As a justice on the Illinois Supreme Court, Anne Burke sifts through facts to look for the truth. Sadly, truth was in short supply when she served on the bishops' National Review Board investigating sex abuse.
"Truthfulness was always one virtue that was the hardest to wring out of the institution during our investigation," she told the national conference of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests this morning in Chicago. "Truth itself was the victim everywhere we turned."
While Burke is well known in the U.S. church for speaking out about the ineffectiveness of the church response to sex abuse, apparently she is not as well known in the Vatican. When the recent scandals erupted in Ireland, Burke wrote to Pope Benedict XVI offering her assistance. She recently received a response from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, saying he had forwarded her name to the attorney defending the Vatican in the U.S. civil trial.
"That was not the kind of help I was offering!" she told the SNAP members, many of whom are victims of clergy sexual abuse themselves.
While the institutional church seems preoccupied with safeguarding Truth with a capital "T," Burke believes the church would benefit from some small-"T" truth.
"We live in precarious times, not just become of terrorism, global warming, the economy, or urban street crime, but because of a steady loss of confidence in the truthfulness of our church," she said.
"Truthfulness both as a virtue and gift of the Spirit is the only way out of all of the troubles the church faces" including sexual abuse, pastors who cook the books, falling numbers of Mass-goers, dwindling vocations, closure of parishes and the treatment of women, she said. "Truthfulness, small 'T,' is the future of the church."
Following are the reports she filed during the conference: