Vatican issuing guidelines on sex abuse to bishops

Cardinal William Levada, who heads the Vatican office that deals with clerical sex abuse cases, told some 150 cardinals of the guidelines during a daylong summit yesterday that dealt in part with the sex abuse scandal.

A Vatican statement said Levada discussed the need for bishops to collaborate with civil authorities in reporting abuse, the need to protect children and the need for an "attentive selection and formation" of future priests. It said the guidelines, in the form of a letter to bishops' conferences, would suggest a "coordinated and efficient program" to crack down on abuse.

Levada has previously said he thought the tough, zero-tolerance approach applied in US could be a model for bishops conferences globally. Those norms were developed in 2002 after the clerical abuse scandal erupted in the United States.

They bar credibly accused priests from any public church work while claims against them are under investigation. Diocesan review boards, comprised mostly of lay people, help bishops oversee cases. Clergy found guilty are permanently barred from public ministry and, in some cases, ousted from the priesthood.

The church abuse scandal erupted anew earlier this year in Europe and beyond with thousands of reports of priests who molested children, bishops who covered up for them and Vatican officials who turned a blind eye for decades. The Vatican has been reeling from the fallout, and included the issue on its agenda for a one-day summit of cardinals who were gathering in Rome for a ceremony tomorrow to name 24 new cardinals.

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