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Bishops Likely to Renew Abuse Policy

Some object to proposed changes to the 'zero tolerance' standard set after allegations of sex crimes by priests rocked the Catholic Church.

June 17, 2005|Larry B. Stammer | Times Staff Writer

She cautioned that could lead to attempts by bishops to change or affect board findings before they were made public. A study last year on the extent of sexual abuse was given to bishops only 48 hours before a news conference, she said.

Church critics have been especially angered at how some bishops had moved abusive priests from parish to parish without telling churchgoers.

On Thursday, protesters outside the meeting held placards reading: "Guilty Bishops Must Resign!"

Asked if bishops should be held accountable for such transfers, Levada said he did not think bishops who moved priests in good faith should be faulted. Less was known years ago about the disorder of pedophilia, even among medical experts, he said.

"Do people understand when they're asking for this kind of accountability that they are really expecting that bishops in 1985 or whenever ... [had to] have had some kind of divine illumination?" he asked. He said he knew of no bishop who "consciously reassigned a priest whom he believed was going to abuse a child again." But he said he was open to being informed about such cases if they existed.

Levada said he expected to meet with the pope weekly, more than any other Vatican official except the Vatican secretary of state.

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles said Thursday that as a result of the church's increased vigilance, since January the archdiocese had found 20 volunteers working in parishes and schools who were registered sex offenders. They were found after schools and parishes were asked by the archdiocese to check websites for the names of registered sex offenders in their ZIP codes. The offenders' volunteer services were ended, Mahony said.

"We simply don't want any danger of them being near children," Mahony said. However, he emphasized that there was no indication that those 20 had abused any children they may have met on church activities.

In addition, he said that 7,000 clergy and church employees, as well as 6,500 schoolteachers and other personnel, were fingerprinted. But he said no past arrests for child abuse turned up.

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