NEW YORK, JUNE 16, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Bishops must be held accountable for their role in the clerical sex abuse scandals, says the man who will chair a review board monitoring compliance with new policies approved Friday.
Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, a Catholic, was named by U.S. bishops to lead a special lay commission that will check the implementation of the policies which would bar a priest who has sexually abused a minor from all public ministerial duties.
Writing in the New York Times on Saturday, Keating stated: “A central part of the charter rightly insists that priests who violate, or who have ever violated, the trust placed in them by victimizing young people must never again wear the clerical collar or engage in active ministry. In cases where the evidence is clear, all such offenders must be subject to criminal prosecution.”
He continued: “I agree with Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who has said that the bishops must be held accountable for what has occurred — and what will occur — on their watch. The commission will see to that. In any case where a bishop is found to have provable knowledge of illegal activities committed by a priest under his charge, and where that bishop knowingly covered up such activities, he should also be held legally accountable as an accessory to the crimes involved.”
“The commission is capable of calling the public´s attention to bishops who do not follow the guidelines adopted yesterday, and we intend to do so,” Keating added.
Just before the bishops´ vote in Dallas on Friday, Cardinal Avery Dulles took to the microphone. The proposed policy “puts a very adversarial relationship between the bishop and the priest,” warned the theologian, who had no vote.
“The priest can no longer go to his bishop in confidence with a problem that he has,” he was quoted by the New York Times as saying. “He has to be very careful what he says to the bishop because the bishop can throw him out of the ministry for his entire life.”
Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia saw it differently. “Painful though it is, I still support´´ the policy, he said during a Mass today in Havertown, Pennsylvania, according to the Associated Press. “I have to balance my great love for all priests with the common good of the Church. That has to be the highest priority.´´
Some victims of priests said they were disappointed that the bishops failed to insist that the abusers be “defrocked.” But Vatican officials have questioned whether the plan to remove abusive priests from Church work may be too much, said Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. bishops´ conference.
He said, however, he was confident that the Vatican will approve the policy. The process is necessary before the policy can become Church law in the United States. “They know the seriousness of the matter,´´ Bishop Gregory said on NBC-TV´s “Meet the Press.” “They have expressed their overwhelming desire to assist us.”