Cardinal George Says Church Not Reneging on Reform

By Jay Levine
CBS 2 [Chicago IL]
April 30, 2004

CHICAGO (CBS 2) Francis Cardinal George is reacting to allegations by the Chicagoan who heads the Church's National Review Board. Justice Anne Burke claims Catholic Bishops are breaking their promise to push for major reform following the church sex abuse crisis.

The bishops say they are not reneging on reform. But they've already blocked the start on a second nationwide audit of their programs to protect children. And some believe they want to do away with the National Review Board they themselves appointed.

Chicago's Francis Cardinal George has been among those trying to resolve the impasse between the bishops and the review board.

"The bishops remain committed to protecting children and to reaching out to victims and to being fair to accused priests," Cardinal George said.

The trouble started right after the board issued its February report on the history of sexual misconduct by priests. Bishops, including New York's Edward Cardinal Egan, sought to block this year's audit "until after the matter has been discussed by all of the bishops in November."

"The conclusion would be is it's an effort that maybe wasn't heartfelt. To be serious about this charter and protecting children," Burke said.

Cardinal George was not part of that effort, but says he understands those who were.

Father Andrew Greeley, best-selling author and a priest for 50 years says bishops have thin skins.

"Lay people don't criticize bishops, not lay people who are supposed to be on their staff," Greeley said.

But that board was supposed to be independent. They were supposed to be allowed to do that. That was how they were to restore credibility.

"That's the whole issue. If they want their credibility back, they better stick with this board and don't mess with it," Greeley said.

Eugene Kennedy, the former priest and biographer of the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, believes the effort to delay the audit is just a start.

"This is a full court press to eliminate this commission, to bury their work to put it behind them. To use it to say they have done it and to have it have virtually no consequences," Kennedy said.

All of which leaves Burke, who'll soon leave the review after nearly two years, somewhat disillusioned, to say the least.

"I'm very disappointed in many of the bishops. Why? Because they didn't mean what they said. Going forward and protecting children and that this would never happen again. There would be no more victims," Burke said.

This is tough talk from Burke, who pressured the audit onto the agenda of the bishops meeting in June, rather than November.

But Burke says if the bishops start meddling with the audit, when it's done and how it's done, they run the risk of producing a report that is not really independent and therefore has no credibility.


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