The US Conference of Catholic Bishops meets this week to discuss revisions to its sex abuse policy completed last week by a Vatican-appointed committee. Victims’ support groups argue that the Vatican weakened the US bishops’ policy, removing language supporting immediate removal of priests accused of sexual abuse of minors and the requirement to report all such allegations to local law enforcement. In addition, the Vatican revisions lessened the involvement of lay Catholics in sex abuse cases.
In a speech at the bishops’ meeting this week, Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, focused less on victims and more on the Catholic Church’s image, the Associated Press reports. The US bishops will vote on the sex abuse policy this week, and it will be re-submitted to the Vatican for approval.
Despite requests, victims’ groups and lay Catholics have not been given a role in the bishops’ meetings this week, according to the Boston Globe. Despite being called a “zero-tolerance” policy, the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” adopted by US bishops in June merely removes a priest convicted of abuse from his parish and forbids him from engaging in public presentations. The provisions do not completely remove sex offenders from priesthood, nor does the policy address accountability for those bishops who knowingly transferred abusive priests from parish to parish, allowing these priests to continue their sexual abuse of hundreds of children, both girls and boys.
While the church has declined to release statistics, lawyers, newspapers, and interest groups have estimated that as many as 1,500 priests have molested children in the last five decades. In this year alone, more than 300 US priests have been removed from their ministries for sex abuse. Tomorrow, victim advocates will release a database of more than 800 priests accused of sex abuse, according to AP.