DALLAS, Texas (Zenit/CNS): US Catholic bishops have overwhelmingly adopted a policy that will forbid clergy who have committed sexual abuse from face-to-face contact with parishioners, but it falls short of automatically expelling them from the priesthood.
The national policy, approved by a 239-13 vote on June 14, would supersede the voluntary discipline guidelines the US bishops’ conference has relied on for years. The policy still needs Vatican approval to become binding.
‘From this day forward no one known to have sexually abused a child will work in the Catholic Church in the United States,’ said US bishops’ conference president, Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Illinois.
He apologised for ‘our tragically slow response in recognising the horror’ of sexual abuse.
Under the plan, abusers – past and future – will technically remain priests but they will be prohibited from any public Church work, including celebrating Mass.
The bishops approved the national Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People after six hours of intense discussion behind closed doors on June 13 and a five-hour open floor debate on June 14.
Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St Paul-Minneapolis, who is head of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, called the action ‘a defining moment for us bishops’ in their efforts to ‘root out a cancer in our Church’.