A draft proposal outlining the Catholic Church’s response to child sexual abuse cases falls just short of the zero tolerance policy hoped for by victims and victim advocates. The proposal, which will be debated at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to be held in Dallas next week, recommends that every priest who sexually abuses a minor – including any priest who has abused more than one minor in the past – stand before the Pope to be defrocked. The plan suggests that such policies be mandated nationwide, however, the Vatican must ultimately approve any national policy. The draft was released to the bishops yesterday as part of the “Draft Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” put together by the eight-member Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse.
The draft charter contains apologies to victims and proposes that dioceses’ require background checks of all personnel who have contact with children. The committee also recommends a requirement that bishops fully report a priest’s record when making new assignments or transfers as well as a ban of legal confidentiality agreements “except for grave and substantial reasons brought forward by the victim,” according to the Boston Globe.
While victims groups had yet to see the proposal, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) told the Globe that they plan to push the bishops to go even further – calling for them to provide personnel files to law enforcement authorities conducting investigations and to support legislation in each state that would extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases.