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Priest who sexually abuse adults to be punished

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican is cracking down on priests who sexually abuse mentally impaired adults, sanctioning them with the same set of punishments meted out for clerics who rape and molest children, The Associated Press has learned.

A church source close to the Vatican told the AP yesterday that a soon-to-be-released Vatican document on handling clerical abuse of minors younger than 18 would also refer to adults with an "imperfect use of reason." Such particularly vulnerable victims will now have their cases handled directly by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under a special set of norms that can result in a priest being quickly defrocked without a canonical trial.

The instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will be the first major document to be published since the clerical abuse scandal erupted earlier this year with hundreds of new cases coming to light of priests who molested children, bishops who covered up for them and Vatican officials who turned a blind eye for decades.

The church's internal justice system for dealing with abuse allegations has come under attack because of claims by victims that their accusations were long ignored by bishops.

The new document is unlikely to appease abuse victims, who have called for a sweeping, "one strike and you're out" policy. But the reference to priests who abuse mentally impaired adults drew cautious praise from the main U.S. victims' group, the Survivors' Network for Those Abused by Priests. - AP

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