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Boston Advocates: New Vatican Rules On Punishing Clergy Abuse Fall Short

Local advocates for clergy abuse survivors say the Vatican's new changes to its policy on handling clerical sexual abuse are not significant enough.

According to the new rules, priests who molest disabled adults or possess child pornography will be punished the same as priests accused of sexually abusing a minor. The new rules also double the statute of limitations on abuse cases.

Ann Hagen Webb, of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, says the new rules approach the issue from the wrong direction — at the level of internal discipline rather than public safety.

"They're talking more specifically about the end result, which is the process of actually disciplining a priest by laicizing them, defrocking them," Hagan Webb said.

Hagan Webb wants to see an approach requiring bishops to report abuse to police.

"We still do not know all the names of the priests who have abused in Boston, the ones who have been taken out of service because they’ve been credibly accused," Hagan Webb said. "That should be one of their guidelines, that those names are made public so that people know who to be afraid of and who to keep his children away from."

Hagan Webb adds that doubling the statute of limitations on abuse cases still doesn't give victims as much time as they may need to report abuse.

"By the time people actually get to the point of reporting it to the church, it can be much later and it just isn't enough time," Hagan Webb said. "There should be no statute of limitations on child abuse, because the effects are lifelong."

Another advocacy group says the Vatican should threaten to punish bishops who knowingly overlook child molesters.

This program aired on July 16, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Monica Brady-Myerov Twitter Reporter
Monica Brady-Myerov was formerly a report in WBUR's newsroom.

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