Former bishops' review board head laments lack of progress

There has been considerable buzz in the Catholic blogosphere in the past couple days since Justice Anne Burke, former Chairperson of the U.S. Bishops' National Review Board on sex abuse wrote an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune (and a similar piece in U.S. Catholic) in which she laments that "little has changed" since 2002 in the child abuse mess.

You might remember that Burke succeeded Gov. Frank Keating, an Oklohoma Republican, to the board chair. He resigned in frustration indicating to the press that the behavior of the bishops was worse than his experience with Mafia leaders when he had been a Federal prosecutor.

Writes Burke:

The bishops say they responded to this scandal, and hold up as evidence the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which they put into motion back in 2002. I do not denigrate that historic step. It did a lot to make children safer in our Catholic institutions. It permitted the National Review Board the opportunity to examine the causes and effects of the scandal.

But the news that more than 24 active priests in Philadelphia face abuse accusations, and that some were allowed to remain in active ministry after accusations were made against them years ago, raises new fears.

For me, these are much more than institutional nightmares. This makes me wonder what kind of people we are dealing with when we engage the bishops. How is it that they say one thing and secretly intend something else? Are they ever to be trusted?

The lack of accountability by the bishops to the laity - to the faithful who make up 99 percent of the church - continues to be more than disturbing. It is driving the faithful from their belief in the leadership of the church so dear to them.

To point this out is not "destroy the church," as some seemingly mindless critics of those who insist on holding the hierarchy accountable sometimes express. It is to point out the obvious. It is to speak out through tears of pain.

Burke is a faithful Catholic. She is a mother, a grandmother and Justice on the Supreme Court of Illinois. She has professional experience in child welfare matters. As a young woman she was a founder of the Special Olympics.

This is no renigade. Is someone listening here?

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