The lessons of Philadelphia

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The scathing assessment of Philadelphia's handling of sex abuse allegations against priests has wider implications for the church, say several experts. It exposes inherent weaknesses in the process that deals with allegations against Catholic clerics, reports the NCR Online.

The evident failure in the Philadelphia archdiocese of the system set up by the US bishops in 2002 raises the question of whether similar circumstances exist in other dioceses, most of which have not come under the scrutiny of a grand jury or other law enforcement agencies. The question that keeps surfacing is: Are there other Philadelphias out there?

There could be, but we don’t know,” said Nick Cafardi, a member of the original National Review Board established by the bishops to oversee implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted during the bishops’ national meeting in Dallas in 2002.

The charter, essentially an acknowledgement of the problem and a promise by the U.S. bishops to implement procedures and programs to deal with the crisis, is enforced by Essential Norms, promulgated in 2002, that have the force of canon law.

In recent separate interviews with Teresa Kettelkamp, executive director of the Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection, an office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Ana Maria Catanzaro, chair of the review board of the Philadelphia archdiocese and a member of the National Review Board; and Cafardi, several common concerns surfaced about:

Disparities in definitions and language among diocesan officials, review board members and civil authorities; Fears that standards and norms are not being uniformly applied in all dioceses; The limits of the audit process; The ongoing effects of clericalism;

FULL STORY Philadelphia's fall raises questions elsewhere (NCR Online)

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