Priest Group Official Pans Abuse Policy

By Larry B. Stammer
Boston Globe [Kansas City MO]
May 7, 2003

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The president of a nationwide federation of Roman Catholic priests called on US bishops yesterday to rethink the part of the church's sexual abuse prevention policy that allows the expulsion of offending priests.

Guilty priests should never be allowed to return to public ministry, but neither should they be removed from the priesthood, the Rev. Bob Silva of Stockton, Calif., said in a speech in Kansas City to the National Federation of Priests' Councils.

"We are not and cannot experience ourselves as a corporation or business institution; we are [a] church," Silva said. His remarks drew applause from the several hundred in attendance.

Silva also spoke out in favor of the efforts by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles to withhold some documents from prosecutors.

"Even as the mood of the country makes the defense of civil rights the subject of editorials, within the church the right to confidentiality, the right to reputation, the right to application of justice within a reasonable amount of time, the right to appropriate defense are items needing more consideration," Silva told the priests.Mahony, who had said he would not withhold records, has since argued that some communications between bishops and priests should remain confidential. He cited freedom of religion. Attorneys representing victims have said Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston made the same arguments before he resigned as archbishop. These attorneys said that the public disclosure of such documents in Boston had revealed how extensive the sexual abuse of minors had been and how much the misconduct had been covered up by church officials.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse, called Silva's approach troubling and premature.

"A priest's reputation, while important, absolutely pales in comparison with a child's safety. It's far easier for a priest to repair his reputation than a child to repair his or her emotional, psychological, and spiritual life."

This story ran on page A7 of the Boston Globe on 5/7/2003.


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