AP: Catholic Church boards reviewing sex abuse fail victims

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Pope Francis appears to wipe away tears as he stands in front of a plaque honoring war dead in Argentina during a ceremony for the return of a Virgin Mary statue from Britons to Argentina, at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. The original statue of the Virgin Mary, Patroness of Argentina, which was brought to Britain at the end of the Falklands War, will be returned to Argentina and its replica, made in Argentina, will be donated to the Catholic Military Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George in Aldershot, Britain. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

(AP) Facing thousands of clergy sex-abuse cases, U.S. Catholic leaders addressed their greatest modern crisis with a promised reform: Mandatory review boards.

These independent panels with lay people in each diocese would review allegations fairly and kindly, and help bishops ensure that abusive priests weren’t in ministry.

But almost two decades later, an Associated Press investigation of review boards across the country shows they have broadly failed to uphold these commitments. Instead, boards appointed by bishops and operating in secrecy have routinely undermined victims’ claims, shielded accused priests and helped the church avoid payouts.

Several bishops contacted by the AP did not respond to requests for comment. Others said review boards are mostly living up to the promises of the reforms mandated in 2002.

“They are critical to regaining the trust and confidence of our people,” Baltimore Archbishop William Lori said.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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