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Cardinals Divided On Abusive Priests

AMERICAN cardinals have backed down from a zero-tolerance policy of removing pedophile priests, indicating they will only go after repeat offenders.
The decision came during a meeting in Rome in which Pope John Paul II warned the church leaders that he had lived under communist rule, in Poland and feared that bishops might use their administrative power unfairly against innocent priests.
He also reminded them about the need for forgiveness and God's power to transform repentant priests.
The cardinals said after the two-day meeting they would recommend a process to defrock any priest who has become "notorious and is guilty of the serial predatory sexual abuse of minors". In cases that are "not notorious" they would leave it up to the local bishop to decide.
The church leaders, under a cloud following a series of sex scandals in the US, will take their recommendations to a meeting of all US bishops in June to draw up a policy on dealing with abusive priests.
Their final statement did not make specific proposals for the reporting of sex abuse crimes to authorities, although several cardinals had wanted firm action.
The statement also fell short of a blanket order for dismissal of all abusive priests, a formal backing for the "one-strike-you're-out" policy that had been discussed since the cardinals started arriving in Rome on Sunday.
Some church observers had hoped that the cardinals would confess to a sin of letting child abuse occur under their watch and of aiding the perpetrators by relocating guilty priests among parishes.
David Clohessy, director of the Chicago- based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the cardinals' statement was a disappointment.
He said church leaders needed to create a policy that forced top leaders in the diocese to address more seriously charges of sexual abuse.
Many phrases in the cardinals' final document were Grafted from a strong message of regret that Pope John Paul II delivered on Tuesday.
Calling sex abuse of minors a crime and "an appalling sin", the pontiff declared, that "there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young".

Adelaide Advertiser (26-4-2002)

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