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In the Crossfire

Are proposals for accused priests enough?

(CNN) -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will vote on a plan to deal with priests accused of sexual abuse at a conference next week in Dallas, Texas.

A draft report, which a bishops' panel issued Tuesday, recommends defrocking priests who abuse minors in the future as well as those who have molested more than one child previously.

But it stops short of endorsing a "zero tolerance" policy, allowing priests and bishops to retain their rank if clerics have only one offense, have not been diagnosed as pedophiles and have had clean records since the single offense. A diocesan review board also must evaluate the clergymen.

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"Crossfire" hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson debate whether the proposals go far enough with Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

BEGALA: Bill, I got four young kids, and I am raising them in the Catholic Church. Tell me, why should I turn them over to a priest that ever once fondled or groped a child?

DONOHUE: Well, let me tell you something, if the person hasn't been diagnosed as a pedophile and, in fact, there are no outstanding crimes against them, either in the civil courts or in the criminal courts, and in fact if they're going to make public disclosure, it's a hell of a lot better than what you'd get at Harvard University, where next year if a girl is raped, she has to have an eyewitness.

BEGALA: But don't you think that the holy mother church, which I love and you love, should have a higher standard than a secular college?

DONOHUE: No, look, what they're saying is there's going to be some diocesan autonomy in the draft. Now they may change it. They may come -- they may raise the bar again, but what you haven't addressed is [whether] they're going to break the institutional code of secrecy, namely no more of these confidentiality agreements between lawyers, no more of this business of a guy like [Paul] Shanley being shipped off to New York City or San Bernardino, and we don't know what his record is. This guy's record, his personnel records will travel with them wherever he goes. In other words, they're going to be looking in the window at these guys finally.

CARLSON: Well, I -- you know, I -- all of this, and everyone, of course, is glad the church is taking steps to make it better, but the church doesn't appear to be taking steps to understand how it happened in the first place. There have been no church-authorized studies into what about the culture of Catholic clergy has given rise to so many incidents of child abuse.

Don't you think the church ought to get on that and maybe figure out why?

DONOHUE: Yes, I think they will. And they have an office of child abuse that's going to be set up and institutionalized. But remember, we've had 220 priests since the beginning of this year who've had to step down because of some charges. That's less than one half of 1 percent. I think one case is too many. But take a look at the general population, 8 percent. Take a look at elementary ...

CARLSON: Wait a second ...

DONOHUE: ... and secondary school children: Fifteen percent claim that they have been sexually aroused -- or abused by their teachers.

CARLSON: ... Wait a second -- no, no. But Mr. Donohue, I mean there are estimates, you've seen them that anywhere from 30 [percent] to 60 percent of all Catholic priests are homosexual. I don't know if those are true or not. But clearly the incidence of homosexuality is far higher in the Catholic Church. Don't you think it's at least worth asking the question why?

DONOHUE: Well, let me tell you something. This may surprise somebody because I'm a conservative. I don't believe that because you're gay you're going to necessarily act out. Now maybe you do.

CARLSON: I don't, but I think it's ... interesting -- it's an interesting incidence.

DONOHUE: Yes, but you talk about the culture. I don't think there's anything peculiar to the Catholic Church's culture that allows for the numbers that they have. In fact, there are about the same percentage in the denominations of other religions, and it's less than in the general population.

Now, there is a problem because I think we should hold Catholic priests to a higher standard. But let's get real in terms of this where it's coming from in the culture. Maybe you want to turn the channel and look at MTV.




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