WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' policy barring priests who sexually abuse children from ministerial duties targets "a cause for great sorrow," and the Vatican will likely support the guidelines, the organization's president said Sunday.
"First and foremost, it's a crime," said Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the conference. "They [clergy members] have taken the innocence of a young person, and most likely caused a lifelong path of sorrow for an individual. It's because of that that I don't believe we can risk an individual doing that to another child."
Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Gregory said he thought that the Vatican, which appoints bishops, would cooperate with the guidelines approved Friday.
"I'm as confident as I can be at this time" that the Vatican will back the rules, he said. "I've been in conversation with the officials in the Vatican. We've talked about it. They've seen the draft document. They know the seriousness of the matter. They have expressed their overwhelming desire to assist us."
The Vatican has had no formal comment on the new policy.
In April, Pope John Paul II summoned Roman Catholic cardinals to Rome to discuss the sexual abuse scandal rocking the church. The pontiff condemned the abuse, but the cardinals stopped short of proposing a "zero tolerance" policy toward molesters.
Instead, they recommended the dismissal of a priest "who has become notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory, sexual abuse of minors."
Under the guidelines, approved by 239-13 by the U.S. bishops, Gregory, whose parish is in Belleville, Illinois, said any charge of sexual abuse must first be reported to law enforcement authorities, then to the diocese, which is to cooperate fully with police.
Although each diocese has some flexibility on how to handle the situation, the accused priest will be removed from the parish, stripped of his collar and barred from saying Mass publicly. If a priest admits the abuse or is found guilty of it, he likely will be asked to seek laicization and could be defrocked.
"If a priest admits the abuse, he ... could be defrocked," Gregory said, likening them to disbarred lawyers. "These men cannot present themselves to the public as ministers of the church."
Victims' rights groups have said the guidelines fall short of "zero tolerance", which would have stripped all offending clerics of the priesthood.
Still at issue is the question of homosexual priests. In April, Gregory said Catholicism was in "a struggle to make sure that the Catholic priesthood is not dominated by homosexual men."
On Sunday, Gregory did not clearly denounce gays in the priesthood. "The church must look carefully at the caliber of priests that serve us, the caliber of candidates who enter the priesthood. It's a call for holiness and integrity of life," he said. "We have men who have embraced the promise of celibacy irregardless of their sexual orientation, and they've lived it with integrity."