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Vatican rules for guilty priests

Vatican City, Dec. 16 (Reuters): The Vatican approved today a revised plan outlining how US Roman Catholic leaders should punish priests caught up in a clergy sexual abuse scandal that has engulfed the American Church.

Denouncing priestly paedophilia as “abominable”, the Vatican said the new regulations guaranteed a fair and full hearing for the accused, but meted out tough penalties for the guilty.

“The universal law of the Church has always recognised this crime as one of the most serious offences which sacred ministers can commit and has determined that they be punished with the most severe penalties,” Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Congregation for Bishops, wrote in a letter to Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“At the same time, by ensuring that the true facts are ascertained, the approved norms protect inviolable human rights, including the right to defend oneself, and guarantee respect for the dignity of all those involved, beginning with the victims.”

The Vatican had rejected the US bishops original proposals in October, saying they were inadequate and legally ambiguous.

The new norms were subsequently worked out by a special US-Vatican commission and the formal approval, known by the Latin term “recognitio”, was widely expected. Cardinal Re said the “overwhelming majority” of priests were virtuous, but stressed that the new regulations would provide “effective protection for minors” from wrongdoers.

The approval of the regulations came just three days after the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law.

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