|[an error occurred while processing this directive]||
New church policy on sexually abusive priests being ignored, victims advocates say
By Darlene Superville, Associated Press, 7/29/02
WASHINGTON — A national policy for disciplining sexually abusive priests isn't being consistently followed, advocates for molestation victims said Monday, the eve of the first meeting of a lay panel reviewing how U.S. Roman Catholic bishops punish alleged abusers.
"We've seen a number of very clear violations" of the policy bishops adopted last month at a meeting in Dallas, David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said at a news conference outside a Catholic church in downtown Washington.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said there would be no comment until a bishops' news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Standing alongside a map of the United States, Clohessy highlighted examples from parishes that he and other group members said show children remain vulnerable to abuse.
Under the policy adopted June 14, priests are to be removed from the ministry as soon as allegations of abuse are found credible.
"We've seen time and time again that has not happened," Clohessy said.
This month in the Chicago archdiocese, the Rev. Raymond Skriba was allowed to resign as pastor instead of being removed by Cardinal Francis George. Skriba had remained in the ministry despite a policy pledging action within five days of an abuse allegation against a priest, Clohessy said. Two women have said Skriba abused them decades ago; the first woman complained in April.
In the Kalamazoo, Mich., diocese, Clohessy said an admitted molester was allowed to stay in the parish until Sunday.
And in the archdiocese of Tulsa, Okla., a priest remained with his parish until last weekend despite repeated disclosures of alleged abuse dating to 1994. Oklahoma's governor, Frank Keating, is chairman of the panel reviewing how the church disciplines sexually abusive priests.
Clohessy also said the church was violating the spirit of its policy by fighting in courts in Lexington and Louisville, Ky., to keep sexual abuse cases sealed or to have them dismissed.
Aside from these charges, a few priests who have been removed from public ministry under the policy have fought back and appealed to the Vatican for reinstatement. Some bishops have delayed getting rid of errant clergy until they review key parts of the policy, and others have said they will await Vatican approval of the document before implementing parts of the plan.
Keating's panel is scheduled to hold its first meeting Tuesday in Washington.
The Oklahoma governor has invited leaders of the Survivors Network, which was denied a seat on the panel, to speak for about 30 minutes, said Keating's spokesman, Dan Mahoney.
Representatives also will meet privately with Keating before the committee session.
"SNAP is an integral part of this process," Mahoney said Monday. "They've been working on this issue for a long time. They represent a large number of victims."
The bishops conference created the lay panel at its meeting last month on ending the clerical abuse scandal, which has shaken the church in the United States and beyond.
SNAP had pushed Keating to appoint one of its leaders to the board, but the governor said he did not want panel members beholden to a particular organization.
A victim of clergy abuse, Michael J. Bland, is among the 12 members of the commission, which also includes former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta, along with lawyers, academics and businessmen. Bland works with fellow victims for the Chicago Archdiocese.
The church abuse scandal erupted in January in the Boston Archdiocese when Cardinal Bernard Law admitted he allowed a pedophile priest to remain in parish work. About 300 of the 46,000 U.S. priests have been removed from duty this year because of sex abuse allegations.
Pope John Paul II made his first public comments on the problem during Sunday's World Youth Day events in Toronto. Abuse by priests caused "a deep sense of sadness and shame," he said, but most clergymen wish to "serve and do good."
Mark Serrano, a Survivors Network board member, said the pope's comments didn't recognize victims of abuse and were "a great disappointment to us."