Cardinal McCarrick: Frank Keating Blew the Whistle a Long Time Ago

Cardinal McCarrick: Frank Keating Blew the Whistle a Long Time Ago July 25, 2018


Governor Frank Keating, 2001. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons public domain.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was prominent in the Church’s response to the clergy sex abuse crisis the United States. That was early days in the crisis. Pope John Paul II was pope, and the Vatican was still sniffing and tutting and dismissing the scandal as an overheated “American problem.” 

Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating was asked to head the lay oversight commission. Governor Keating had been an FBI agent, and was a former state senator who served with me the first time I was in office. He was also a former federal prosecutor and the governor of Oklahoma during the Oklahoma City bombing. 

Senator Keating was the senate author of my first bill, which was an explosively controversial piece of legislation that made it illegal for a man to rape his wife. Back then, and in that boy legislature, passing a bill making it a crime for a man to rape his wife was the near equivalent of passing a resolution memorializing Satan. 

It’s always difficult to pass legislation opposing sexual assault and rape, because legislative bodies are, to this day, largely male. There are exceptions, but groups of men tend to unite against rape victims and victims of sexual assault. Even good men who would never harm a woman themselves, even fathers of daughters, will go with the boys on this. They identify with the rapist rather than their own wives, daughters, mothers, sisters and friends. 

Passing a bill that made it a crime to rape your own wife was an unheard event. It was  “radical” feminism in a world that, like the male-controlled Catholic Church, equates feminism with something repugnant and vile.  

I got hate mail and lots of ugly calls, including some threats, from really sleazy men. I also found that not one single senator was willing to author the bill. 

I was new on the job, and I had made a newby mistake by passing the bill through the House (how I accomplished that is the topic for another column) without a senate author. Today there are House rules that stop House members from making that mistake, but back then, it could happen. 

Normally a senator who opposed the bill — which would have been almost all of them — would have authored the bill to “take control of it.” He would then have killed it in the senate. 

I got lucky because none of them wanted to put their name on a bill making it illegal for a man to rape his wife, not even to kill it. That left the bill, floating around in senate limbo during the three-day window I had to find a senate author. 

Senator Keating saved me and the bill. I asked him if he would be my senate author. I still remember what happened next. He smiled at me and said, “Of course I’ll help you. What you’re doing is right. It needs to be done.” 

He was a great guy to work with; kind, helpful, willing to teach me how to pass bills, and committed to pushing the bill through to law. I quickly learned that this man was just as committed to helping victims of sexual assault as I was. He was for-real on the issues of sexual assault and rape. He got it. 

Senator Keating went on to be a federal prosecutor and a two-term Governor of Oklahoma. Then, he was asked to be the first director of the Church lay oversight committee on the clergy sex abuse scandal. 

If ever there was a marriage NOT made in heaven, it would be former Governor Keating and the bishops. It was obvious to anyone with half a brain that a good number of these bishops were guilty of extensive criminal behavior, and that they almost had to be sexual predators of some sort themselves. Normal moral people can’t do what they did and live with themselves afterwards. Someone who is really a Christian wouldn’t have been able to keep on harming children like this. The Holy Spirit would have convicted them of their sin and they would have had to stop. 

The fact that they had kept on and on and on, doing this to children, and were so completely arrogant and unrepentant, said it all. At least some of the bishops were hardened sexual predators who gave every evidence of being sociopaths. That was obvious from the facts. 

Needless to say, the whole thing blew up. Before long, Governor Keating had resigned his position, declaring that the bishops behaved “like Cosa Nostra.” 

Here is what he said in his resignation letter:

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.

Church officials, and several of the people who served on the committee with Governor Keating denied his charges. Evidently, Cardinal Mahoney, who later came into his own problems, was outraged by Keating’s statements. 

As for me, I believed Governor Keating from the get-go. 

First, I know the man. I knew that Frank Keating was genuine in his support for victims of sexual assault and rape. I also knew that he loved the Catholic Church with his whole heart. 

Second, I had been reading the testimony out of Boston, as well as following the reactions of the bishops. It seemed obvious to me that some of the bishops were very bad men whose indifference to sexual predation was only exceeded by their arrogance. They weren’t just criminals; they were cruel. 

As I said, this was early days in the clergy sex abuse crisis. I think a lot of people believed that it would be a self-limiting crisis; that we’d get to the bottom of the barrel of bad fish, expel them from the clerical ranks, change a few procedures, twist a couple of legal knobs, and the whole thing would fade into history. 

But those suppositions didn’t deal with the realities of sexual abuse, rape and a true understanding of power. We haven’t gotten to the point that we’ve faced the truth of what we’re dealing with, even now, after all these years. 

The sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church has become a sore that won’t heal, a bowl of soup that won’t empty, an unending series of revelations and betrayals that slash across the claims that the priesthood makes about itself like a knife. The latest installment is, of course, the revelation that none other than Cardinal Theodore McCarrick himself is a sexual predator, and that lots of people inside the Church knew it for a very long time. 

It would have been a lot easier on all of us if we’d just believed Frank Keating, back in the day. I can say that because I did believe him. I knew he was telling the truth. 

When the stories about Cardinal McCarrick began to surface — and they began coming out years ago — all I thought was uh-huh. That figures. Now that it’s finally reached the point that the dam is breaking and it’s all coming out, I, for one, am not any more scandalized than I was back in 2002. 

I’m glad this is coming out. I’m glad that Frank Keating is finally getting his vindication for doing the right thing. I see far more hope in the fact that we’re hearing about all this than I ever did in the covering up and letting it go. 

I hope and pray that the victims of sexual abuse from priests feel at least a bit of vindication in this, as well. Some of the most damaging things that we can do to people who’ve been raped, tortured, slimed and dehumanized by sexual predators is to minimize what has happened, blame them for it, or disbelieve them. 

The Church has done all those things to victims. It has been anything but pastoral in its treatment of Jesus’ lambs. There is still today a real need for a literal come to Jesus in the Church regarding sexual assault and rape. 


Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

20 responses to “Cardinal McCarrick: Frank Keating Blew the Whistle a Long Time Ago”

  1. Pope Francis promises an Abuse Tribunal, then caves.
    Marie Collins resigns; Pope Francis is silent.
    Cardinal Law is given a funeral mass at the Vatican with full honors and Pope Francis’ participation.
    Pope Francis calls abuse victims in Chile liars, and then realizing he has stepped in a big pile, lets the bishops in Chile take the fall.
    Pope Francis appoints Ladaria head of CDF and elevates him to Cardinal, even though Ladaria has been accused of abuse cover-up in France.
    It is clear that the decision makers in the Church have opted for the “smaller, holier Church” strategy, with Pope Francis’ happy-talk buying them time.

  2. I just now looked at it. I’m offline quite a bit, so it can take a while. That’s all that happened.

  3. I apologize. I am not familiar with the procedure here and leaped to the wrong conclusion.

  4. And I’m not any more scandalized than I was in 1989, when a favorite priest was accused by the younger brother of one of my friends.

    A priest for whom a decade and a half later, just after he retired, his case was one of the ones that led to the bankruptcy of the Archdiocese of Portland. I still have problems believing it. I took my wife to him for RCIA, he officiated at my marriage, I have poem by him hanging on the wall of my home.

    I was one of the ones who disbelieved back in the day.

    And that is why I say what is really needed is a decrease in clericalism (not the INCREASE in clericalism favored by the women’s ordination movement, that just moves the goalposts) and an increase in public penance for preachers on any sin confessed.

    For one, if we had priests and bishops publicly repenting of sin, it might bring more people back to the confessional as they see that it isn’t just this holier-than-thou guy who you’re afraid to go to confession to because you’re afraid your sins are too bad to get absolution.

    But on another level- if we had public repentance for sin, then these sins couldn’t be hidden, and we could get repeat offenders the help they need to stay away from temptation.

  5. It is by our human nature that our world is inhabited with sinners and will continue to do so until Jesus returns to enforce either His mercy or His justice upon us. Unfortunately, our Church leaders are not exempt from the effects of sin. As members of the Body of Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, we must persevere to fight injustice and unite our prayers for the victims of sexual violence, and especially for those who commit acts of violence. May our Lord hear and answer our prayers until we are united with Him in heaven!

  6. Well I’m scandalized. I can’t believe bishops do this and/or protect each other. This is a disgrace. There will be a terrible place in hell for them.

    I remember Keating. He was so well thought of in Republican circles. Wasn’t he mentioned as a possible VP for one of the presidential candidates? I thought he’d be a good presidential candidate. What’s he doing these days? Retired?

  7. I wonder why, when good people write articles like this, that they never mention the elephant in the room – rampant homosexuality among the clergy. Instead, they refer to ambiguous things like “sexual abuse” “breach of celibacy” or something else that makes it very hard to know or understand that the whole problem is homosexuals in the priesthood. I keep reading articles about McCarrick that never mention that he engaged in homosexual conduct, only that he “abused” people. Sooner or later, folks, we are going to have to address this directly, and not dance around it. Or else we will end up after another 20 years in the same place.

  8. While the phenomena of Catholic clergy molesting young men and boys and then finding a haven of cover-up among other Catholic clergy, in particular bishops, may very well be connected to the high numbers of homosexuals in the priesthood, it does not follow that all homosexuals are child molesters or that heterosexual men do not engage in predatory sexual behavior including child molesting.

    We recently had a candidate for the United States Senate who had a large number of women come forward to say that he had molested them while they were minors. The women’s testimony was dismissed out of hand by a large political machine and any number of high-profile Christian religious leaders stepped forward to attack the victims and to speak up on behalf of the child molester.

    All sorts of people took refuge in the specious claim that they didn’t believe the women so that they would not have to admit that they simply chose to ignore and enable a child molester … just like the bishops. This had nothing to do with homosexuality and everything to do with power politics, and misogyny.

    Sexual assault and the boys’ club mentality is not confined to either homosexuals or the Catholic bishops..

    What is unique is that the Catholic bishops claim they speak for God. Their behavior vis a vis sexual predation raises legitimate questions about this claim. It delegitimizes a lot of what the Catholic priesthood says about itself.

  9. I agree with you on everything but the funeral. Cardinal Law deserved a funeral Mass just like anyone else. And by most standards, it actually was low key.

    But I do think for those living in the “here and now”, Papa has made some puzzling decisions in this regard. Let’s not forget both Daneels and McCarrick were essentially put out to pasture by Benedict and then brought back to exert considerable influence in the selection and assignment of current bishops. And the Church no longer can fall back on the excuse that we didn’t know how to properly handle these guys in terms of possible rehabilitation because we are way past the 70s and 80s when there was still a belief by society that these problems could be fixed with counseling.

    And Cardinal O’Malley seems to be passing the buck as well given his staff had a letter of concern about McCarrick delivered to them that was returned because they believed they had no jurisdiction in the matter. He wants “guidance” from the Vatican. Here’s some free advice. If someone comes to you as a senior Cardinal in your country with allegations of abuse by another Cardinal or Bishop in your country, RUN IT TO GROUND! Do we really need the Vatican to spell that out?

    The only silver lining is that while I think there are some folks for which this scandal is causing despair, I see strong Catholics simply wanting to fix it and work towards getting Bishops who knew about this removed. Cupich, Tobin, Farrell, O’Malley and Wuerl all have some serious questions to answer. And I think Papa is now but a “caretaker” from here on out given everything you have outlined. Pray for him and pray for a successor who has the temperament to clean house.

  10. You are correct, Samton909. Even Frank Keatings report on the abuse among clerics indicated that over 80% of the cases of abuse were those committed by homosexual clergy against young boys/men. But there is a “gay network” within the Church’s hierarchy. This article by Rod Dreher states this fact: From Richard Sipe, psychologist: “One disturbing facet of this willingness to overlook serious sexual sin, say a number of priests and seminarians, is the existence of a discreet but powerful homosexual network within seminaries and chanceries. A. W. Richard Sipe, a psychiatrist and former Benedictine monk who has treated scores of sexually abusive priests and has written extensively about the phenomenon, says that the reality of the gay network is well known to clerics and others closely familiar with the workings of the Catholic Church, though difficult to prove from public sources.

    “I’ve reviewed over 100 cases of sexual abuse by priests. In there you get the documentation, which unfortunately often gets sealed by the Church after they settle the cases,” says Sipe, who is an expert witness in abuse cases. “It’s very clear that you can trace [the network], one person to another, through a sequence of appointments, the sequence of who follows whom in what position, and how they got there. It is a fact, and nobody can sincerely deny it.” A typical pattern involves a priest becoming sexually involved with a seminarian or younger cleric, and then the junior man following his elder up the diocesan hierarchy. Sipe and others interviewed say this “bond of secrecy” introduces the possibility of blackmail: Those in positions of authority are prevented from acting against others because they themselves are compromised. It’s a form of mutually assured destruction.”

  11. When I read about the dirty behaviour of the clergy and that too at higher levels, as. Catholic, I feel ashamed and sad and even rebellious. I do not say all are saints. But the planned,calculated sexual predations many times and for long periods are from the devils. They had never confessed; they preach from the pulpits about the goodness of a good confession. They said Mass and supposed to have eaten the flesh and drunk the blood of Christ but with no faith at all. Another ununderstandable thing is that they are in the good books of authorities and got promotions as bishop,Archbishops and cardinals. Are the authorities too guilty. Then whom can we the poor faithful believe? ONLYCHRIST ?
    I may be wrong if I say that some physical handling like in South American countries may be considered useful and good ! We will not dare because we have faith in the fundamentals of our Holy Church.

  12. Dirty behaviour is rampant throughout society and we all fall short in terms of sins at one time or another

  13. No, no and no.

    Priests abuse both boys and girls, but abuse of girls doesn’t get much press. (There are probably interesting reasons for that, but that’s for another day.) There are already rumblings that the next shoe to drop is systematic sexual assault of nuns by priests.

    This has nothing whatsoever to do with homosexuality.

    The priesthood may have more predators than the population at large due to self selection. Being a priest afforded easy access to victims coupled with societal respect and deference, so predators found that combination attractive.

    Most predators are heterosexual because most people are heterosexual.

  14. The facts show that yes, a percentage of victims of priest sex abuse are female, but that a preponderance of the victims of male. This is reversed in the larger population. Sexual predators are mostly MALE, but they can be either homosexual or heterosexual. In the priesthood, the predators are homosexual by a large majority. Facts are facts are facts.

  15. Yes, I don’t think we disagree on this topic at all.

    You quoted stats that 20% of victims of priests are female, yet it seems that pretty much 100% of the reporting is about male victims. There are probably reasons for both the stat and the failure of anyone to care about female victims, but that’s beside the point.

    If there are more abusers in the priesthood than the average population, it is because abusers saw the priesthood as a place they could operate with little interference and so self selected that job. Likewise, on average, people who abuse children are more likely to be school teachers and scout leaders than actuaries and wine tasters. They gravitate to where their victims are.

    All of the attempts to limit the problem to “those people over there” have failed. This was not a Boston problem, or an American problem, or a catholic problem or a gay problem. This is a problem with a small percentage of individual human beings, compounded by human institutions that protect the group and powerful insiders at the expense of weak and vulnerable outsiders. Penn State coaches protected their own. Many Police Departments protect their own. Corporations protect their own. The Catholic church, Southern Baptists and devout Jews all protect their own.

    If there is a problem with abusive gay priests in the catholic priesthood, it is only because people who happened to be abusive and gay saw the priesthood as a good place to operate. The hierarchy’s williness to overlook and shield abuse likely contributed to making the priesthood look appealing, but this is not just a catholic problem. The vast majority of gay people are not abusers, just as the vast majority of straight people, catholics, baptists and butterfly collectors are not abusers.

    The solution is fresh air and the light of day.

  16. I agree that a lot of people tend to regard the sexual abuse of little girls as more “normal” than the sexual abuse of little boys. I think this is kith and kin with the easy way they dismiss sexual assault and child molesting of women and girls when it is committed by powerful male politicians. It’s a particularly amoral and vicious manifestation of misogyny.

Close Ad