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Spotlight Report

Archdiocese's commission to urge protection for accused priests

By From Staff and Wire Reports, 9/8/2002

A commission set up by the Archdiocese of Boston to establish policies to protect children from clergy sexual abuse will recommend stronger protections for accused priests as well, according to commission members.

Maureen Bateman, chairwoman of the Cardinal's Commission for the Protection of Children, said Friday that rights of accused priests, as well as victims, must be respected and that priests have urged the commission not to ''throw the baby out with the bath water.''

''The commission recognizes that everyone has civil rights, and we want to make sure they're respected,'' she said.

The commission delayed the release of its final policy recommendations, which would require background checks on all church employees, so it could include more comments - including some from priests concerned about being falsely accused - which have come in since draft policies were released earlier this summer. The 15-member commission, some of whom met with Cardinal Bernard F. Law on Friday, will release its final report on Oct. 7, Bateman said.

''The comments kept coming in,'' Bateman said. ''They were thick, they were constructive, and they were in great detail, and we wanted to give them all their appropriate due.''

The commission had ''honed'' the proposed policies in response to comments, defining a ''credible complaint'' and adding a glossary of terms related to abuse, she said.

Phil Saviano, regional director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said it's appropriate for the commission to craft its policies carefully.

''It would be helpful for everyone, meaning both priests and victims, if we had a better understanding of what the Cardinal means when he says `credible,''' he said.

Published reports yesterday said that the commission had recommended requiring criminal background checks on all church workers and volunteers. But an archdiocesan spokeswoman said yesterday that the church already conducts background checks through the state's Criminal Offender Record Information act, or CORI.

''We have been doing CORI checks for the last two years,'' said Donna M. Morrissey, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Boston.

The background checks were announced in September 2000 after revelations that a church worker in Middleton, Christopher Reardon, had abused children. At the time, church officials said the checks would apply to priests, nuns, and lay people who work with children, the disabled, and the elderly.

Morrissey said she could not comment on whether the commission's recommendations were different from what the archdiocese currently does. Attempts to reach members of the commission were unsuccessful yesterday.

The commission also announced that the Boston Archdiocese has chosen a layman to oversee an internal review board that has jurisdiction over priests.

The archdiocese will announce the name of the director of child advocacy implementation and oversight next week, Bateman said.

The director, whose name was not made public, will be in charge of implementing the commission's final recommendations. Bateman said the commission met with him Friday and is satisfied with the choice.

This story ran on page A6 of the Boston Globe on 9/8/2002.
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