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Spotlight Report

Policy enforcement lax, group alleges

By Robert Schlesinger, Globe Staff, 7/30/2002

WASHINGTON - The Catholic Church has not enforced uniformly the sexual abuse policy the US Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted last month in Dallas, a victims' advocacy group alleged yesterday.

''There is no uniformity when we have seen 178 different applications of the policy,'' said Mark Serrano, a board member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

Members of the network, standing outside St. Matthew's Cathedral in downtown Washington, listed several publicly reported cases they say do not conform to the policy the bishops overwhelmingly adopted June 14. The charter said, among other things, that priests would be removed from the ministry after a single molestation case and that accusations would be handled rapidly.

''We've seen a number of very clear and gross violations of the charter,'' said David Clohessy, the group's executive director.

The allegations were made the day before a church-appointed commission reviewing the punishment of sexually abusive priests meets for the first time in Washington. SNAP was denied representation on the panel, but its leaders were to meet with Frank Keating, Oklahoma's governor and the commission's chairman, this morning.

Network members stuck pins in a map of the United States to illustrate areas where they said there were problems. The cases include the Archdiocese of Richmond, Va., where the reinstatement of an accused priest led to one resignation from a lay advisory board, and the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Mich., where an admitted molester was removed from his parish only this past weekend. They also pointed to ongoing court cases in Kentucky dioceses where, Clohessy said, the church is working to keep them secret or get them dismissed from criminal courts.

''This is proof that the Dallas charter was nothing more than the great American blackwashing,'' Serrano said. The US bishops were ''the men in black,'' hoping that as time passed the public would forget the scandal, he said.

''In Dallas, there seemed to be a sense of urgency about this,'' said Peter Isely, a SNAP board member. Now ''there's a sense of, `Time has passed; we don't need to rush on this.'''

A spokeswoman for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops declined to comment.

The network had sought a seat on the advisory commission, but was turned down because Keating did not want any members beholden to specific organizations. One of the 12 members is a victim of abuse.

Keating will meet privately with SNAP leaders this morning, and then the network's officials are scheduled to make a presentation to the commission during the day.

Wire reports were used in the compilation of this report. Robert Schlesinger can be reached at

This story ran on page A10 of the Boston Globe on 7/30/2002.
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