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Spotlight Report

Church panel calls for abuse registry

By Matt Carroll and Michael Rezendes, Globe Staff, 10/8/2002

The board appointed by Cardinal Bernard F. Law to recommend ways to protect children from abuse yesterday called for the creation of a registry of clergy and church staff who have been removed after credible allegations of abuse, which could be checked by employers or other organizations.

The board, in its 52-page final report, also calls for a requirement that any allegation of abuse be turned over to law enforcement authorities within a day and seeks to establish a separate referral and counseling program to help anyone harmed by abuse, including families and parishes. The report was turned over to Law, who has final say on the policy.

Law, who met with the members of the Commission for the Protection of Children before the report's release, said in a news release that he hoped to have the final policy approved by Dec. 1.

Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly praised the commission, which adopted many of his recommendations, but also questioned the church's commitment to implementing the new policies.

''It would be a mistake to believe a new policy in and of itself is going to fix the problem,'' Reilly said. ''There have been policies before and yet children were abused.''

In particular, Reilly said, church leaders need to dedicate themselves to ending the secrecy that has surrounded allegations of clergy sexual misconduct.

Reilly also lauded church officials for cooperating with state and county criminal investigators by handing over the names of accused priests. He also said his office will seek to toughen the penalties for failing to report allegations of child sex abuse from a $1,000 fine to a larger fine and a prison term of up to 21/2 years.

Members of the commission, speaking at a news conference, said they believed their report could make a difference.

''We have only one agenda, which is to heal the victims and to prevent more victims,'' said Maureen Scannell Bateman, chairwoman of the commission.

The proposed registry is one of the major differences between the commission's draft report in June and yesterday's version. Under the new proposal, the archdiocese would keep a list of all clergy, employees, and volunteers who abused children. Prospective employers or volunteer organizations could check names against the list.

The diocese would give out information on the number of substantiated allegations, the ages and genders of the victims, the types of offenses, and all disciplinary action taken by either the church or civil authorities. The commission suggested the plan could be used as a model for dioceses across the nation.

The report also calls for:

  • Establishment of ''child abuse prevention teams'' made up of lay people in each parish;

  • Training for all staff and volunteers to determine when and how to report suspected abuse;

  • An independent review board to advise the archdiocese on how to respond to future allegations and to review proposed changes in church policies. Any clergy or staff with a credible allegation of abuse against them will not return to ministry or work.

    The commission acknowledged yesterday that it did not have enough time to meet all its goals, including the establishment of a code of conduct for clergy and church workers and a system to supervise individuals who have been removed from ministry because of credible allegations.

    Assistant Attorney General Alice E. Moore, chief of Reilly's Public Protection Bureau, released a letter that lauded Bateman and the commission but also urged several additional measures, including requirements that Catholic schools provide child sex abuse education for grades 5-12, not just K-4. Moore also urged that monitoring provisions for priests apply retroactively to all those facing allegations, not just those suspended since January. Also, she said the proposed registry should be available to landlords.

    Steve Krueger, interim executive director of Voice of the Faithful, the laity group that has arisen in response to the crisis in the church, urged Law ''to fully implement these new programs in order to protect future generations of innocent children and adolescents from clergy sexual abuse.''

    Law appointed the 12- member board in March. In his news release, the cardinal, who lauded the work done by the commission, said the archdiocese has already implemented many of the changes the panel suggested.

    Matt Carroll can be reached at mcarroll@globe.com.

    This story ran on page B2 of the Boston Globe on 10/8/2002.
    © Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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