Priests at a mass for the bishops conference refused to give Communion to three gay Catholics.
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The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announces a new sexual abuse policy for the U.S. Catholic church, November 13, 2002. Brendan McDermid
by Toby Eglund
NOVEMBER 14, 2002. The annual United States Conference of Catholic Bishops convened in Washington this week with the primary goal of revising a zero tolerance church sex abuse policy formed after revelations last year that the church regularly shelters known offenders.
Deemed too harsh by the Vatican, the first policy was a response to victims groups like the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) which have demanded that all proven or admitted abusers be defrocked.
These demands are considered overly harsh by priests like Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., who told USA Today that it was excessive, the "gravest penalty for a priest."
The new policy does remove priests after "even one act of sexual abuse of a minor," but most of the emphasis is on safeguards for accused priests, like statutes of limitations on accusations, confidential preliminary inquiries, and clerical tribunals. The emphasis on timeliness and secrecy again burdens victims and excludes them from the process of justice.
Efforts by the Vatican to prevent future abuses seems to have been limited to blaming gay priests.
Bishops from Latin American to Europe have called for their expulsion. And Britain's daily newspaper The Independent has reported that the Vatican is drafting guidelines banning gay men from the priesthood.
On November 11, the battle against lesbians and gays in the Catholic Church was joined at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, where priests at a mass for the bishops conference refused to give Communion to three gay Catholics.
"They were all in ordinary street clothes, no gay tee shirts or anything," said Laura Montgomery Rutt, spokesperson for Soulforce, an ecumenical lgbt group working against homophobia in all religions.
"They had been sitting in a row where one person at the end had a Soulforce tee shirt," she continued. "Maybe the priest saw that, or they were spotted at a protest earlier in the day. But there was no justification. None whatsoever."
The three lifelong Catholics were arrested the following day at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where the conference was taking place. They were charged with unlawful entry as they knelt in the lobby asking the bishops to give them Communion. Over twenty-four hours after their arrest, they were still in jail waiting for arraignment.
While both the Catholic Church and the protesters have focused on the abuse of boys, the sexual abuse of women by priests remains an invisible problem.
Perhaps heterosexual priests should also be banned.
For the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
For the Survivors' Network of Those Abused by Priests.
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