Saturday, April 24, 2010

Judging priests: Papal purgatory

Judging priests: Papal purgatory

April 23, 2010

BY MICHAEL SNEED Sun-Times Columnist
Advise and consent?

• The situation: Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, an old friend who was once a leading female lay member of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, has some advice for Pope Benedict XVI, who is dealing with bishops who protected pedophile priests.

• Burke's advice: Fire 'em all!

• The upshot: Justice Burke, who once headed the lay review board of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops investigating sexual clergy abuse, has been angered by the snail's pace used by the American bishops dealing with the church's nightmare crisis.

"If I were asked by the pope what I think needs to be done, I would suggest that the bishops who permitted the transference of priests accused of child sexual abuse be forced to step down!"

"The pope is the only one who can fire them! The cardinal in Ireland just got it right. He forced four bishops to resign! A fraternal correction must take place!

• Sneed's shot: What if the pope is found to have also participated in the transfers? Should he also resign?

• Burke's retort: "No. He's the only one who can do this. The real world has finally come to the Vatican. He now has all the facts. He now has to act on the information. It is his duty to lead the church out of this darkness. I personally met him in 2004 when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger -- and we talked about these issues and he was one of the first members of the church hierarchy that truly listened to the national review board!"

• A sure shot? Justice Burke also suggested the pope "make a formal admission and apology on behalf of all the hierarchy [bishops] of the Catholic Church for the way they have acted and responded to the sexual abuse crisis both past and present."

• The buckshot: "Here in the United States NOT one bishop has resigned willingly since Boston's Bernard Cardinal Law, who permitted one of the nation's most active pedophile priests, John Geoghan, to continue molesting minors. Cardinal Law knew what was happening and kept transferring Father Geoghan to molest again. According to our lay board review reports, there were 10,000 victims of child sexual abuse by priests in the United States we are aware of! Cardinal Law left for Rome on the heels of the law seeking grand jury testimony for the massive cover-up. He resigned once he got to Rome and received one of the best posts as head of a major basilica -- and became a member of the Vatican office mandated to appoint new bishops and correcting misconduct. It was like the rooster watching the hen house! This all happened under the late pope. It's outrageous! He needs to be removed from any position of authority!"

• The final shot: Justice Burke believes the future of the church involves empowering lay people. "We need to be involved in helping run the Catholic Church. This is Christ's church and we all have a responsibility to participate in the administration of the church, which does not need to be involved in cover-up and secrecy.

"The pope should appoint members of the lay community to help him formulate a protocol preventing this from happening again. The underlying reasons why anyone would abuse a child is another matter, but transferring priests who continued to abuse again is a crime.

"This must never happen again!"

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