|[an error occurred while processing this directive]||
Priests welcome news of Vatican's concerns about proposed abuse policy
By Ron DePasquale, Associated Press, 10/17/02
BOSTON -- Catholic priests who say their rights have been trampled in the rush to remove predatory priests welcomed the news Thursday that the Vatican would reject part of the U.S. Bishops' new sex abuse policy out of concern for them.
But victims' advocates said the decision would only further erode survivors' trust in the church.
After bishops approved the new policy in Dallas this summer, priests felt like they had been sacrificed to placate an ever-angrier public, said Rev. Walter H. Cuenin of Our Lady Help of Christians in Concord, who called the news "very good."
"In their zeal, the bishops neglected certain protections for priests, and there has been a tremendous rupture in the bond between priests and bishops," Cuenin said. "Priests feel expendable, and they know no bishop has ever had to resign his post for his role in this."
Some canon lawyers within the American church had said the policy failed to clearly define abuse of children and would allow bishops to remove priests before they have a chance to defend themselves.
The Vatican's decision, which was to be fully explained Friday, affirms what priests in the Archdiocese of Boston have been saying for months, said the Rev. Paul E. Kilroy of St. Bernard Church in Newton. Cuenin and Kilroy help lead the Boston Priests Forum, which represents about 250 priests.
"Justice for victims is very important, but everybody must be treated with justice, and that hasn't always happened," Kilroy said. "In Boston, it's felt like guilt is presumed and then innocence proven."
A less strict policy will leave victims disappointed, said William Gately of Survivors of Those Abused by Priests.
"I am frustrated, and not surprised," Gately said. "I am curious as to whether or not these cardinals and bishops had consulted canon lawyers prior to making such a courageous statement at their conference. I think that it brings into question for some people the seriousness of their intent, which is unfortunate."
Jim Post, president of lay Catholic reform group Voice of the Faithful, said he expected the church's efforts to protect children at schools, churches and religious activities would continue.
"We ought not be trying to make a choice between protecting children and the rights of priests. We need both," Post said. "Injustice for one is injustice for all. It's unjust when a child is abused, and it's also unjust when a priest has a reputation damaged and there isn't a timely investigation."
A spokeswoman for Cardinal Bernard Law said the Archdiocese of Boston would have no comment until the Vatican's policy was officially released.
Priests learned of the Vatican's decision as they prepared for a Friday meeting of the Boston Priests Forum with civil and canon lawyers. That meeting was meant to teach priests their rights and prepare them for long-awaited meetings with Law on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Cuenin said the archdiocese is making a "very honest attempt" to respond to priests' concerns, and noted Thursday's meeting between a council of priests, auxiliary bishops and Law. The cardinal and the council reviewed the archdiocese's zero-tolerance policy, which was implemented after the clergy abuse scandal erupted here in January and is stricter than the U.S. bishops' proposal.
Over the past few weeks, Law "has had the opportunity to listen to (priests) and their concerns about the policy, and they've been very good listening sessions," said the Rev. Christopher Coyne, an archdiocese spokesman.
Any changes to the policy won't be made until after Law meets with the priests, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, canon lawyers and hears from Rome, Coyne said.