BARRING ABUSERS (Bishops to remove priests for any offense, past or present)

The nation's prelates voted overwhelmingly Friday to permanently remove from public ministry any priest who has ever molested a child, even if it was a single act committed long ago.  This is a defining moment for the Roman Catholic Church in America.


Highlights of national policy on disciplining priests approved Friday by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops:

- Bars priests who commit sexual abuse from parish work and all public ministry.

- Allows bishops, acting on the advice of an advisory board comprised mainly of lay people, to decide whether to oust abusive clergy from the priesthood.

- Bishops must report all allegations of abuse of minors to civil authorities.

- Bishops should no longer make confidentiality agreements in settlements of civil lawsuits over sex abuse unless the victim insists.

- Requires background checks for all diocesan and parish workers who have contact with children.

- Requires bishops to provide an accurate and complete description of a priest's personnel record if the cleric seeks to transfer to another diocese.

- Directs research into how the US church has responded to sex abuse by priests.

- Creates a national Office for Child and Youth Protection in the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to implement safe environment programs and take other actions to protect children from abuse.

- Crates a review board, including parents, to work with the Child Protection Office to annually examine how the bishops are responding to abuse.

- Has dioceses establish an outreach program to support victims of priestly sexual abuse.

(Dallas, Texas)