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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Victims reject Church plan for abusers
Cardinals at press conference
Victims watched the press conference live on television
People who were sexually molested as children by members of the Catholic priesthood have said the that police - not bishops - should be in charge of dealing with offenders.

The bishops still want to be the umpires - but this is not a ball game, these are real crimes, and abuse charges need to be handled by police and prosecutors

David Clohessy

Changes proposed by American cardinals in Rome did not go far enough, according to a victims' advocate who was himself molested as a child.

David Clohessy, director of the Chicago-based Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap), told the BBC there were problems not only with the abusers themselves, but with their superiors who moved them around to hide the crimes.

Pope John Paul II, who summoned the cardinals to discuss the sex-abuse scandal, said he was "heartbroken" by the spiralling number of cases in the Church in America.

After meeting the Pope, US cardinals appeared to be moving towards a policy of sacking offending priests, but a final decision will not be taken until a meeting in June.

'Nothing new'

Mr Clohessy said the current approach would not ease the crisis that has hit dioceses across the US including those in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco.

US cardinals hearing Pope's message
The Pope said child abuse was an appalling sin
"The Church is still committed to dealing with this problem internally and focusing on the priests who molest, rather than on the bishops who cover up and deny and enable the crime to go on," he said.

Victims said they had heard nothing new after the two-day meeting in Rome and feared the June meeting would provoke little action.

"The bishops still want to be the umpires," Mr Clohessy said.

"But this is not a ball game, these are real crimes, and abuse charges need to be handled by professionals, which in this case are police and prosecutors."

Problems 'won't disappear'

Abuse victims now fear was that too many clergy and laity will assume the matter is being addressed and simply hope that the problem would go away.

"It won't - it's a deeply seated, a deeply rooted problem that's very widespread in the Church," Mr Clohessy said.

Victims watched US cardinals explaining their position after the meeting with the Pope at a press conference carried on television.

Phil Saviano - who was abused by a priest in the Boston area and who formed a support network to help others - said he was upset that only three churchmen bothered to appear before the cameras.

Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston
The Archbishop of Boston, Bernard Law, is one leader who moved priests rather than reveal their abuse
And he said they were not the leading cardinals who had repeatedly covered up for abusing priests.

The cardinals who were summoned to Rome issued a letter to priests after their two-day meeting with top Roman Catholic officials expressing regret that the sex-abuse crisis had not been prevented.

They said the whole Church was affected by the scandal, particularly the victims but also the majority of American priests who had done nothing wrong.

It will not be clear, however, what action will be taken against paedophile priests until the cardinals' meeting in Texas in June.

Bishop Wilton Gregory, who heads the United States Episcopal Conference, said there was a "growing consensus" in the Church that simply reassigning offending priests was "not an option".

But there remains division about whether to deal only with repeat offenders or to adopt a "zero-tolerance" policy whereby priests could be sacked after their first misdemeanour.

See also:

25 Apr 02 | Europe
Paedophile priests face expulsion
24 Apr 02 | Americas
Analysis: US cardinals get message
22 Apr 02 | Americas
US Catholics worry for future
16 Apr 02 | Americas
US cardinal welcomes Pope talks
23 Apr 02 | Americas
US press: Senior cardinal 'to go'
23 Apr 02 | Europe
A global scandal
23 Apr 02 | Europe
Text of the Pope's speech
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