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THE Vatican yesterday rejected the American Church's new child sexual abuse policy against priests.

It said the zero-tolerance crackdown needed to be revised as elements conflicted with universal Church law.

While supporting the efforts to stamp out clergy sex abuse, the Vatican said the policy had provisions that were "difficult to reconcile" with canon law.

It added: "For these reasons it has been judged appropriate that before the Vatican approval can be granted a further reflection on and revision of the 'Norms' and the 'Charter' are necessary."

The response, signed by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Congregation of Bishops, proposed a joint US-Vatican commission to revise the policy.

Among other things, the policy requires dioceses to remove priests from Church work once a credible allegation is made and, in some instances, have them removed from the priesthood itself.

The policy rules out the idea a priest can be rehabilitated, saying an offender will be relieved of his ministry for "even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor - past, present or future".

Bishop Wilton Gregory, head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he welcomed the idea of a joint-commission.

Asked whether he thought the Vatican would continue to oppose elements of the proposal which calls for a priest's removal, Bishop Gregory said: "Nothing has been ruled out."

He also was asked if the Vatican response would force bishops already implementing the policy to stop.

Bishop Gregory said: "Will they stop? No. And the commission has not asked the bishops to stop. It simply says let us sit down and talk together about issues that need to be clarified 'recognition' can be granted."

US victims' groups said the response showed the Vatican was more concerned with protecting priests than minors.
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 19, 2002
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