ADELAIDE, Australia (CWN) - Australia's bishops' conference on Tuesday released a draft copy of a new code of clergy conduct that condemns sexual abuse, harassment, and abuse of power by priests and religious in ministry and positions of authority.

      The document, "Integrity in Ministry: A Document of Ethical Standards for Clergy and Religious in Australia," states that its goal is to promote justice and integrity in ministry and aims to protect children and adults from sexual abuse and abuse of power. Father David Cappo, executive officer of the National Committee for Professional Standards of the Catholic Church in Australia, said the code was drafted in response to recent scandals involving clergy. "It's a response to the fact that the credibility of the clergy and religious has been fairly severely tainted over the last few years by the various sex abuse issues in the Church," Father Cappo said. "(The document is) saying very openly that what has gone on in the past is totally inappropriate and is to be condemned."

      Father Cappo said that in having clear guidelines, clergy and religious could protect themselves from false allegations of abuse and make sure their actions did not convey ambiguous messages. "We know what is quite wrong and criminal but there are also gray areas and this document helps to clarify that," Father Cappo said. The standards also cover issues of financial administration, helping clergy and religious to work competently, leadership, and sanctions to be imposed in response to misconduct.

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January 8, 1998 volume 9, no. 6          DAILY CATHOLIC