Catholic Bishops Approve Sex Abuse Audits

DENVER -- The United States' Roman Catholic bishops, overcoming earlier protests from some church leaders, said Tuesday that they have overwhelmingly approved a second round of audits to measure how well U.S. dioceses are implementing policies aimed at preventing sex abuse.

The decision was made during the bishops' closed-door spiritual retreat this week in suburban Denver, where time was set aside to address the clergy sex abuse crisis and, separately, withholding Holy Communion from Catholic lawmakers at odds with church teachings.

The audit vote was 207 to 14, with one abstention, according to a news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Victim advocates and lay reformers had criticized the bishops for discussing the scandal in private, and questioned whether the resistance to more audits meant church leaders were abandoning reforms.

Several bishops, however, had insisted that they remained committed to their toughened stance. The first round of audits last year found that 90 percent of dioceses were in compliance with the discipline policy the bishops required two years ago at the height of the abuse crisis. Four of the 195 U.S. dioceses were not audited for various reasons.

In Denver, the bishops also authorized a third study, looking further at the psychological and sexual aspects of the crisis. Two studies, including one on the scope of the scandal, were released in February.

* TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A key investigator in the espionage case against a Syrian American translator at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been charged with raping and sodomizing children, officials said Tuesday. The charges against Air Force Sgt. Marc Palmosina were made public during a pretrial hearing for Senior Airman Ahmad I. Halabi, who is accused of carrying jail maps, letters and other documents from Guantanamo, where he worked as an Arabic translator with suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters who are being held there. Palmosina, who oversaw the Halabi probe, was charged May 26 with raping and sodomizing children, some as young as 11, on numerous occasions, and with mishandling classified documents.

* HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. -- A school board member who plagiarized a graduation speech that drew life lessons from the movie "Titanic" will not be punished, the rest of the board decided in a unanimous vote. Keith Cook, 61, resigned as board chairman last week after a newspaper revealed he plagiarized a speech he gave in May at Orange High School. The speech was nearly identical to one given in 1998 by Donna E. Shalala, then secretary of health and human services.

* CONCORD, N.H. -- New Hampshire Attorney General Peter Heed, 52, resigned amid allegations that he behaved inappropriately toward a female state employee during a conference on domestic violence last month. Three weeks ago, a judge was suspended when several women at the three-day conference accused him of groping them.

* NEW ORLEANS -- Louisiana residents and businesses raised $175,000 in a week so 3,000 National Guard soldiers from the state could take a trip home before heading to Iraq for more than a year. "I'm ecstatic," said Brandi Bordelon, whose husband, Bryan, is a member of Louisiana's 256th Infantry Brigade, which has been training in Texas since April. "It will be very nice to see him one last time before he has to go."

-- From News Services