US Catholic Church 'too harsh' on sex abusers

Though religious orders pledged their support this week for the US Roman Catholic Church’s policy in dealing with priests accused of sexual abuse, they feel it is too harsh, the head of an umbrella organisation for religious orders said.

Father Canice Connors, president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, said on Friday that the policy could be perceived as “scapegoating” abusers and added that he believes some abusers can be rehabilitated.

“Not all Muslims are alike. We differentiate (between) those who are terrorists and those who are not,” Connors said. “Well, not all abusers are alike, either.”

The remarks seemed to contradict assurances given by the umbrella group this week that religious orders support the policy adopted by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas, Texas, in June, barring sexually abusive clergy members from priestly duties but falling short of removing offending them from the priesthood altogether.

Connors said the bishops seemed to have toughened their final stance, to include first-time offenders, as a result of public pressure.

“The bishops, in effect, could be perceived to have become one with the voices of the media, unreconciled victims and a partially informed Catholic public in scapegoating the abusers,” he said.

More than 160 leaders of religious orders are to confer here this week to decide whether to adhere to the bishops’ policy.

One-third of US priests belong to religious orders, which are autonomous of dioceses.
- Sapa-AFP

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