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Presbyterians adopt stricter abuse policies

Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) formally has adopted constitutional changes aimed at preventing and punishing sexual abuse by the clergy.

The ratification of 11 constitutional changes by presbyteries, or governing bodies, of the Louisville-based denomination comes three years after a report on sexual abuse of children of missionaries at schools in Congo, the church said last week. The new regulations, to become part of the church’s Book of Order on July 3, impose stricter rules for reporting abuse to civil authorities and give accusers more say in the disciplinary process.

In 2002, the 2.4-million-member Protestant denomination documented cases of abuse of children of missionaries in Congo from the 1940s into the 1970s. Most of the abuse was blamed on an American missionary, William Pruitt, who died in 1999 and also was accused of abusing children in the United States.

An investigation is under way into reports of abuse of missionary children in Ethiopia and Cameroon.

While the Roman Catholic Church has received wide attention over abuses by its clergy, the Presbyterian changes are a reflection of how seriously the denomination is taking the issue, said the Rev. Paul Masquelier, vice chairman of the Presbyterian denomination’s General Assembly Council.

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