Laicization Proposed for Priests Who Abuse Children

U.S. Bishops´ Panel Releases Recommendations

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 4, 2002 ( The Catholic Church should laicize any priest who sexually abuses a child in the future, a U.S. bishops´ committee says.

In a document released today, the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse also proposes that every diocese in the country report all accusations of sexual abuse of minors to police.

U.S. bishops will vote on the proposals in the «Draft Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People´´ [see Documents] next week at a meeting in Dallas, Texas.

The document also contains an apology for the behavior of abusers and for the bishops´ mishandling of abusive priests.

The document is designed to be the Church´s answer to the scandal over abusive priests and their superiors that erupted early this year. The bulk of the document´s proposals are based on recommendations issued in 1992 by the U.S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Reuters reported.

The new standards would go further and adopt a «zero tolerance´´ stance toward all priests who abuse children from now on. It would give past abusers more leeway, proposing the Pope defrock any priest who has been diagnosed as a pedophile or has been shown to have abused more than one child.

«Effective immediately, even a single act of abuse of a minor will bring about a request for laicization, even without the consent of the cleric,´´ the document said.

«Regarding acts of sexual abuse of a minor committed prior to this date, if the cleric is a pedophile, or if he has committed more than one act of sexual abuse of a minor, there will be a request for the cleric´s laicization, even without his consent if necessary,´´ the document added.

It continued: «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 document proposes the establishment of an Office for Child and Youth Protection to help dioceses carry out its proposals and produce an annual report on their progress, the draft said.

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