Withholding Informationfrom Review Boards Showslack of Transparency

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
August 14, 2008

Two new disclosures in court records cast further aspersions on Bishop Wilton Gregory, who led America's bishops during the high-profile years of the Catholic church's ongoing child sex abuse and cover-up scandal ("Sex abuse panel lacked key data, member reports," Aug. 9)

While head of the Belleville Diocese, Bishop Gregory won praise in 1993 for setting up a review board to look at allegations against abusive clerics. The trouble is that the former head of that panel now has testified that no information about pedophile priests prior to 1993 was given to board members. She also testified that Bishop Gregory and his staff never brought child molestation reports against the Rev. Raymond Kownacki to the board in 1994.

This is further proof of what we've long said: These hand-picked abuse panels often get no information, little information or biased information from church officials. So they end up functioning more as a public relations tool than an investigative tool.

As president of the U.S. Bishops Conference in 2002, Bishop Gregory repeatedly promised to be open and transparent about clergy sex abuse. Yet just two years later, he was found in contempt of court for refusing to turn over documents in a civil child molestation case. And in 2006, newspapers disclosed that an admitted predator priest quietly moved into the Belleville Diocese four years earlier at the very same time Bishop Gregory was touring the nation and pledging reforms. He has yet to explain his own continuing secrecy surrounding this move.

As more cases come forward and depositions are taken and documents are disclosed, it increasingly seems as though Bishop Gregory's well-crafted public image of reform is just that: a well-crafted image.


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