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Phoenix Bishop: Diocese Reviewing Sexual Misconduct Policy

Mar 22, 2002 | The Arizona Republic

The head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix has issued a letter discussing what he describes as the "painful" subject of child abuse.

In the letter, written earlier this month, Bishop Thomas O'Brien said the diocese is taking a renewed look at its sexual misconduct policy to determine whether there are areas not being rigorously enforced and whether some of the safeguards need to be strengthened. The policy states, among other things, that persons accused of alleged abuse may be placed on immediate administrative leave, he said

The letter was published March 7 in The Catholic Sun newspaper, two weeks before Pope John Paul II broke his silence about a child-molestation scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church. The pope said the allegations are casting a "dark shadow of suspicion" over all priests.

Following the pope's example, some of the nation's leading Catholic leaders are coming out with Palm Sunday messagess addressing the scandal.

In the March 7 letter, O'Brien wrote, "Those who abuse children - physically or sexually commit a serious wrong." Few subjects are as painful for Catholic leaders "as when we hear about priests or lay people who misuse their position to abuse other," he said.

O'Brien added, "It is especially distressing when the victims are children."

The bishop reaffirmed a sexual misconduct policy that the diocese crafted in 1990 and amended in 1995 and 1998. As the diocese reviews its policy, it seeks to remind its parishioners of the efforts that have been made to deal with sexual misconduct, O'Brien said.

Following the pope's statement this week, Archbishop Charles Chaput has asked priests to deliver a statement he has prepared during their Palm Sunday sermons. Marge Injasoulian, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Phoenix, said Friday that O'Brien is not making a similar request but is relying on his letter to express his views.

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