Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Bishops, Abuse Board Wrangle over Membership

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Bishops, Abuse Board Wrangle over Membership

Article excerpt


Five seats on the National Review Board, which monitors the bishops' compliance With child sex abuse prevention policies, will be empty by year's end. The process to fill the seats hit a snag in mid-September when the president of the U.S. bishops' conference ignored the wishes of the current board by nominating a woman religious for one of the seats.

"That's a step backward," said Justice Anne M. Burke, the interim head of the review board. A cleric or woman religious has vows of obedience that could lead to pressures by church officials on how the board monitors compliance, she said. "This does diminish the ability to be transparent."

Burke, an Illinois Court of Appeals judge, said the core group of lay people asked to help form the board in 2002 were clear in discussions with bishops' conference president Wilton D. Gregory that the board be composed completely of lay people with wide-ranging expertise in different professions involved in protecting children.

"People in the pews in the U.S. respect us. This needs to continue," she said.

Burke discussed her views in two speeches Sept. 20 at Loyola University in Chicago. She said that some bishops want clergymen to become part of the board. "How much freedom and independence do you think we would have If there were members of the clergy on the board?" she said.

Many bishops support the board, but there are "forces within the hierarchy that are seeking to derail much of what has occurred," she said. Board members often have had to "raise holy hell" to get their points across, added Burke.

Burke is one of the board members who will be replaced. Her term expired in June but she agreed to stay on until a replacement is named.

Burke said that a list of candidates was jointly presented to Gregory by the review board and the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse. …

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