Keating on Review Board-Bishop Spat

By Joe Feuerherd
National Catholic Reporter
Downloaded May 26, 2004

Last June, facing criticism over his comments comparing the U.S. Catholic hierarchy to the Mafia, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating stepped down as chairman of the National Review Board charged with investigating the clergy sex abuse crisis.

Earlier this week, through its release of correspondence between the bishops and the board, NCR revealed that dozens of bishops want to defer or derail a second round of audits designed to measure diocesan compliance with child protection programs called for in the June 2002 Charter of the Protection of Children and Young People.

The relationship between the board, now chaired by Illinois Justice Anne Burke, and the bishops is, it appears, at a comparable point to that of a year ago.

Keating, speaking from the Washington office of the American Council of Life Insurers where he serves as president, is not surprised.

"These acts of sedition and resistance occurred around this time last year," he recalled. "I know that some were offended by my aggressive rhetoric, but I felt it was necessary because I could see the backsliding early."

"I think that some within the hierarchy have been irked that lay people would be so forward as to suggest to them how to clean up their own Augean stable," said Keating.

"The annual audits were a statement to the Catholic lay people that we will send in CPAs and law enforcement to make sure that you'll do what you said you'll do. For [a bishop] to look down his thin nose and say 'I don't really need to be told what to do' is a terrible blunder because they do need to be told that this is unacceptable and that they need to clean it up themselves with lay guidance and advice."

He continued, "This is not changing the role of the bishop. It's not saying that lay people will determine theology and issues of faith and morals. We have a crime committed here and lay people know how to help clean up criminal conduct. [The bishops] need to appreciate the fact that we are, together, laborers charged with cleaning this up."

Keating complimented the panel he once chaired. "They did yeoman's work and the bishops in Dallas did the right thing in recommending criminal referrals, transparency and zero tolerance. I just wish that some of my fellow board members had seen this earlier rather than later."

Said Keating, "People leave churches because of things like this. If they think their pastor is corrupt, if they think their religious leaders are indifferent to their salvation and only interested in the mortgage payment, they'll leave. I'm a very committed Catholic and this should be an opportunity to recognize evil, root it out, and move forward