WASHINGTON -- A panel set up by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to address allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests held its first meeting Tuesday and was immediately accused of failing to make its policies as tough in practice as they are on paper.
On Monday, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests alleged that cases in the archdioceses of Louisville, Ky.; Chicago and Milwaukee, Wis., and the dioceses of Richmond, Va.; Tulsa, Okla.; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Lexington, Ky.; Albany, N.Y., and San Diego indicated lax enforcement of the new policies, set June 14 by U.S. bishops meeting in Dallas.
"Some of the violations since Dallas are obvious and immediate," said SNAP executive director David Clohessy, who, along with three other members of the victims' group, met with the church panelists Tuesday. After their first meeting, members of the National Review Board -- 13 prominent Catholics who will advise the bishops' conference on reports of molestation -- sidestepped specifics of the allegations, but said they would request information from all 194 dioceses on every sexual abuse case and review the information when they meet again Sept. 16.
Under the new policy, bishops in each diocese must report allegations of sexual abuse of young people by priests to civil authorities. Those accused are to be removed from public ministry, away from places where they could be in contact with minors, as soon as the allegations are deemed to be credible.
But the victims' organization says that in the nine cases it cites, the alleged perpetrators in five dioceses or archdioceses were left in the ministry even after the policy change was announced, while church officials in the other four fought to keep court cases secret or, as in the San Diego case, deceived parishioners about the amount of money spent on settlements.
"If they are going to rely on the reports of the bishops, then we question that," said Barbara Blaine, the president of SNAP.
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