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Archive for Saturday, May 18, 2002

Nation Briefs

May 18, 2002

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Boston: Panel recommends 'zero tolerance' policy

A commission set up by Cardinal Bernard Law in the wake of the child-molestation scandal urged the archdiocese Friday to remove members of the clergy after just one sexual misconduct offense.

The "zero tolerance" recommendation was one of several made by the Cardinal's Commission for the Protection of Children.

Maureen Bateman, chairwoman of the task force, said that the cardinal had approved all of its recommendations in principle.

The panel's suggestions stressed prompt reporting to church and civil authorities of sexual misconduct and immediate action to remove the offenders from ministry.

Rome: Official cautions against telling congregations

Roman Catholic bishops should avoid telling congregations their parish priests sexually abused someone if the bishops believe the priests will not abuse again, a Vatican official said.

The Rev. Gianfranco Ghirlanda also said in an article to be published today that church leaders had no legal or moral responsibilities if such abuse did occur. The article is in the influential Jesuit magazine Civilta Cattolica, which often reflects Vatican thinking.

David Clohessy, national director of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said he found the article disturbing.

Boston: Scandal's costs depend on court's interpretation

The ultimate cost of the sex scandal for the Boston Archdiocese could depend on how the courts interpret a Massachusetts law that puts a $20,000 cap on judgments against charitable organizations like the church.

The question is whether the law protects the archdiocese in cases involving molestation by priests. The archdiocese says yes; plaintiffs' attorneys say no.

And if the answer is yes, is there a $20,000 cap for each victim, or for each instance of sexual abuse against a victim?

The archdiocese could try to use the law to shift most of the burden of the lawsuits onto the priests, and the cap could strengthen the church's bargaining position, giving it incentive to fight instead of settle.

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