance" policy that would have immediately defrocked an offending priest, and left open the possibility that offenders could be allowed to conduct mass in private, and might still be permitted to wear the Roman collar and administer last rites to the dying.

Further, the "Charter for the protection of children and young people" made no mention of accountability for the more than 100 bishops who knowingly rotated offending clergymen through parishes despite the claims of abuse lodged against them, many of whom made secret settlement payments to victims.

The policy will be written into canon law upon approval by the pope and will be mandatory for all US dioceses - a "historic" first, noted Miami Archbishop John Favalora.

The clerics wrapped up the two-and-a-half day conference today with a morning of prayer and were leaving Dallas with "a credible policy on sex abuse cases that was actually tougher on past abusers than the plan they brought to Dallas," the New York Times editorial board wrote.