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Catholic Bishops Meet in Dallas, Address Scandal

BY Admin  June 13, 2002 at 12:20 PM EDT

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting in Dallas to address reports of child molestation by the clergy and accusations that church leaders did not punish offenders nor do enough to prevent the crimes.

?The crisis, in truth, is about a profound loss of confidence by the faithful in our leadership as shepherds, because of our failures in addressing the crime of the sexual abuse of children and young people by priests and church personnel,” Gregory, the president of the conference, said.

Some 285 active bishops are expected to vote on a new policy about how to discipline those guilty of pedophilia. The draft policy would defrock a member of the clergy guilty of repeat offenses, but would have a review committee for those accused once in the past. Future offenders would be defrocked after one offense.

One bishop told Reuters today, however, that the current policy under consideration is much closer to “zero-tolerance.”

“The mood is very strongly in that direction,” said Bishop George Niederauer of Salt Lake City. “You’ll find the draft is more strongly in that direction.”

The meeting will also hear from victims of abuse and will discuss how to council victims.

Gregory directly addressed the crisis in his comments and said the breakdown of faith by the Catholic community was understandable.

?We did not go far enough to ensure that every child and minor was safe from sexual abuse. Rightfully, the faithful are questioning why we failed to take the necessary steps,” he said.

“We are the ones, whether through ignorance or lack of vigilance, or — God forbid — with knowledge, who allowed priest abusers to remain in ministry and reassigned them to communities where they continued to abuse,? he added. ?We are the ones who worried more about the possibility of scandal than in bringing about the kind of openness that helps prevent abuse.?

At least 250 of the nation’s 46,000 priests have resigned or been suspended over sexual misconduct claims since the scandal broke in January.