WASHINGTON (June 18, 2002) – Belleville Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, made the following statement to media on his arrival in St. Louis on June 17, 2002.
"What we bishops did in Dallas was to say unequivocally that a priest who has sexually abused a minor – past, present, or future – will be permanently removed from ministry.
"This will often mean that he will leave the clerical state entirely – either on his own or be dismissed from it.
"Even if this is not the case for serious reasons, he will not be able to say Mass publicly, wear clerical garb, or present himself as a priest.
"We have thus made a solemn commitment to our people that the priesthood will not be used to harm a child.
"We are backing that commitment up with unprecedented means to hold ourselves accountable to our people. A National Office for Child and Youth Protection will report annually on our successes – and failures – in implementing our commitment in all our dioceses.
"A National Review Board, made up almost entirely of laity and chaired by Governor Frank Keating of Oklahoma will review the report and it will be a public document.
"We are no only ready and willing to hold ourselves accountable to our people in this way, but we think it is absolutely necessary to do so.
"The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is both a commitment and a way for the Catholic people and all our fellow Americans to see that this commitment is being fulfilled."