Cardinal Supports Sex Abuse Panel's Recommendations

By Maryclaire Dale
Associated Press, carried in Philadelphia Inquirer [Philadelphia PA]
Downloaded January 17, 2003

The leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia pledged to adopt all the reforms suggested by a lay panel studying the priest sex abuse problem, but victims said their input was ignored.

The 11-member panel, headed by a Catholic University law professor, said today the archdiocese should employ victim advocates, ban confidential court settlements and send uniform notices to parishes when priests come under investigation.

The panel found no evidence that gay men are more prone to pedophilia than heterosexuals. Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, however, continues to support a ban on homosexuals in the priesthood.

"There are many other reasons, theological in particular, why we feel homosexuals cannot be candidates for the seminary," Bevilacqua said at a morning news conference, where he accepted the panel's report.

Some victims wanted the group to do more, such as suggest that church bulletins carry advertisements for survivors groups.

"We met with them for four hours, and not one of our recommendations is in this report," said John Salveson, 47, who coordinates the Philadelphia chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

The lay panel - which interviewed priests, victims, medical and law enforcement professionals and others - criticized the tactics that church lawyers and insurance agencies have sometimes used on victims.

"A victim felt that he and his family were further victimized by the legal strategies employed in the past by the archdiocese or its insurance carriers," the report noted.

In a handful of cases nationwide, priests have countersued alleged victims for libel, while some families have said church officials urged them not to report alleged abuse to police.

Many of the recommendations follow proposals drafted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in response to the priest sexual abuse scandal and later revised by the Vatican.

Pope John Paul II last month accepted the resignation of Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, the highest-ranking Roman Catholic church leader in the United States, because of outcries about abusive priests who were quietly transferred from parish to parish over the years, leaving a trail of victims.

In Philadelphia, credible allegations have been made against about 35 archdiocesan priests, involving about 50 victims, in the past five decades, church officials said.

Those numbers do not include priests under the direction of a religious order, such as the Rev. Richard J. Cochrane, an Augustinian priest who pleaded no contest this month to the statutory rape of a then-14-year-old student at Malvern Preparatory School in 1991.

A second Augustinian priest on leave from the suburban Philadelphia school is now being investigated for sexual misconduct. A former student contacted the school this week, alleging misconduct that occurred on campus between 1997 and 1998, according to Chester County District Attorney Joseph Carroll.

The priest denies the charges, the school said.

The Philadelphia panel suggested that more time be spent evaluating the sexual maturity of seminarians and training them in appropriate interaction with children. However, experts told the group there is no simple way to identify potential child molesters.

"It is rare that the kind of sociopathy associated with true pedophilia can be detected," said Helen Alvare, the law professor who chaired the group.


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