Report praises U.S. bishops’ work to stop child sex abuse
New allegations of child sexual abuse against U.S. Roman Catholic priests have declined, and children are safer due to measures taken to protect them, a national review board said on Wednesday in a generally positive report to U.S. bishops meeting on a range of divisive issues facing the Church.
Al Notzon III, chairman of a lay review board set up by the bishops to deal with child sexual abuse, praised the progress even as he acknowledged that some dioceses have failed to comply with the church’s new policies on sexual abuse, including regular reviews by external auditors.
He did not spell out any consequences, only that bishops should “continue to take seriously the harm done to the church” of non-compliance.
Victims’ support groups sharply criticized the reports’ findings.
David Clohessy, director of the victims’ support group SNAP, said the bishops’ discussion “was sad, predictable and disappointing.” He pointed to several cases in recent years, and even recent weeks, where church authorities did not discipline or remove priests who have pleaded guilty to sexual abuse or had credible allegations made against them.
“As long as those who conceal child sex crimes get absolutely no punishment, nothing will change,” Clohessy said.
Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of another victims’ advocacy group, Bishop Accountability, called the report “feckless” and “timorous” for failing to impose tough consequences.
“With their gutless report today, National Review Board members gratified the bishops but failed their fellow Catholics,” said Doyle.
Bishop Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, said the bishops had no intention of looking back at allegations of abuse years in the past and holding church authorities responsible for ignoring the reports or transferring accused priests to other parishes.
“I’m not sure there’s any effective way… the Conference of Catholic Bishops is going to address that,” Conlon said. [More]