That’s the assessment of former Governor Frank Keating, who chaired the first National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People. It was created by the Catholic bishops of the United States in 2002 to implement their reform charter and to investigate the scandal. He eventually quit the board in disgust, comparing some bishops to “La Cosa Nostra.”
Today, he’s published a column describing some of his experience on the board—and what needs to be done:
I attended Catholic schools from first grade through college. I never heard of priests molesting or attacking anyone, including me or my classmates. This surely was a smudge. A blemish. It didn’t go deeper than that.
The first meeting of the board was at the governor’s mansion in Oklahoma City. We agreed to hear from a victim or his family so that we would know why we were meeting at all.
Our first witnesses were a middle-aged couple from an adjoining state. They told of their son who was raped and sodomized by a priest. When they had shared their grief, I spoke for the board.“Thank you for coming. We feel for you and hope for you and pray that your son will be fully restored to health.”
“Fully restored to health is it?” the father asked incredulously. His color rose, and he began to shake.
“Our son committed suicide.”
And the slightest of a slight smile crossed the face of Satan.
Months later, a representative of the order priests appeared before us. He spoke for the Franciscans, the Augustinians, the Jesuits and other teaching orders. He brought and placed on the table a pile of booklets, titled “What to do if you are accused of clerical sexual abuse.”
As he spoke and as my board colleagues peppered him with questions, I picked up one of the booklets and began to read.
“Did you write this?” I asked. “Have you read this?” I pressed further. He answered “no” to both questions. “Let me share with you then what it says: ‘If you are accused of sexual abuse, you should calm yourself by taking up woodworking or birdwatching.’ ”
A wide smile brightened the face of Satan.