Vatican rejects US bishops sex abuse guidelines

 The Vatican has rejected proposals by the American bishops for dealing with allegations of sex abuse - describing them as confused and ambiguous. It calls for further reflection and revision of the document before approval can be given. The American bishops had asked for a 'recognitio' of this document, Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests, Deacons or Other Church Personnel, which was approved at the plenary meeting of the USCCB in Dallas on June 13-15. Excerpts from Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, to Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, dated October 14, 2002 are below: 'The Holy See, above all, would like to convey full solidarity with the Bishops of the United States in their firm condemnation of sexual misdeeds against minors and is deeply concerned about the distressing situation that has arisen in recent months in the Church in the United States. Likewise, the Holy See wishes to encourage the efforts of the Episcopal Conference in assisting the Bishops to address these difficult problems. 'The sexual abuse of minors is particularly abhorrent. Deeply moved by the sufferings of the victims and their families, the Holy See supports the American Bishops in their endeavour to respond firmly to the sexual misdeeds of the very small number of those who minister or labour in the service of the Church. But such a very small number cannot overshadow 'the immense spiritual, human and social good that the vast majority of priests and religious in the United States have done and are still doing' (Pope John Paul II, Address to the Cardinals and to the Presidency of the Episcopal Conference of the United States, April 23, 2002). 'The Apostolic See likewise acknowledges the efforts which the Bishops of the United States have made through the 'Norms' and the guidelines contained in the Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People ('Charter') to protect minors and to avoid future recurrences of these abuses. Such efforts should also help to preserve or restore the trust of the faithful in their pastors. 'Despite these efforts, the application of the policies adopted at the Plenary Assembly in Dallas can be the source of confusion and ambiguity, because the Norms and Charter contain provisions which in some aspects are difficult to reconcile with the universal law of the Church.' 'For these reasons, it has been judged appropriate that before the 'recognitio' can be granted, a further reflection on and revision of the Norms and the Charter are necessary. In order to facilitate this work, the Holy See proposes that a Mixed Commission be established, composed of four bishops chosen from the Episcopal Conference of the United States, and four representatives from those Dicasteries of the Holy See which have direct competence in the matter: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for Clergy, and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.' Bishop Gregory, in a reply to the cardinal prefect, dated October 15, said, in part: "The Bishops of the United States are profoundly grateful to the Holy See, both for the fraternal solicitude that has been shown to the Church in the United States at this difficult time and for the gracious consideration that has been given to our request. 'In view of the issues that Your Eminence raises in your letter to me regarding the best way for us to pursue effectively the 'recognitio' of our proposed Norms, I am happy to accept, on behalf of our Episcopal Conference, the suggestion of the Apostolic See that a Mixed Commission be established in order to reflect further on and consider revision of certain aspects of the Charter accepted by the Bishops in Dallas and the Norms proposed to the Holy See for 'recognitio'.' source: Vatican Information Service

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