Work of Review Board Reflected on by Justice

By Rebecca S. Green
South Bend Tribune [Fort Wayne IN]
October 21, 2004

FORT WAYNE -- Illinois Appellate Court Justice Anne Burke Sunday spoke of her work with the National Catholic Lay Review Board here.

The board, established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002, was charged with addressing the clergy abuse scandal.

Burke was in Fort Wayne as a guest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for the annual Red Mass for those in the legal profession at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

After the Mass, 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 Bishop John D'Arcy of the Fort Wayne/South Bend Diocese 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.

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.

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.

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 Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 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.

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.

She said that what has challenged her faith 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 recently after Gregory 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.

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


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