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The Canon Law Society of America Calls for Due Process
in Sexual Abuse Allegations

The top leaders of the Canon Law Society of America have called on the U.S. bishops to safeguard the rights of both the accused and their accusers as the scandal over clergy sex abuse continues to unfold.

Father Kevin E. McKenna, president of the 1,800-member organization, and Father Lawrence J. O'Keefe, vice president and president-elect, said in a March 20 statement that the bishops and Catholics in general "face enormous challenges in dealing with this most sensitive and difficult issue."

"We respectfully request that the bishops and other church officials, in their dealings with civil authorities, continue to be sensitive to the rights of accused priests, who may be innocent and whose good name and reputation are in jeopardy," they said.

"We call upon all parties to observe due process to aid both the accused and their accusers find justice and reconciliation," they added.

The two priests also urged bishops, in their cooperation with civil authorities, to "always comply with church law and with canonical procedures designed to protect all parties."

The statement praised the U.S. bishops "for their present willingness to accept a share of responsibility for this tragedy whenever priests who were known to be victimizers were simply reassigned" and for their "pastoral solicitude" toward the communities hurt by those priests.

Calling clergy sexual misconduct an "enormously painful and difficult issue," Fathers McKenna and O'Keefe said it "strikes at the well-being of those whom ordained ministers are committed to serve and must be assisted by the church as they recover from this terrible tragedy."

Based in Washington, the Canon Law Society of America is a professional association of those involved in the study and promotion of canonical and pastoral approaches to significant issues within the Catholic Church.