Cardinal May Ask Vatican to Defrock Shot Priest

Cardinal William Keeler said he was considering asking the Vatican to defrock a priest who was shot by a man who claimed the priest had abused him years earlier.

The announcement Tuesday came as Keeler publicly urged the U.S. Conference of Bishops to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for priests who face substantiated claims of child sexual abuse.

The Conference of Bishops will vote next week on a proposed new sexual abuse policy. Under the proposal, priests who have been accused once of child molestation in the past could be allowed to return to their ministry if approved by a review board, comprised mostly of lay people. Keeler said he does not support that position.

"It's a path we tried to follow here some years ago, and we found that it did not work," he said.

Dontee Stokes, 26, told police he shot the Rev. Maurice J. Blackwell three times on May 13 because he had been abused by Blackwell years earlier. Blackwell was removed from the pulpit in 1998, when another alleged victim came forward, but he remains a priest.

Defrocking would formally push Blackwell out of the priesthood.

Keeler met last week with Stokes and said he apologized to him "for the pain that he has suffered." He also told Stokes he would try to enact the new policy at the bishops' conference in Dallas.