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Equality for women will be topic at Catholic bishops' conference

THE BALTIMORE SUN

NEW YORK -- In their first meeting since Pope John Paul II "definitively" ruled out the possibility of female ordination, the nation's Roman Catholic bishops are convening in Washington tomorrow for discussions on promoting church leadership and equality for women.

Similar issues will confront the members of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in debates on the use of inclusive -- "gender-neutral" -- language in certain parts of the liturgy, an area in which past efforts have been stymied by the Vatican and by some clerics in the United States.

The four-day meeting, which includes representatives from the United States Catholic Conference, the bishops' social policy arm, will also feature discussion of a statement on violence, the presentation of a revised guidebook for Catholic health care providers, and the first report by the Ad-Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse.

The committee's report will make some two dozen recommendations to improve local policies across the United States on handling allegations of sexual abuse by clergy and church employees or volunteers. The report will note that the church should adopt an active rather than defensive response to victims.

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