Zero Tolerance?

Did the bishops go too far?




At their June meeting in Dallas, the bishops of the United States adopted a charter for the protection of children and young people, and a set of norms for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests, deacons, and other church personnel. The bishops’ charter presents seventeen articles, and is followed by twelve norms. The articles outline provisions for the outreach to victims, the establishment of a review board in every diocese, and mandated reporting and cooperation with public authorities. They state that "even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor-past, present or future-will result in the permanent removal of a priest or deacon from his ministerial duties," which may include the request to Rome for the priest to be laicized, and call for the establishment of a national office for child and youth protection and other provisions such as careful screening of seminary candidates. The norms outline the process to be followed if a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is made against a priest or deacon. They repeat article 5 of the charter, specifying that such a priest will not be permitted "to celebrate Mass publicly, to wear clerical garb, or to present himself publicly as a priest." Both the bishops’ charter and norms deserve careful reflection. In an older liturgical time, the hymn Tu es sacerdos in aeternum ("You Are a Priest Forever") was...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Gerald D. Coleman, SS, is the rector of Saint Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California.