United States Conference of Bishops

The zero tolerance policy was a necessary measure at the time of its adoption; however the policy has proven to be extremely unjust and devastating to our falsely accused priests and clergy.

The policy justifiably protects the rights of the victims but does not provide the same protection for our current falsely accused priests who are in the midst of an appeal. We must defend the basic rights of our accused priests who currently have a pending case. Our Church must bring an end to this injustice immediately.

We, the undersigned, call upon the United States Conference of Bishops to revisit and revise the zero tolerance policy that was adopted in Dallas 2002. Although we understand and support the purpose and scope of the policy which was to protect victims of all abuse - the fact remains that our priests and falsely accused priests especially those whose cases are pending are not given the same protection. They are neither treated fairly nor allowed the opportunity to adequately defend themselves.

We truly support the intention of the zero tolerance policy. However; our accused priests are unable to neither face their “accuser” nor defend themselves prior to being removed from their parish home, and parish family. They are “Guilty until proven Innocent.” Their lives are virtually destroyed. The canonical process can take years until these priests can prove their innocence and renew their reputation and lives.

This policy goes against our own Catholic teaching which is all about truth and righteousness. Under this zero tolerance policy all of our current priests, bishops, deacons and clergy are extremely vulnerable. Our priests and clergy have NO RIGHTS!! There is no justice for our accused priests who dedicate and devote their entire lives to Jesus Christ, build the church, help those in need – to then have a false accusation be made against them….no proof…..no criminal charges….just simply an allegation.

Although each diocese has procedures in place to enforce the zero tolerance policy there are certainly deficiencies and inappropriate support for the accused priests or deacons. Revisions must be implemented to ensure JUSTICE. Justice can only be served for ALL (the alleged victims and accused priests) if efforts are made to determine the TRUTH.

The Catholic Church must assure that the rights of our accused priests are protected; assist our clergy and provide them with the ability to adequately defend themselves prior to removal from ministry; to increase support for our accused priests while investigation is pending; the investigator and members of the diocese’s Sexual Misconduct Review Board must not know either party in the case to ensure an objective finding; to ensure the diocese’s investigation is conducted in the highest regard to seek the truth; to create a more extensive review and background check of both the alleged victim and the accused priest as well as the alleged accusation; to establish a time frame for the appeal process so that all parties involved seek a timely resolution; that all priests and clergy must be educated about the zero tolerance policy describing their rights and the proper canonical procedures should they find themselves in such a position.

All too often, priests with outstanding reputations are being removed from ministry because of a single, vague, and unproven accusation from decades ago. It is extremely important that all clergy be properly informed of any updates and/or changes to this policy.

Most importantly, any just revisions to the zero tolerance policy must include justice for ALL of our falsely accused priests that have and/or are in the process of an appeal. Our Catholic Church must provide our falsely accused priests with the ability to have their cases to be reinvestigated and be provided the ability to defend themselves and their priesthood.

Lastly, the United States Conference of Bishops have a moral obligation to not only take a stand for the victims of clergy abuse, but a moral obligation to take a stand for your accused priests, for your brother priests…… for the sake of our church.

Peace in Christ. God Bless.

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The Justice for Priests petition to United States Conference of Bishops was written by supportfrrodino and is in the category Religion at GoPetition.