Catholic Bishops Shoot Themselves in the Foot--Again

Despite everything that's happened, they still hide behind legalisms when their only salvation is transparency.

BY: Andrew Greely


June 22, 2003--It's obvious that former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating was a loose cannon on the committee that is supposed to supervise the compliance of the Catholic hierarchy with the Dallas Charter it enacted a year ago. It is understandable that he was shocked to discover the narrow and rigid defense mechanisms from civil and canon law behind which they try to hide the truth of the sex abuse mess and protect their own power and authority. Yet, as a politician he should have realized that his many outbursts against the bishops might weaken the work of the commission.

Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that some of the bishops managed to get themselves into a position where they appear to have driven Keating off the committee. One more cover-up, people are saying; one more abuse of power. It would appear, in fact, that the other members of the committee thought the governor was impeding their work. However, given the image some of the bishops have created for themselves, the Keating affair looks like one more dumb move by men determined to hold onto their illusion of power, no matter what the cost to their credibility.

Why did the bishops have to shoot themselves in the foot once again, especially with their annual meeting one year after Dallas about to happen? Why create a chance for another feeding frenzy?

While he may have been impolitic in comparing the bishops to the Mafia, Keating was not, as the Irish would say, all that far from wrong. Many of the bishops are still determined to hide as much as they can of the criminal behavior of some of their priests. Despite everything that has happened, they still hide behind legalisms (canonical and civil) when their only salvation lies in transparency.

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