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Vatican Says “No” to US Bishops

18 Oktober 2002 08:53

Vatican, Oct 16, 02 ( -- Despite the strenuous lobbying efforts of American bishops, the Vatican has reached a final decision not to approve the sex-abuse policy adopted by the US bishop at their June meeting in Dallas. The Vatican response to the American bishops' policy-- which has been heavily anticipated and hotly debated-- will be announced on Friday morning, at a press conference hosted by Bishop Wilton Gregory, the president of the US bishops' conference.

Although the Vatican response will praise the American bishops for their commitment to end the sex-abuse scandal, that response will not include the "recognitio" that is necessary to make the "Dallas policy" authoritative. Since the American bishops' policy involves changes in the canon law that governs Church policies, the Dallas norms cannot take effect without Vatican approval. That approval will not be forthcoming. The Vatican has instead called for the formation of a joint commission, composed of both Vatican officials and American bishops, to address the defects of the Dallas policy.

After the US bishops adopted their proposal in June, the leaders of the US bishops' conference predicted quick approval from the Vatican. In August, however, CWN broke the news that the Vatican was planning to reject the American policy. In recent weeks several American prelates have visited Rome, with the apparent goal of convincing Vatican officials that the US norms deserved approval.

Last week, the Vatican postponed plans for an announcement on the issue, to await the arrival of Bishop Gregory and other top USCCB officials in Rome for regular meetings. Although he had previously said that he would not have any public announcement on the topic, Bishop Gregory has now scheduled a news conference for Friday noon.

Canon-law experts in Rome viewed the American bishops' policy as defective because the proposed norms did not provide "due process" safeguards for priests who are accused of sexual misconduct. Vatican experts also complained that the Dallas policy used a vague and imprecise definition of sexual abuse. These complaints have gained force as numerous American priests have complained that they have been falsely accused, or denied an adequate opportunity to prove their innocence, after being hit with sex-abuse charges.

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