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Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
October 18, 2002 Issue

New since the print edition ...
-- Posted: 10/18/2002, 10:07 p.m. Central Time

Bishop Banks praises Vatican's call
for joint commission

By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor

Bp. Robert Banks praised the Vatican's call for a joint commission to review some elements of the American bishops' sexual abuse norms. In fact, some of the concerns of the Vatican were the same as those raised by Bp. Banks at the June meetings in Dallas.

"There were church law decisions being made that weren't clear," said Bp. Banks at a Friday afternoon press conference. "If you're going to have a legal definition, it has to be a clear definition. What bothered me at the time is that they gave a definition of sexual abuse which I thought was much too broad."

The Vatican reported that a Mixed Commission compiled of four Vatican officials and four U.S. bishops will study and revise the norms. This action should not be viewed as a rejection of the U.S. bishops' plan, and will only strengthen it, said Bp. Banks.

"They didn't send it back and say 'do it over,' which they have done with other things," he said. "Issues were raised that needed clarifying."

"I wouldn't be surprised if the main concern of the Holy See would be the independent review boards being set up in dioceses," he continued. "I don't think you want an independent review board that doesn't have any guidelines acting as judge and jury. There needs to be canonical procedures. An independent review board would not want to be put in the position of having the last word. Rome is saying you need procedural safeguards."

The independent review board in the Diocese of Green Bay will continue to review cases of sexual abuse allegations.

"The independent review board will still be helpful," said Bp. Banks. "There are issues that don't involve guilty or not guilty. The board members give us counsel. They help us decide how to proceed."

The Vatican has indicated a desire to have procedures developed by the new Mixed Commission in place by the meeting of the U.S. bishops in Washington, D.C., Nov. 11-14, but Bp. Banks believe that does not allow enough time. He points to the lack of time in developing the sexual abuse norms at the meetings in Dallas.

"It was too rushed," he said. "You cannot put something into law that quickly."

The response by the Vatican to the norms gave no indication that there will be any reversal of the decisions already made to remove priests from ministry. Bp. Banks expressed his sentiments for those sexually abused by priests.

"I really feel sorry for the victims," he said. "Every time this is in the newspaper, it really causes an emotional upheaval for a number of the victims. It is really is too bad. That's why we are trying to finally settle this."

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