By RICHARD N. OSTLING
AP Religion Writer
A liberal Roman Catholic group on Wednesday came out against the adoption of a "zero tolerance" policy toward child-molesting priests, saying those who commit misdemeanors may deserve a second chance.
Call to Action, an organization that claims 25,000 members in 40 chapters, mailed its recommendations May 15 to America's bishops, who are scheduled to meet in mid-June to set new policies on sexual abuse by priests. Disagreement over "zero tolerance" is expected at the meeting.
Church critics and many victims' advocates have demanded expulsion for any priest guilty of molestation, with no second chance allowed.
The Chicago-based group agreed that those convicted of felonies should be automatically defrocked, but said some discretion is needed for priests who commit lesser offenses.
"Zero tolerance policies are generally revised after ridiculous outcomes, such as expelling a second-grader who brings a plastic knife to school," said Linda Pieczynski, a Call to Action spokeswoman and former Illinois prosecutor.
"Distinguishing the seriousness of an offense based on whether it is a felony or misdemeanor is an objective standard that has worked well in the legal system for over 200 years."
The group also said the bishops' new policy should include prompt reporting of allegations to police; immediate suspension of accused priests; independent review boards in each diocese and a national review board; and public disclosure of the names of all perpetrators past and present.
With sexual misdemeanors, it said, a priest should serve any criminal sentence and undergo therapy, after which an independent church review board would decide whether he should be reassigned to active ministry. If the priest were reassigned, the church would publicize his past offenses.
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said his organization believes that "if someone molests a child even once, they shouldn't be a priest."
I agree. People from all walks of life seem to manage to keep their hands off of children (in a sexual sense). Can't we hold priests to that standard? And if not, what does that say?