Bish­ops to con­sider sex-abuse re­forms

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - By David Crary

As U.S. Catholic bish­ops gather for their na­tional as­sem­bly this week, the clergy sex-abuse cri­sis dom­i­nates their agenda amid calls from crit­ics that church lead­ers fi­nally bring about mean­ing­ful re­forms to root out mis­be­hav­ing priests.

The three-day as­sem­bly that will start Mon­day in Bal­ti­more comes af­ter a se­ries of abuse scan­dals this year that have been stun­ning in their mag­ni­tude and num­ber.

Bish­ops have sev­eral re­forms un­der con­sid­er­a­tion to re­spond more strongly to the scan­dals, but some Catholic ac­tivists are de­mand­ing fur­ther steps.

The abuse cri­sis is fore­most among chal­lenges con­fronting Catholic lead­ers, who also face pres­sures on the role of women and LGBT peo­ple in the church.

The pres­i­dent of the bish­ops’ con­fer­ence, Car­di­nal Daniel Di­Nardo of Galve­stonHous­ton, asked his fel­low bish­ops to spend the pre­ced­ing seven days in “in­ten­si­fied” prayer, fast­ing and repa­ra­tion.

The bish­ops will con­sider new steps to po­lice their own ranks dur­ing abuse cases, and will likely ap­prove an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by lay lawen­force­ment ex­perts into the scan­dal sur­round­ing the for­mer car­di­nal Theodore Mc­Car­rick.

“Bish­ops are un­der in­tense scru­tiny and pres­sure to de­liver on both of these items,” said the Rev. Thomas Berg, ad­mis­sions di­rec­tor at St. Joseph’s Sem­i­nary in Yonkers, New York.

The bish­ops will con­sider sev­eral pro­pos­als ap­proved by a com­mit­tee in Septem­ber. They in­clude de­vel­op­ing a code of con­duct re­gard­ing sex­ual abuse and ha­rass­ment, and es­tab­lish­ing a con­fi­den­tial hot­line to re­ceive al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct and re­lay them to ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­i­ties.

Crit­ics have urged the bish­ops to go fur­ther by al­low­ing out­side in­ves­ti­ga­tors full ac­cess to church sex-abuse records. An­other rec­om­men­da­tion sug­gests all bish­ops be­come manda­tory re­porters of sus­pected sex­ual abuse.

The abuse cri­sis over­laps with in­creas­ing ten­sions in the U.S. Catholic church over its ap­proach to LGBT peo­ple, both in the de­gree to which it wel­comes con­gre­gants and the pres­ence of gay men in the priest­hood.

The role of women in the church is sim­i­larly con­tested, with sev­eral U.S. groups urg­ing the Vat­i­can to al­low women to be­come priests.

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