AP, Aug. 8, 2002
By RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion Writer
August 8, 2002 3:27 pm
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Advocates for victims of sexually abusive priests went to a hotel where Roman Catholic religious orders were meeting Thursday and argued those communities cannot be trusted to discipline molester clergy.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests accused the religious orders of protecting errant members over the years. The communities view guilty clergy as family and the children they hurt as “the enemy,” victims advocates said.
The Conference of Major Superiors of Men, an association of the heads of orders, is evaluating this week how the sex abuse policy U.S. bishops approved in June should be adapted for religious communities. About 15,000 of the nation’s 46,000 priests belong to orders — groups such as the Jesuits and Benedictines.
The Rev. Canice Connors, a Conventual Franciscan who has overseen treatment for abusive priests for years, insisted the orders will protect young people, but will also keep a pledge to support their members for life. Priests take vows of poverty when they join religious communities.
The Rev. Ted Keating, a Marist and the conference executive director, said that, like the bishops, the orders will bar abusers from ministries involving face-to-face contact with parishioners. But the religious communities plan to find some role for the men, in administrative positions far from children. The bishops decided that any church work was too risky for offenders.
One-third of priests from religious orders work in parishes, with the rest serving in hospitals, schools and other ministries.
Under church law, bishops have authority over religious-order clergy working in dioceses. Dozens of the estimated 300 clergymen taken off duty this year because of abuse claims are members of religious communities.
To add some oversight for the rest of the order priests, the conference will consider creating a national review board, similar to the one the U.S. bishops formed, to evaluate how religious communities handle abuse charges. Keating said he did not know if the proposal included making the results public.