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Bishops restructure sex abuse committee

Posted: Friday, September 06, 2002

The nation's Roman Catholic bishops said Thursday they have restructured their committee that drafts policies on how dioceses should discipline priests who molest children.

Two panel members who were criticized heavily by victims advocates -- Bishop John McCormack of Manchester, N.H., and Auxiliary Bishop A. James Quinn of Cleveland -- have been removed and the eight-member panel has been expanded to 15.

The expansion of the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse was included in the reform plan the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted in June, hoping to ease the clerical sex abuse crisis fracturing the church.

The new committee will oversee a review of that plan in two years, and will discuss possible local and national meetings with victims.

The panel also will meet with the heads of religious orders, such as the Franciscans and Benedictines, who last month adopted a less stringent abuse policy than the bishops, refusing to oust errant clergy from all church work and instead pledging to help them rehabilitate. The bishops agreed to remove guilty priests from public ministry, and in some cases, the priesthood altogether.

Bishop Wilton Gregory, the conference president, had removed McCormack as chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee earlier this year, though McCormack had stayed on the panel. Before becoming bishop in New Hampshire, McCormack was an administrator in the Boston Archdiocese and is now a defendant in civil abuse cases in Massachusetts.

Quinn had angered victims in a speech on church law he gave years ago, when he suggested church leaders could send documents related to abuse cases to Vatican officials, who have immunity from civil authorities.

Bishop John Gaydos of Jefferson City, Mo., remains a committee member. He is accused in a lawsuit of conspiring to cover up molestation by the Rev. Anthony O'Connell, who resigned this year as bishop of Palm Beach, Fla., after admitting he abused a seminary student in Missouri more than 25 years ago. Gaydos has denied the allegations.

Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis will remain chairman of the committee.



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