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Catholic bishops uphold sexual abuse policy with minor revisions

Millions of American children have suffered because of sexual abuse. Often times, sexual abuse happens when a person who is placed in a position of trust abuses that trust and takes advantage of a defenseless person. Perhaps the most insidious form of sexual abuse happens when a clergyman abuses a child.

Even as the Roman Catholic Church continues to be embroiled in sexual abuse litigation across the country involving priests and children, a conference of Catholic bishops largely voted to maintain the status quo regarding its policies on sexual abuse in the church.

Earlier this month, the bishops overwhelmingly voted to uphold the sexual abuse policy established in 2002 with only minor revisions. The 2002 policy was adopted at the height of the sexual abuse scandal and it established a commitment to "zero tolerance" for priests accused of sexual abuse. According to the policy, any priest that faced a credible accusation of abuse would be removed from ministry.

However, the zero tolerance policy has been called into questions amid reports across the country that priests who had already been accused of sexual abuse remained in active ministry. Additionally, critics challenged the church to revise its policies in order to close some rather glaring loopholes, strengthen abuse review boards, and require additional reporting to governmental authorities.

However, the bishops voted 187 to 5 to maintain the policy in its present form with the exception of closing some loopholes. The bishops added child pornography possession and the abuse of mentally ill people to the violations covered by its abuse policy.

One member in attendance suggested that the conference abolish the zero tolerance policy and suggested that accused priests be allowed to return to limited service. However, that suggestion was soundly rejected.

Source: The New York Times, "Catholic Bishops Uphold 2002 Sex Abuse Policy," Laurie Goodstein, 6/16/2011

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