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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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