The Boston archdiocese released final rules aimed at protecting children from clergy sexual abuse on Friday, capping a yearlong effort to prevent the kind of misconduct by priests that has embroiled the archdiocese in scandal.
â€œI wish to personally commit myself to the full implementation and the carrying out of these policies for the protection of the children of our diocese, said Bishop Richard Lennon, the interim head of the archdiocese.
Some rules immediately drew criticism, including one limiting the time church documents on abusive priests can be kept.
The policy, which replaces rules put in place in 1993, was the result of consultation among the archdiocese and sexual abuse experts, abuse victims, law enforcement and experts in church law.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a nationwide policy for clergy abuse in November, and the Vatican approved it in December. That policy required all U.S. dioceses to establish their own protocols.
Many of the rules released Friday were implemented earlier, such as mandatory reporting of allegations to law enforcement.
The policy also sets up a nine-member review board to advise the archbishop on sexual abuse cases. The panel will include a pastor, a sexual abuse expert, a psychiatrist, and an abuse victim or family member.
Further, the policy spells out the rights of victims and priests.
Although the rules closely resemble those adopted by the national conference, some parts are more stringent. For example, the review board will automatically examine each accusation; the bishops’ rules do not require that every allegation be heard by a review board.
Still, Ann Hagan Webb, the New England Regional Coordinator of the Survivor’s Network for those Abused by Priests, expressed concern that the review board won’t have enough power.
A lay board that has no teeth is so much lip service, she said.
Also, the state Attorney General’s Office, which has been working closely with the archdiocese to create child protections, criticized the new rules as overly complex.
The process, from the moment an allegation of sexual abuse is made to the final disposition on discipline, is fraught with barriers for victims seeking justice, Assistant Attorney General Alice Moore said in a letter Friday to the archdiocese.