Diocese of Raleigh
adopted a very strict policy about sex abuse in the 1980s and updated it twice during the 1990s. It applies to more than 100 priests in eastern North Carolina. The vote by the bishops brings the rest of the country up to the standards local priests have lived by for more than two decades.
Thoughts of the priesthood have turned to suspicion, anger and betrayal as the sex abuse scandal erodes the trust between Catholic priests and some of their parishoners. On Sunday, priests reassured church members that a new national policy will keep abusive priests out of the pulpit and away from children.
"As soon as an allegation is made, the man is removed until an investigation is accomplished, the civil authorities are also notified, and if it's determined that the allegations are true, then that man can never again function as a priest," said Monsignor Tim O'Connor of Our Lady of Lourdes church.
The Raleigh Diocese and its 130 priests have lived by those rules since 1989, when it adopted their own policy and they have followed it. A
is on leave amid allegations of sexual misconduct. A
priest in Burgaw
was removed for lying about a past sex abuse charge.
"I think it's been made very clear how we stand as a church on this issue. There's no leeway in any shape or form," O'Connor said.
The mandate adopted by bishops across the nation includes the key elements of the Diocese of Raleigh's policy. Church members call it an important first step.
"We now see that the bishops, the cardinals, even the pope are very concerned and realize that priests should be held to much higher standards than everybody else," parishoner Albert Nunn said.
A diocesan spokesman said because the new policy applies to past abuse, they will now have to go through the files of all their priests. Any allegations, even if they are decades old, will be investigated by an advisory panel that includes three laypeople.
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