Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, chairman of the bishop-appointed National Review Board, said his group will formally ask the Conference of Major Superiors of Men to reverse its August decision to allow most abusers to continue in church work away from parishioners.
U.S. bishops agreed three months ago to remove guilty priests from all church work - from celebrating Mass to working in a Catholic soup kitchen - and in some cases from the priesthood altogether.
The Conference of Major Superiors represents religious orders such as the Franciscans and Domincans, which make up about a third of the nation's 46,000 priests. The conference said the bishops' approach violated Catholic belief in redemption and ignored research indicating that some abusers can be rehabilitated.
But Keating said he and board Vice Chair Anne Burke, an Illinois appellate judge, will write the conference with the "urgent request that they implement precisely the same policy that the bishops approved in Dallas." Having the orders signed on would ensure that there's a uniform policy for all U.S. priests.
Marita Eddy, a spokeswoman for the Conference of Major Superiors, did not return a message left at her office late Monday.
The review board, made up of 13 prominent lay Catholics, was established as a way to help enforce the reforms which the bishops approved in June to stem the clerical sex abuse crisis after a series of cases and allegations about sex abuse by priests and cover-ups.
The governor said information the committee has gathered so far indicates most dioceses are implementing the plan. Still, Keating said the review board will soon reveal the names of bishops who are failing to comply.
Keating did not provide specifics - including a timetable for releasing the names - but said just a few of the 195 dioceses provided no information for the panel's review and about 10 percent of the dioceses needed to clarify the information they provided. The governor spoke after the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said it has evidence that 13 of the nation's 195 dioceses have failed to meet the new standards. SNAP representatives met with the board for more than an hour Monday.
Susan Archibald, president of The Linkup, another victims' advocacy group at the meeting, noted the board has only advisory powers and "was placed into battle with very few weapons" except its ability to alert the public about which prelates were violating the plan.
The board has met just twice, allowing advocates for victims to participate briefly in both sessions. Washington attorney Robert Bennett, a member of the board, said Monday he will lead a subcommittee researching how the church reached its current plight.