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At An Unprecedented Vatican Summit, U.S. Cardinals Back Away From An Anticipated Zero-Tolerance Policy in Dealing with Sexually Abusive Priests

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US cardinals yesterday said they would recommend a process to defrock any priest who has become “notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory sexual abuse of minors”, but leave the disciplining of first time offender priests to local bishops. The cardinals did not focus on what to do about bishops who have protected sexually abusive priests.

They also dropped from the agenda the case of Boston Archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law, who faces a tide of public indignation and demands for his resignation because of his failure to protect dozens of children from known pedophiles.

The cardinals’ final document is significantly watered down from the strong language of Pope John Paul II earlier this week. On Tuesday the Pope said there is “no place” for child molesters in the priesthood.

Chicago Cardinal Francis George, one of the U.S. delegates at the Vatican summit, outraged victims of priest abuse with his comments during a Vatican press conference yesterday, when he drew a distinction between those who make advances toward boys as opposed to girls. “There is a difference between a moral monster like Geoghan,” he said, referring to John Geoghan, a former Boston priest accused of abusing more than 200 boys over 30 years, “and an individual who perhaps under the influence of alcohol” engages in inappropriate behavior with “a 16- or 17-year-old young woman who returns his affections.”


  • Frederick Berlin, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins Medical School, founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic and consultant on the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ ad hoc committee on sexual abuse.
  • A.W. Richard Sipe, author of ??Sex, Priests, and Power: Anatomy of a Crisis.
  • Daniel Helminiak, author of ??What the Bible Really Says about Sexuality and theologian and developmental psychologist at the State University of West Georgia. He’s also a member of Dignity, the largest organization of queer Catholics in this country. He resigned from the Catholic priesthood in 1995.
  • Barbara Blaine, founder of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a self-help organization.

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  • “Still Would Stand All Time”–Prince, Graffiti Bridge (Paisley Park/Warner Bros.).


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