Vatican summit confounds, angers


Results of this week's Vatican summit on the sex abuse scandal in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church have angered victims, saddened lay leaders and confused many Catholics. "It was a waste of time," says Patrick McSorley, victim of one of the most egregious pedophile cases involving a priest in Boston. "They didn't say much about the victims. It's just the same as before. They don't get it."

Wednesday night, the cardinals outlined a policy to rapidly dismiss priests guilty of "serial, predatory sexual abuse of minors," but stopped short of a zero-tolerance policy for all offenders and alluded to atonement for cardinals and bishops accused of coverups.

Linda Pieczynski, president of the Catholic laity group Call To Action, says the summit failed in two ways: "They didn't come up with any solutions much different than ones proposed by bishops since 1992. And they didn't hold the cardinals accountable."

Many are disappointed that the cardinals didn't urge the resignation of Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law, who shuttled pedophile priests among parishes for decades. Law is a lightning rod for the issue nationwide.

"Everyone knows there is going to have to be zero tolerance for priests, but the people who protected these men have to be held accountable," says Judy Rakestraw of Miami, who says she was repeatedly molested by a priest in Texas when she was 13.

The top clerics offered the concluding document as a Vatican-preapproved outline to be fleshed out in new national guidelines when the bishops meet in June. Included:
Swift removal for "notorious" pedophiles with a record of abuse.

A multistage process for first-time offenders that calls for reporting cases to civil authorities and resolving the priest's future assignment — if any — with lay-led review boards.

A crackdown on how prospective priests are screened and trained to be sure they are suitable for a celibate life.

It was "nothing snappy" or markedly different from earlier proposals by the bishops, says the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, a conservative Catholic commentator. But the meeting with the pope gave it "drama and gravity. ... Maybe now they will have the sobriety and determination" to enforce change.

The scandal also has sent financial tremors through the church. Catholic Charities in Boston is finding angry refusal letters among replies for this month's annual Easter appeal.

However, Catholic University in Washington, D.C., expects to bank $1 million for scholarships at a black-tie dinner in Philadelphia tonight. The annual American Cardinals Dinner was first launched 13 years ago, when "we thought the cardinals' presence would lend an aura to the event," says the Rev. David O'Connell, university president. Now, he notes, "cardinals may not have the drawing power of the past."

Van Smith of Muncie, Ind., past president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says he is "saddened" by the abuse scandal, but it prompted him to buy a $25,000 table at the event "to support the church and the institutions that teach its faith and values."

adamonFriday 26 April 2002 - 04:19:52

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