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Diocese Changes Aim To Halt Abuse

Mar 21, 2003 | AP

The archdiocese covering the nation's capital and its Maryland suburbs announced changes yesterday to its child-protection policy that are intended to prevent cases of abuse involving church officials and workers.

Updates to the 17-year-old policy require that any bishop or superior who sends a priest to work in the Archdiocese of Washington must put in writing that he has reviewed the priest's employment and criminal history record checks for the past 10 years.

Applicants to the priesthood must complete criminal history record checks from all states where they have lived in the past 10 years.

The revised policy, effective June 1, is ''a model for any organization committed to protecting children,'' Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick said.

Responsibility also will be clearly defined to ensure that background checks are done on volunteers and lay employees who work with children.

The policy reiterates that any allegations of abuse must be reported to both civil and archdiocesan authorities with the civil authorities having first contact with any suspect.

The changes follow an eight-month review by independent child welfare experts of the archdiocese's policy.

''The cardinal has allowed the board to expand the scope of the policy to protect more children,'' said Shay Bilchik, president and chief executive of the Child Welfare League of America, who headed the review panel.

Two Washington pastors were removed from ministry last year after abuse allegations dating back 20 or more years surfaced. They remain on leave and have appealed their removal to the Vatican.

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