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If you only abuse one kid--you don't lose your job

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    Bishops' plea: time to defrock all pedophile priests
    By Michael Paulson in Boston
    June 5 2002

    The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is proposing to ask the Pope to defrock every priest who sexually abuses a minor in the future, as well as any priest who has abused more than one minor in the past,
    according to a draft policy due to be released yesterday.

    The bishops were also expected to suggest that every diocese in the country would have to report all accusations of sexual abuse of minors to secular authorities for investigation. They would offer an apology not only for the behaviour of abusive priests, but also for the failure of bishops to deal with abusive priests.

    The recommendations are part of a "Draft Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" that the bishops will debate and vote on at a meeting in Dallas next week.

    "Our beloved church is experiencing a crisis without precedent in our times," the draft says. "From the depths of our hearts, we express great sorrow and profound regret for what the Catholic people have had to endure.

    "The sexual abuse of children and young people by some priests and bishops, and the ways in which these crimes and sins were too often dealt with by bishops, have caused enormous pain, anger and confusion. They have strained the bonds of trust that should unite us."

    The proposal was crafted by a committee of eight bishops.

    "This is a real turning point," said Bishop George Niederauer, a member of the sexual abuse committee. "Never, until now, have we successfully committed ourselves to this, and convinced each other and the church that we must follow these principles."

    The Dallas meeting carries enormous symbolic importance for the Catholic Church in the US, which is suffering a crisis of confidence amid many reports of clergy's sexual abuse of children.

    "This is their last chance to get this right," said the Rev Thomas Reese, editor of America magazine, a Jesuit weekly. "They've got to show people that they're sorry, and that they're going to make sure this never happens again."

    Any national policy would require Vatican approval.

    Under the proposed policy, priests accused of sexual abuse would be promptly relieved of their duties and referred for a medical evaluation, as long as that did not interfere with criminal investigations.

    Walking a fine line on the controversial issue of whether "zero tolerance" for abusers is fair, the draft recommends that in the future a single proved instance of sexual abuse would result in a request to the Pope for the offending priest to be defrocked.

    In its approach to past
    offenders, the proposal says the Pope should defrock any priest who has been diagnosed as a pedophile, or any priest who has sexually abused a minor more than once.

    The Boston Globe
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