The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops made some changes to its church policies regarding child sexual abuse on Thursday. However, majority of the Roman Catholic Bishops resisted making major policy changes and voted in favor of maintaining current policies with some minor changes despite the take of critics that they contain wider loopholes.
According to the revised charter of the conference on Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, child pornography is a misdemeanor and goes counter to church policies. Moreover, they noted that the mistreatment of somebody who is psychologically disabled is comparable to child abuse.
The revised policy document also directs church authorities to communicate accusations against bishops to the pope's delegate in the United States as well as to police.
The amendments were made and passed during the general assembly of the bishops in Seattle. The revised policies concerning child abuse at the hands of Catholic leaders concur with the latest standards the Vatican released in May. The voting result was 187-5 with four bishops abstaining from votes, reports said.
Despite votes in favor of the changes, critics hold that the revision and the charter itself are not enough to deal with child sexual abuse.
According to David Clohessy, an advocate for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, "the crux of the crisis continues to be the nearly limitless power of bishops and bishops can make all the pledges they want. Until Catholic employees who ignore and conceal child sex crimes or violate the policy are punished, nothing will change."
However, Church authorities have a different take on the issue. Bishop Blase J. Cupich believes that the charter has perfectly catered to the needs of the church. Besides, he also said the charter is a helpful tool to protect children from sexual abuse, promote healing and rebuild trust.
Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, expressed his dismay over the resistance of Catholic Bishops to bring major policy changes.
"The policy needs to be overhauled. This is a squandered opportunity and a disaster for children, not only in the United States but worldwide," McKiernan said.
It should be noted that in recent years Catholic Churches across the United States and Europe have faced several cases of child abuse.
Meanwhile, the Vatican has said that priests who abuse children account for only a tiny fraction and that it is taking concrete steps to fight the issue.