March 08, 2006

Austin bishop at forefront in dealing with church scandal


By Eileen E. Flynn

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Before the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal broke in January 2002, Bishop Gregory Aymond already had begun taking steps in the 25-county Austin Diocese to prevent such crimes by drafting an ethics policy that included intensive training and background checks on everyone who works with children.

In the past four years, Aymond has established a reputation as a proactive bishop committed to dealing with sex abuse in his diocese. He removed two popular priests accused of molestation, worked as a consultant for a national abuse prevention firm and directed the diocese to pay for victims' counseling.

So it came as no surprise when U.S. bishops elected him in November to chair the committee that oversees efforts to protect minors from abuse. But on the national stage, Aymond is facing critics who say he's not doing enough to address a recent sex abuse scandal in Chicago.

A priest there was allowed to remain in his ministry while the church investigated allegations of abuse. Although Chicago's Cardinal Francis George appointed a monitor for the priest, the man is accused of molesting an 11-year-old boy. The priest, now removed from ministry, has been charged with aggravated sexual abuse. But some lay people are calling for George's resignation and say Aymond and his Office of Child & Youth Protection should publicly admonish George, as well as put more teeth into the charter policy on dealing with sex abuse that U.S. bishops adopted at a historic meeting in Dallas in 2002. Under the charter, a priest who has abused a minor must be removed from public ministry and possibly the priesthood, and dioceses are subject to yearly audits to ensure compliance.

Posted by kshaw at March 8, 2006 07:10 AM