America's Roman Catholic bishops released the new draft of their sex abuse policy Monday, a plan that still would get molesters away from children though victims say the process is cumbersome and secretive.
Worked out in talks with the Vatican last week, U.S. bishops will vote on the changes at their Nov. 11-14 meeting in Washington. If approved, which seems likely, the text will then go to the Vatican for final review. After that, the rules would be binding for all U.S. bishops and dioceses.
The most significant changes involve the process after a priest is accused. That includes church tribunals to hear the cases of clerics who maintain their innocence and preliminary investigations that bishops will conduct privately.
The rewrite affects only rules that involve church law, leaving intact many aspects of the bishops' policy or "charter" approved last June in Dallas.
The new plan won immediate praise from the Rev. Robert J. Silva, president of the Chicago-based National Federation of Priests' Councils, which represents 27,000 of the nation's 46,000 clergy. He said "it is a good, strong and, I think, effective policy that protects our children but also is clear about due process and rights for those who are the accused."
But David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the changes "will enable abusive priests to remain in ministry, and unidentified, longer."