April 10, 2005

Accused priests kept in-house

Contra Costa Times

By Kim Curtis

OAKLAND - Since the sex abuse scandal first rocked the Roman Catholic church, more than 4,300 priests have been accused of abuse, and many have left the ministry, re-entering society without getting the treatment that can make them less likely to offend again.

Priests who work in a diocese generally get forced out under the zero-tolerance policy created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops three years ago in response to public outrage and fear of expensive civil suits.

Dominicans, Jesuits and other religious orders, representing 16,000 of the nation's 45,000 priests, chose another path: giving abusive priests supervised treatment for as long as they stay within their communities.

Both approaches could claim support from Pope John Paul II. He called abuse criminal and said there was no place in the priesthood for abusers of minors, yet also suggested that some priests could "turn away from sin and back to God" if given a second chance.

The religious orders say the logical place for such priests is behind church walls. But victims tend to be less forgiving and can sometimes stoke anger and fear in the surrounding community. That's what happened in Oakland, where St. Albert's -- a small Dominican priory in Rockridge -- houses six aging priests accused of sex abuse ranging from molestation to "inappropriate touching." All are older than 65, and the statute of limitations has passed on their offenses. No criminal charges were filed against the men, but police were notified in several cases, the priory said Thursday.

Posted by kshaw at April 10, 2005 09:29 AM