The head of the nation's Roman Catholic bishops on Saturday declared the group's determination to deal more aggressively with instances of priests sexually abusing young-sters.
"Far more aggressive steps are needed to protect the innocent, treat the perpetrator and safeguard our children. We commit our pastoral energy to break this cycle of abuse," said Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.Scores of cases have been reported in recent years in which priests have been accused of sexually molesting children.
"No single pastoral question is more painful to us as bishops," Pilarczyk told a news conference at the end of the daylong, closed-door meeting.
He said the church's leadership can improve in dealing with the problem. "Undoubtedly mistakes have been made in the past," he said.
In some instances, cover-up attempts were made, or priests simply were transferred elsewhere. But Pilarczyk said that wouldn't happen under present procedures, first recommended in 1988 and which he reiterated Saturday. They are:
- Prompt response to allegations of abuse.
- Speedy removal of the offender if evidence is sufficient.
- Compliance with civil law in reporting such incidents and cooperating with investigaions.
- Help to victims and their families and, while respecting their privacy, dealing with the incident as openly as possible.