Mafia Remark Inflames Mahony-Keating Feud

By Daniel J. Wakin
The New York Times
Downloaded June 14, 2003

A remark comparing some Catholic Church officials to the Mafia by former Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma, who is leading a national review board looking into the priest sexual-abuse scandal, has infuriated members of his panel and prompted some to consider asking him to resign.

The published comments led to a sharp response from Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles, who was also the object of Keating's criticism. Board members say the public acrimony between the two is threatening to become a debilitating distraction from the board's work.

"The language on the part of Governor Keating is extremely unhelpful," said Jane Chiles, a board member and former director of the Kentucky State Catholic Conference and a member of the Catholic Hospital Association. "I would wish that the two of them could somehow have a civil conversation, but we may be past that point."

Keating said in an interview published this week that Mahony was an example of bishops who were resisting providing the panel with complete information about the extent of the abuse of minors by priests. He said unnamed members of the church's hierarchy were acting "like La Cosa Nostra" in failing to live up to their commitment of openness.

The timing was particularly unfortunate, Chiles said, coming days before next week's meeting of the nation's bishops in St. Louis.

When asked whether Keating should resign, she said: "That's a decision we hope to achieve consensus around with all of the board. We are having a conversation around this particular dilemma right now -- the PR nightmare of our chair and one of the cardinals of the Church duking it out in public."

Two other board members, who spoke on condition they not be named, confirmed that the feeling was strong among members that the governor should consider stepping aside. One of the two said that "of course" Keating should resign. The other said: "What he did was way over the line, and it gets in the way of our work. We can't allow this to interfere with what we're doing."

A spokesman said Keating was traveling Friday and was unavailable for comment, but said he stood by his comments.


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