Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People:
An ad hoc committee of Roman Catholic bishops completed a draft document on
priest abuse in 2002-JUN. It was a series of recommendations that were
debated at a gathering of 288 American bishops at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas TX,
during JUN 13 to 15. Archbishop Harry Flynn of the Archdiocese of St. Paul
and Minneapolis released the draft document at a press conference on 2002-JUN-4. 1 The proposal, titled "Charter for the Protection of
Children and Young People," recommends that:
There would be a zero tolerance policy regarding future abuse cases. All priests
found guilty of future sexual abuse of one or more minors would be laicizated
(defrocked), with or without their consent.
"If the cleric is a pedophile" then he would be defrocked.
Unfortunately, this is an ambiguous statement, because the term "pedophile"
is ambiguous, It can refer to:
An adult who is sexually attracted to a young child under the age of 11, or
Same as above, for a child under the age of 18, or
An adult who is sexually attracted to and who also rapes or molests a young
child under the age of 11, or
Same as above, for a child under the age of 18.
In addition, the statement is not particularly helpful because in excess of 90% of the sexual assaults by priests that involve minors victimize persons between 14 and 17 years of age inclusive. The perpetrators are not pedophiles; they are ephebophiles.
For priests who have committed more than one act of sexual abuse of a
minor in the past, there will be a request for the cleric's laicization --
again, with or without their consent.
Allegations of a single past act of ephebophilia (rape or
molestation of an older post-pubertal child) would be reviewed by a diocesan
review board, that would be mainly composed of lay people. They would decide
whether he would be allowed to remain in the priesthood.
Bishops would report all allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil
Bishops would cooperate fully with civil authorities during the investigation.
Background checks would be done on all religious or lay employees who work
"Accurate and complete" personnel records would be forwarded to a
diocese to which a priest is transferred.
Each diocese would undergo an annual examination of their compliance with
the sexual-abuse policy.
The Bishops would commit to a process of "transparency and openness."
The church would not generally require confidentially agreements when
settling lawsuits out of court. These require the victim to promise to not discuss the
abuse or the details of the settlement. However, there was nothing in the document that would release victims
from past confidentiality agreements.
Referring to confidentiality agreements, Archbishop Flynn said: "In
the past, secrecy has created an atmosphere that has inhibited the healing
process, and in some cases, enabled sexually abusive behavior to be repeated." 2
The preamble of the document includes an apology: "From the depths of our
hearts, we express great sorrow and profound regret for what the Catholic people
have had to endure. The sexual abuse of children and young people by some
priests and bishops, and the ways in which these crimes and sins were too often
dealt with by bishops, have caused enormous pain, anger and confusion. ... We
are profoundly sorry for the times when we have deepened its pain by what we
have done or by what we have failed to do." 1
Some reactions to the draft document:
Stephen Brady, spokesperson for Roman Catholic Faithful (RCF), emphasizes
that the priest scandal is not about pedophilia (persistent sexual attraction
toward girls and boys who have not reached puberty) — but about ephebophilia
(usually attraction by adult males, with a homosexual orientation, towards post-pubertal adolescents
-- 14 to 17 years of age. Brady said that "The percentage of cases involving
teen-age boys is actually closer to 99 percent." Brady noted that the
document is silent on the issue of homosexuality. He commented: "I'm sure
that was intentional." 3 He expected to mention at a press
conference during the Bishops' meeting that there exists a provision in the
church's Code of Canon Law that forbids ordination any man who has "tendencies
to homosexuality or pederasty." Brady said: "These bishops should be
made to follow the 1961 Vatican document. It's either infallibly binding or it's
RCF has criticized a provision of the draft document which would adopt a zero
tolerance policy for future cases of abuse, but tolerate one case of abuse the
past. If adopted, the document would forgive a priest who raped or molested an
under-aged person once in the past. (One strike and you may be still in.)
RCF is a conservative
reform movement, concerned with forces within the Church of "Modernism,
Syncretism, Heresy, and the gross immorality of some of its clergy." 4 They "routinely expose the bishops for not dealing with their
abusive priests." They note that "no one in authority holds these bishops
accountable." 5 They have even criticized the Pope
for not having taken decisive action to discipline American bishops. They "insist at this time in history that
those in positions of authority in the Church proclaim loudly the infallibly
defined dogma that 'outside the Church there is no salvation', as that dogma has
been taught and explained by the Church for centuries." 4
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by
Priests (SNAP), said the report was "exquisite hair-splitting about
abusers, short on specifics about enforcement and silent on corrupt church
leaders who have reassigned molesters and covered up their crimes." 2
The Rev. Thomas Doyle, who actively helps victims of abuse, said that the
admission of past failures by bishops "is certainly extraordinary, given the
way in which church bodies respond to crisis situations....It is a new
beginning." He notes that the expectations of the laity are high. But if
even a very few bishops continue to treat victims with hostility or let lawyers
continue to pursue hardball tactics with the victims, "that will blow the
bottom out of any credibility they wish to restore." 2
The Family Research Council (FRC), a fundamentalist Christian agency,
commented that" "Not surprisingly, there's been a 'blackout' in the media on
the link between homosexuality and pedophilia. The major networks,
newspapers--and even the [Catholic] church--have intentionally chosen to ignore
the body of evidence that FRC's Dr. Tim Dailey wrote about in his paper,
'Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse.' Instead, they've allowed political
correctness to prevail over the facts."
Even if the Conference approves of a policy document, it would not be
binding on individual bishops. The Conference does not have that
authority. The policy must be first sent to the Vatican for approval.
The Charter of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Some of the thousands of victims of clergy abuse met with the bishops
at their 2002-JUN meeting. They described the deleterious effects that clergy
abuse had had in their lives. They told of divorce, depression, alcoholism, and
suicidal ideation. Some felt further victimized by the church who had been "either
negligent or hostile about their accusations." 6
The preamble of the Charter contained an apology to the thousands of
victims of clergy abuse: "As bishops, we acknowledge our mistakes and our
role in that suffering, and we apologize and take responsibility for too often
failing victims and our people in the past" 7
The bishops approved the Charter on 2002-JUN-14. Included were the
To promote healing and reconciliation:
Dioceses are to reach out to every victim who was sexually abused as
a minor -- recent or in the past -- with counseling, spiritual
assistance, support groups and other social services.
Dioceses are to have an assistance coordinator to give pastoral care
to persons who allege that they are victims of abuse.
Dioceses are to have a review board made up mainly of lay persons to
assess "allegations and fitness for ministry." The boards will
have little power, as all decisions will be made by the bishop. The
board will also review diocesan policies and procedures for dealing with
sexual abuse of minors.
To effectively respond to allegations:
Dioceses will report allegations of abuse to public authorities.
They will cooperate with the police/CPS investigations.
If a preliminary investigation of abuse against a priest or deacon
indicates, the alleged offender will be:
Promptly relieved of his ministerial duties,
Referred for medial and psychological evaluation.
If the complaint turns out to be unfounded, "every step possible
will be taken to restore the good name of the priest or deacon."
If even one act of sexual abuse of a minor (past, present or in the
future) is admitted or established, then:
The offending priest or deacon will be permanently removed from
He will be offered professional assistance for his "own healing
and well-being, as well as for the purpose of prevention."
His bishop may request that he be dismissed from the clerical
"If the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state has not
been applied (e.g., for reasons of advanced age or infirmity), the
offender is to lead a life of prayer and penance. He will not be
permitted to celebrate Mass publicly, to wear clerical garb, or to
present himself publicly as a priest."
Dioceses will prepare and publicize standards for ministerial
Each diocese will develop a "communications policy that reflects
a commitment to transparency and openness."
To assure accountability:
A national Office for Child and Youth Protection will be
created to assist dioceses and produce an annual public report. The Office will be assisted and monitored by a National Review Board which will include lay parents. They will:
Approve each dioceses' annual report on the implementation of the Charter.
Commission a study on the causes and context of the crisis.
Commission a study of the nature and scope of the problem
including statistics on perpetrators and victims.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse will be reconstituted to
include representation from all the episcopal regions of the country.
The Vatican will be informed of the Charter.
To protect children in the future:
Dioceses will establish "safe environment programs," in
cooperation with outside individuals and groups.
Dioceses will do background checks on all of their personnel who
have regular contact with minors.
Dioceses will adopted "screening and evaluative procedures in
deciding the fitness of candidates for ordination."
When a cleric is transferred elsewhere, his personnel record will be
reviewed with the new diocese.
The charter will be communicated to the communities of religious
Leaders of seminaries will meet periodically with their bishop
concerning the handling of allegations of abuse by seminarians.
The church will cooperate with groups conducting research in clergy
There will be greater emphasis in seminaries on the preparation of
students for a life of celibacy.
The report acknowledges that the "vast majority of our priests are
faithful in their ministry and happy in their vocation. Their people are
enormously appreciative of the ministry provided by their priests. In the midst
of trial, this remains a cause for rejoicing. We deeply regret that any of our
decisions have obscured the good work of our priests, for which their people
hold them in such respect." 7
There is no recognition in the Charter of the actual nature of sexual abuse
of minors by clergy: that almost all cases involve adolescents who are well past
puberty -- and not pre-pubertal children, as the media seems to imply. There was
also no discussion in the Charter concerning the removal from office of those
bishops who have irresponsibly contributed to the problem in the past through
Many of the abuse victims who appeared before the meeting of the U.S. bishops
expressed the feelings that the proposed draft document and the
final Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People were too
lenient on priestly abusers and on the senior officials who covered up abuse in
A public opinion poll of 1,004 randomly selected American adults, including
an over-sample of 355 self-identified Roman Catholics, was conducted on
2002-JUN-16 & 17 by the Washington Post. The margin of sampling error is within
4 percentage points for the general public and 5 percentage points for the
Catholic sub-sample. It found that:
Two-thirds of all Roman Catholics said that the Charter fails
to do enough to solve the problem of priest abuse. Three quarters of the
general public agree.
Slightly more than one half of all Catholics disapproved of the
policy of allowing abusive priests to remain in the priesthood.
Half of Catholics expressed satisfaction with the leadership of the
bishops; more than 40% were dissatisfied. 8