Head of Abuse Panel Blasts Church's 'Code of Silence'

The text of Keating's resignation letter--and Bishop Wilton Gregory's surprising reply

WASHINGTON (June 16, 2003) -- In a hard-hitting letter to Belleville Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating resigned as chair of the bishops' National Review Board, which works with the bishops to enforce recently-adopted sexual abuse policies.

Far from apologizing for the "La Cosa Nostra" comments that prompted his resignation, Keating's letter spells out the governor's dissatisfaction with the bishops' "code of silence." "My remarks, which some bishops found offensive, were deadly accurate," he wrote.

Just as remarkably, Bishop Wilton Gregory responded to the letter by praising Keating, despite severe criticisms of the former Governor from other bishops. Replying to Keating's letter, Gregory wrote that given the magnitude of the sexual abuse crisis, "there were bound to be moments of difficulty. At such times I found you open and responsive to my assessments of the situation."

The text of both letters follows.

Dear Bishop Gregory:

As I have shared with you over the last two months, I intended to relinquish my chairmanship of the National Catholic Review Board on the first year anniversary of the creation of the Board. That time is this week.


During the last year, we accomplished much. Under your leadership and with the bishops' own mandate, we have begun the causes and context, scope and audit processes. The audit is the most significant. Never again will any bishop be able to hide or avoid the scandal of sex abuse in his diocese. As a former FBI agent and U.S. Attorney, I am convinced that pouring law enforcement and audit resources annually into each diocese will reclaim Catholic lay confidence. All of us can be assured of zero tolerance, transparency and criminal referral because outsiders will make sure that that is the case. We also created the Office of Child and Youth Protection, headed by a law enforcement professional. Our message was clear. Sex abuse is not just a moral lapse. It is a crime that should be fully prosecuted.

As I have recently said, and have repeated on several occasions, our Church is a Faith institution. A home to Christ's people. It is not a criminal enterprise. It does not condone and cover up criminal activity. It does not follow a code of silence. My remarks, which some bishops found offensive, were deadly accurate. I make no apology. To resist grand jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending clerics, to deny, to obfuscate, to explain away; that is the model of a criminal organization, not my church.

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