Illinois Supreme Court Justice and and former interim chairwoman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops National Review Board Anne Burke, commenting on the wrenching Philadelphia story, asks some hard questions today about the U.S. bishops and the church's continuing crisis:
It appears that even after years of investigation of child abuse by priests, the cover-up of that abuse has been further institutionalized. Some of the alleged crimes in Philadelphia transpired while the National Review Board of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, on which I served, was trying to get to the truth of the scandal. The indicted monsignor is accused of turning a blind eye to things in his chancery office. Of course, to blame a clerical official, and not his archbishop, of such deviousness presents a mistaken analysis of how the church works.
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?
I remember the sometimes vicious response some members of the church hierarchy gave to the National Review Board when we were doing our work some years ago. Cardinal Edward Egan, the former archbishop of New York, actually wanted to ban us from his fiefdom, as if we were coming from some rival kingdom to challenge his rule.
All the events of our investigation and audit get colored with new meaning in light of the charges in Philadelphia. Little has changed.