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Highlights of Proposal for Dealing With Abuse

June 05, 2002

The Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse released its recommendations Tuesday on how Roman Catholic bishops in the United States should respond to the clerical sexual abuse crisis.

Recommendations for the bishops:

* Report all abuse allegations to civil authorities.

"Dioceses will report any accusation of sexual abuse of a person who is a minor to the proper authorities and cooperate in their investigation. Diocese will cooperate with proper authorities about reporting when the person is no longer a minor. In every instance, diocese will advise and support a person's right to make a report to proper authorities."

* Remove all priests who abused more than one child in the past and those who abuse any child in the future.

* Have each diocese create a review board, composed mainly of laypeople, to examine abuse claims. The review board's functions would include determining whether a priest who molested one child in the past can continue to serve under supervision and other conditions, such as continuing counseling.

"Where the allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric is admitted or otherwise determined, the following will pertain:

" ... Regarding acts of sexual abuse committed subsequent to this date, the diocesan policy will provide that, effective immediately, even a single act of abuse of a minor will bring about a request for laicization [removal from priesthood], even without the consent of the cleric.

"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.

" ... Regarding clerics with past offenses who have been treated, not diagnosed as pedophiles, and who have not committed more than one act of sexual abuse of a minor, their ministerial status must be considered by the [lay] diocesan review board. In every instance the victim of the abuse will be offered the opportunity to contribute to the evaluation and recommendation. A similar opportunity will be offered to the offender. Any subsequent ministerial assignment must be accompanied by disclosure of the cleric's situation to those with whom he will live and serve. For the sake of due process, an accused is to be encouraged to retain the assistance of civil and canonical counsel."

* Bishops should no longer enter into confidentiality agreements in settlements of civil lawsuits over sex abuse unless the victim insists.

* Require background checks for diocesan and parish workers who have contact with children.

* Have bishops provide an "accurate and complete" description of a priest's personnel record if the cleric seeks to transfer to another diocese.

* Have dioceses establish an outreach program to support victims of priestly sexual abuse.

* Create a commission to research how the U.S. church has responded to sexual abuse by priests and join other denominations and organizations in researching child sexual abuse in society at large.

* Create a national Office of Child and Youth Protection in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to implement "safe environment" programs to protect children from abuse.

* Create a review board, including parents, to work with the Child Protection Office to annually examine how the bishops are responding to abuse.

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