Vatican Approves Revised Sex Abuse Policy

The Vatican today approved the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ revised policy on sexual abuse of minors committed by priests, according to the Associated Press. Vatican approval was expected after it had rejected an earlier, and somewhat stronger, policy proposal and sent representatives to work out revisions to the policy. Victims groups have criticized the policy because it allows bishops too much discretion, does not require the reporting of allegations to local law enforcement beyond that required by state laws, and only removes guilty clerics from public ministry, not the priesthood.

Vatican approval came only three days after the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law from his position as archbishop of Boston. Law’s temporary replacement, Bishop Richard Lennon, remarked in his first public appearance yesterday that he wanted to hear from groups who love the church and will be meeting with them in the next few days, reported the Boston Globe. He then attempted to reach out to the protesters outside the church, but was cut short by the crowd of press. The New York Times reported that one protester he managed to speak with, Robert Hatch, expressed the hopeful, yet skeptical attitude of victims, saying “I told him what happened to me and he said, ÔI’m sorry, God bless you,’ and I said thank you. He made a good symbolic gesture, but I wanted to see deeds more than words. We victims, we’ll be watching him with a close eye to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

The Associated Press reported today that protesters and victims groups vowed to continue pressure on the church, including asking for the resignation of Bishop John McCormack of New Hampshire, who was formerly Cardinal Law’s top aide in charge of handling abuse complaints for ten years. McCormack just last week signed a settlement agreement, which prevented charges from being filed against the New Hampshire diocese. The agreement acknowledged that the diocese had harmed children by moving abusive priests from parish to parish. McCormack apologized again yesterday for his role in the scandal, but complained that too much public attention was being given to the sex abuse crisis and to his mistakes and shortcomings, the AP reports. McCormack has been subpoenaed for a grand jury criminal investigation of the Boston Archdiocese, and he is expected to be questioned today in civil lawsuits.


Boston Globe 12/16/02; Associated Press 12/16/02; New York Times 12/15/02; Feminist Daily News Wire

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