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Double Potboiler For Bishops

America's Catholic Bishops are in Washington for a "rewrite" of historic proportions. They have four days to revise their landmark sex abuse policy, in language they can live with, and that the Vatican will sign off on.

But, as the Church tries to close the door on one sex scandal, another one is brewing, reports CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts.

The Vatican is now drafting a document that could ban homosexuals from the priesthood.

"It's a big, big crisis that the Vatican is precipitating, " said Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and former priest who has studied sex abuse in the priesthood for 40 years and is the author of "Sex, Priests, and Power: Anatomy of a Crisis."

Sipe estimates 30 percent of all Catholic priests are gay.

"So the Vatican coming along and saying we're going to keep all homosexuals out of the clergy is like a gay bar refusing to serve homosexual patrons. It doesn't make any sense," he told Pitts.

"It is very painful to be apart from your church. To hear your church leaders ay there's something wrong with you. That God made a mistake when God made you. That is painful," said Father Jim Morris, who is a gay priest.

Homosexuality and pedophilia, he says, are not related. "Scapegoating of gay priests with this terrible scandal in the Catholic Church has been another terrible scandal."

Meanwhile, the bishops are discussing changes ordered by the Vatican to better protect the rights of accused priests.

"We will not step back from our compassion for those who have been harmed or our determination to put into place to protect children," said bishops leader Wilton Gregory.

Victim advocates and lay reformers have assembled in a hotel across from the gathering to signal their anger with the revisions, which they say could keep molesters in parishes.

Gregory said the Church won't be bullied into practices it can't condone.

"There are those at extremes in the church who have chosen to exploit the vulnerability of the bishops at this moment to advance their own agendas," he said Monday, and made it a point in his opening speech to praise priests, saying they're being unfairly judged because of the misdeeds of some.

"Everyone is doing what they can to restore trust where it may have been lost throughout the country," said Kathleen McChesney, the bishops' new director of Child and Youth Protection.

Most bishops believe the revised policy won't abandon the principle of zero tolerance.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a disciplinary plan when it last met five months ago in Texas. The policy before the group now is a revision negotiated with the Vatican that protects priests' rights and underscores that bishops, not lay people, have the authority to oversee clergy.

Bishops insist the new version maintains their commitment to removing all abusers from church work, but victims' advocates argue the process will be too cumbersome and secretive.

David Clohessy, head of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, worries powerful bishops will continue handling problem priests in secret.

"The fear is that this new policy will make it harder to remove abusive priests and much, much harder to motivate victims to come forward," he told CBS News.

"Substantial change is going to take years," Rev Robert J. Silva of the National Federal Of Priests Councils, told CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan. "Change is possible, but it's not going to be overnight. It's a slow and gradual process."

Whatever plan is adopted this week will stand for at least two years if it wins Vatican approval. Many prelates expect completion of the policy will ease public pressure for reform.

Later in the week, bishops will vote on a spending plan that would allocate nearly $1 million in each of the next two years for addressing abuse. The budget proposal also notes that the bishops conference has spent more than $1 million this year on the crisis.

Victims and lay people had unprecedented access to church leaders at the Dallas gathering, holding private talks with cardinals and addressing the full meeting of bishops. No such discussions have been scheduled this week, although the Survivors' Network said it requested a role.

Since June, public attention has also shifted from a sole focus on helping victims to preserving priests' rights, prompted by criticism that the bishops' original plan violated due process under church law.

The Survivors' Network discussed its criticism of the new plan Friday in a phone call with Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, chosen by the bishops to lead a National Review Board to ensure that dioceses are meeting the new disciplinary standards.

The review board also was meeting Monday, but only the bishops can set policy.

The new plan includes church tribunals to hear the cases of clerics who maintain their innocence and preliminary investigations that bishops will conduct privately to protect the reputation of the accused.

The original policy gave bishops authority to more swiftly oust guilty priests.

The revisions also reinstate the church's statute of limitations on bringing complaints. The alleged victim must come forward by age 28, but bishops still can ask the Vatican for a waiver in special cases.

"We think that the revisions that were insisted upon by Vatican bureaucrats, fundamentally gut the Dallas charter," said Clohessy.

Leaders of the group Voice of the Faithful, which claims 25,000 members, also are in Washington to urge the bishops to restore the power of lay review boards to monitor abuse cases. Under the revised plan, the boards are advisory only.

Peter Isely, a Survivors' Network leader from Milwaukee, said he and other advocates will continue to pressure the church even after the bishops end their meeting Thursday, likely with a national plan in place.

"Catholics are going to stay in this," Isely said. "This is not the end of the story by any means."

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