U.S. Catholic Bishops have revised their 2002 Charter in efforts to fight sexual abuse of minors by clerics, reports released Thursday have said.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has revised its Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The charter was originally created in 2002 to fight against cases of sexual abuse in the Church.
A statement released by the clerics emphasized that child pornography was a crime against Church law.
The revisions were passed 187 to 5 during the General Assembly taking place in Seattle this week. The amendments closely follow the new standards the Vatican issued in May regarding child abuse.
However, the charter revisions have already been condemned for not being more extensive. According to CNN, David Clohessy, an activist for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said: “The crux of the crisis continues to be the nearly limitless power of bishops. Bishops can make all the pledges they want. Until Catholic employees who ignore and conceal child sex crimes or violate the policy are punished, nothing will change.”
The Catholic Church in the U.S. as well as in Europe, has been plagued with sexual abuse scandals over the past few decades.
The Vatican has taken action to fight the problem, although critics have consistently accused the Catholic Church of not doing enough. Action has included disciplining priests by defrocking them. Others have been forced into positions with no public contact.
The Catholic Church has also recently doubled the limitation period for the Church to conduct its own prosecution of suspected offenders from 10 to 20 years.
Downloading child pornography has also been made an express Church offence, and Pope Benedict now has the power to defrock any Catholic priest without a formal Vatican trial is he believes it necessary in the circumstances.
Last year Pope Benedict took a stricter tone when addressing sexual abuse scandals in the Church. He said that the Catholic Church was embroiled in sex scandal because of the “sin within” and not because of outside factors.
Benedict, by laying blame on the Catholic clergy, took a different route than many other Catholic leaders who have accused the media of blowing up the situation to crisis proportion.
“The greatest persecution of the Church doesn't come from enemies on the outside but is born from the sin within the Church," the pontiff said in 2010. “The church needs to profoundly relearn penitence, accept purification, learn forgiveness but also justice.”
He said the current global abuse scandal is the greatest threat to the Roman Catholic Church. And while the Catholic Church has always had internal problems, “today we see it in a truly terrifying way,” Benedict said.
The sex abuse scandal has affected the Catholic Church in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, and the United States, among other countries. Hundreds of people have reported being abused by priests or other Catholic officials.
Among the many victims worldwide are a group of deaf boys who were molested by a Wisconsin priest. Father Lawrence C. Murphy had molested as many as 200 deaf boys at St. John’s School for the Deaf in Wisconsin while he worked there from 1950 to 1974. He was never disciplined by the church’s justice system or tried in government court. Murphy died in 1998 as a Catholic priest.