D’Arcy’s Warnings Praised
Local Bishop Earned Trust, Says Member of Abuse Review Board

By Rebecca S. Green
The Journal Gazette [Fort Wayne IN]
October 18, 2004

Illinois Appellate Court Justice Anne Burke is proud of her work with the National Catholic Lay Review Board.

The board was established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 to address the clergy abuse scandal that has plagued the church.

Burke was in Fort Wayne on Sunday as a guest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for the annual Red Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. After the Mass, Burke spoke to about 40 people at a brunch at Grand Wayne Center.

A Roman Catholic Church tradition dating from the 13th century, the Red Mass asks God’s blessing and guidance for those in the legal profession – including lawyers, judges, and elected officials.

About 30 members of the legal or civil government community stood to receive the blessing, offered by Bishop John M. D’Arcy, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

D’Arcy also performed a Red Mass on Sept. 19 at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame for members of the legal community in the South Bend area.

During her speech, Burke shared her perspective on the work that she and the other members of the review board have done for the past two years, after allegations of child sexual abuse at the hands of clergy rocked the church and drew calls for reform.

Burke praised D’Arcy for his early role in addressing clergy sexual abuse while in Boston during the early 1980s.

"No bishop in America has been a more respected or trustworthy leader," Burke said.

If D’Arcy’s warning to the hierarchy in the Boston Archdiocese had been heeded, she said, damage to the lives of many children and the moral outrage directed at the church could have been lessened.

"Their inability to listen to him was truly their unraveling," Burke said.

Burke is especially proud of the establishment of the Office for Child and Youth Protection, and the completion of two studies that examined the scope and nature of abuse within the church.

Burke said she believed their work was underpinned by the grace of God.

Board members came from a variety of geographic backgrounds, and brought with them varied expressions of their Catholic faith, Burke said. But in spite of those differences, they were unified in addressing the sexual abuse scandal, she said.

"I suspect it was pure grace," Burke said, "the mysterious, hovering presence of the Holy Spirit concerned for the welfare of the church."

D’Arcy compared Burke to St. Catherine of Siena, a 14th-century saint known for pleading with Pope Gregory XI to reform the clergy. After her speech Sunday, D’Arcy presented Burke with a biography of St. Catherine of Siena, along with the writings of St. Thomas More, the patron saint of lawyers.

During her tenure, Burke expressed concern about the rumored appointments of clergy or members of religious orders to the lay review board.

She also wrote a frank letter to Gregory in March, addressing fears that the bishops would not commission a second audit to determine how the dioceses were complying with the recommendations of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which was established by the bishops.

"Everybody by then had come together to work on something, and it would all be for naught," she said.

A second audit of the local diocese was recently completed, D’Arcy said.

While some people have been critical of the work the lay review board has done, including victims’ groups who believe that the board is unduly influenced by the bishops, Burke said they must recognize and give credit for the efforts of the board, and the bishops themselves.

Prior to her work on the lay review board, Burke said, she characterized herself as a "passive Catholic," going to church, and expecting priests, bishops, and cardinals to tell her what to do.

But the past few years have changed that, and Burke said she found she has much more faith than she thought.

She said that faith has been the only thing sustaining her during her tenure on the board, and what has challenged it the most was the recalcitrance of some bishops.

"What they asked of us was a hard thing for them," she said. "Some didn’t want that, some wanted to control that."

But she said, in the end, the board was able to stick to its guns, and got good work done.

Burke’s tenure with the lay review board ended Friday after Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, appointed five new members to the board, according to a release from the conference.

Burke stepped down this year on a date she picked early in her tenure, but she agreed to stay on as interim chairman until her replacement was appointed.

In spite of the countless hours spent addressing the crisis and the difficulties of the work, Burke said she would make the same decision to serve on the board.

She said she has been overwhelmed by the quality of the people she served with, by their faith, and the work they did.

"What came out of that was a wonderful work product, what the bishops asked us for," she said.


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