The US bishops’ conference has published the new revised Dallas policy. It is posted alongside the original policy to make it easy to compare the two.
I’m still reading it and I’m sure Catholic World News will have an analysis soon, but here are a few things that jump out immediately. Much of the language concerning the diocesan review boards makes it clear that their job is to assist the bishop and not supercede his authority. It also places the responsibility for dealing with cases of abuse squarely on his shoulders. It also removes the appellate review board at the province level. I suspect that this was taken out because it conflicts with canon law and the pre-existing law concerning appeals and such.
It also changes the provision that the accused be removed from ministry immediately and says the reputation of the accused must be protected during the investigation and that the penalty of removal from ministry will only be applied after compiling sufficient evidence that abuse occurred.
In the original policy, it said an accused priest could be forced by obedience to undergo psychologial evaluation, whereas the new norms say the evaluation is voluntary. Considering the sorry track records of many psychological consultants employed by the Church—especially in the area of chastity and homosexuality—that’s probably a good idea. Who knows what would be said about a falsely accused, celibate, heterosexual priest.
Interestingly it does keep the zero tolerance rule so that if a priest or deacon admits even a single act of abuse—or it is established in accord with canon law—the clergyman is permanently removed from ministry. It also makes it clear that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith must be defered to in certain special circumstances.
It also strengthens the language concerning transfer to another diocese. In the original, the first diocese is told to forward background information on priests, but the new norms say no priest or deacon who has committed an act of abuse may be transferred to another diocese. It also states that the bishop of the new diocese has a responsibility to make sure he has complete information on the new priest.