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The Nashua Telegraph, December 31, 2003

Success of New Hampshire diocese’s abuse policy depends on strong enforcement

The real test of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester’s new policy to stem sexual misconduct against minors by church personnel will be in the follow-through.

Bishop John McCormack announced the new policy on Monday. The 17-page document implements all the recommendations of a 12-member task force that issued its report in January, along with modifications to reflect the diocese’s 2002 agreement with the state attorney general’s office and requirements of civil and canon law.

As a new year debuts in a few hours, Catholic church officials and other personnel will have clear guidelines on reporting and dealing with reports of sexual misconduct, especially incidents involving children.

Much will depend on the honesty and willingness of church personnel to report allegations of sexual abuse, and on the aggressiveness with which diocesan officials investigate allegations and promptly take corrective measures if they are found to be true.

The policy is a long time in coming in a church that over so many decades silently and shockingly allowed sexual abuse of children by clergy members. In the process, many people were psychologically damaged and the church’s credibility went down the drain.

The policy includes creation of a Diocesan Review Board that will include members of the laity to assess allegations of misconduct. And it provides for spiritual and emotional counseling for victims of abuse and other people affected by such misconduct. Personnel in Catholic schools also will come under the new rules.

With this new policy in effect, church members and officials will no longer have an excuse to look the other way when child molestation is suspected. They will have an obligation to report suspected misconduct, and diocesan officials will have a clear mandate to check it out and take action.

More importantly, church personnel inclined to abuse children will have notice that they can’t expect to get away with such conduct in the future.

It took lawsuits, public exposure and rebellion by the faithful to get the church to seriously take steps to end the shameful subculture of child abuse in its midst.

Let’s be watchful that the new policy does what it’s intended to do, that sexual misconduct will become rare, and dealt with severely when it does occur.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests