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Bishops approve new policy on abusive priests

Bishop Wilton Gregory at Friday's session of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting.  

DALLAS, Texas (CNN) -- U.S. Catholic bishops Friday voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution barring clerics who have engaged in sexual abuse from continuing in the ministry.

The vote was 239-13, taken at the end of Friday's session of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting.

The policy will be an interim policy in place for the next two years. As such, it does not require Vatican approval.

As the bishops debated the proposal Friday, an important Roman Catholic newspaper reported that a "zero-tolerance" stance might have a rough time getting approval at the Vatican.

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Attendees at the conference have been leaning toward adopting a zero-tolerance policy on sex abuse that would remove from the ministry anyone facing even one substantive allegation. But the National Catholic Reporter quotes a Vatican official as saying "zero tolerance is going to have a hard time here."

Another is quoted as saying that the bishops are being forced into a conclusion rather than resolving the issue dispassionately.

"The church is about reconciliation. Its highest priority can't be driving out the pedophiles," the official said.

One canon lawyer who works with several Vatican offices had told the paper: "There is a real sense that all this may not pass muster."

By making it an interim policy, dioceses may enact Friday's resolution on a voluntary basis.

The proposal makes clear that "no priest or deacon who has abused a minor can remain in ministry," said Archbishop Harry Flynn, who led the panel that drafted the proposal.

"As good pastors attentive to those we serve, we can do no less," said Flynn, of the Minneapolis-St. Paul diocese. Bishops spent the morning discussing fine points and suggesting revisions to the document.

Flynn called it a defining moment for the bishops to express the church's resolve to "protect children" and "root out a cancer in our church."




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