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American Bishops Voting

Friday, June 14, 2002

In a closed-door session, after a morning spent listening to victims and concerned lay Catholics, bishops discussed a draft policy on child sexual abuse. Bishops have indicated that they're close to agreeing on a "zero tolerance" policy for any priest who abuses children, in the past and in the future. From Dallas, WNYC's Amy Eddings has this report on how local church officials are reacting to the policy. No matter what policy the bishops eventually agree to this week, Cardinal Edward Egan says he knows what actions he'll take. EGAN: If there is one clear case, there will not be a return to ministry. I stand by that. I will note that clear case means clear case. And, incidentally, most cases are quite clear. Cardinal Egan says this will apply to single acts of abuse that took place forty years ago, as well as incidents in the future. He acknowleded that this was not the way he and others handled sexually abusive priests in the past. Court records show that, when he was Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Cardinal Egan allowed at least three priests to continue working, even thought they had multiple accusations against them. The cardinal continued to defend his handling of those cases, saying he had relied on psychological evaluations and treatment programs. EGAN: I'm not going to do that anymore. I did that, I did that properly, and I did that the way all of America was doing that. Bishop Thomas Daily of Brooklyn says he, too, will seek the resignation of priests who abuse minors…in large part because the public is demanding it. But deep down, Bishop Daily believes in a different approach. DAILY: I would never rule out the possibility of the man, even though he had done something wrong, could not function again. Bishop Daily says he will do whatever the final policy recommends. As for Bishop William Murphy, of the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island, he doesn't like the idea of zero tolerance. He doesn't even like the term. MURPHY: I think it's an unnuanced term. Because it doesn't acknowledge the fact aqth we have to act responsibility, not as automatons, but making judgments. Murphy has appointed what he calls an independent, three member advisory board that will forward all allegations to civil authorities, and determine whether a priest is rehabilitiated enough to work again with minros. He says he's proud of his policies. All three were uncomfortable with the idea of punishing fellow bishops, who allowed known abusers to continue to minister. Both Bishop Daily and Bishop Murphy praised the cardinal they used to work under: Boston's cardinal, Bernard Law, the man whose actions -- and inactions -- over the last two decades have brought these American bishops to this watershed moment. In Dallas, for WNYC, I'm Amy Eddings.

Take a look at the full text of the charter approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas on the handling of sexual abuse by priests.

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