January 16, 2005

Catholic organization screening priests on cruise ships

The Ledger

The Associated Press
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has started screening those celebrating Mass on cruise ships, a plan geared toward preventing former, rental and even fraudulent priests from ministering to Catholic passengers.

More than 650 priests have been approved to work on cruise lines, where some priests suspended in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse scandal have recently sought employment - and some Catholics have complained to the bishops that priests on their ships were incompetent.

Celebrity and Holland America lines are working with priests approved by the Apostleship of the Sea, while other cruise lines are still striking private deals with priests, use talent agencies or hire clergy through Rent-APriest, a group that provides former, now-married priests who are no longer authorized to conduct Mass.

Eventually, the bishops hope that all cruise lines will adopt a more thorough screening process for clergy.

"It wasn't being regulated by the bishops' conference and they weren't doing background checks on these guys," said the Rev. Sinclair Oubre, president of the AOS-USA, a chaplains' organization affiliated with the Apostleship of the Sea. "Since we started this, some of the cruise lines have become more alert."

Priests who apply for the program must have their bishops' approval and are subject to yearly review, said Doreen Badeaux, secretary general of the Apostleship. All dioceses conduct their own background checks on priests, Badeaux said.

Posted by kshaw at January 16, 2005 04:55 PM