Governor Frank Keating's Resignation

By Thomas P. Doyle
June 17, 2003

The National Review Board established by the Catholic Bishops of the United States has had a rocky history, in spite of the semi-glowing comments of some of its members. Probably the most important and decisive event in the board's short history happened with the resignation of the chairman, Governor Frank Keating. Governor Keating had the insight to cut through the mountains of clericalist rhetoric within which has been wrapped the complex defense mechanism of the organizational church. He not only saw the obstructionism for what it really is, but he had the courage to publicly "name it."

The clergy sex abuse nightmare is about crime, two kinds to be exact. The first kind is the sexual abuse of children, adolescents and adults by clerics. That's a felony in every State in the union and brings significant jail time for most people guilty of it. The second kind has been the cover-up and multi-faceted bungling by the Catholic church's leadership, notably the bishops. The Review Board was set up as a defensive response by the bishops to help them regain their own waning credibility. Its secondary purpose appears to have been taking a look at the causes of the sex abuse scandal. Governor Keating didn't see it that way. He had it the other way around. Take a long, hard, honest look at the causes...from the top on down, do something about it and maybe the credibility would start to come to life again.

Governor Keating said publicly what thousands have been saying privately for years. He is not an amateur. He is a seasoned law enforcement officer, politician and obviously a devoted Catholic who has a clear and accurate vision of what the church really is.....not and entity that begins and ends with the hierarchical bureaucracy, but the People of God. Whether or not he got that from Vatican II is beside the point. He's on point in his theology and in his assessment of the state of the sex abuse saga.

Governor Keating's courage and insight are a major moment in the life of the Board because it says that at least one member has seen through the smoke screen. Furthermore, the governor is quite obviously not infected with the clericalist virus that manifests itself in a number of ways, not the least of which is timidity and fear in the face of bishops. Some of the other board members scrambled to distance themselves from the governor, criticize his directness and probably save their seats on the board. One bishop stated that the board is not about an individual calling attention to himself.

What nonsense! The ecclesiastical system will no doubt respond to the governor just as it has to others who have cut through the wall of obfuscation and called the mess for what it subtle or not-so-subtle personal attacks. There is not longer any room for the luxury of politically and diplomatically correct rhetoric. The victims and survivors and

indeed the entire Catholic culture have waited too long and been deceived and misled way too much. This is about serious crime and not saving face. Governor Keating figured it out. His forthright analysis and direct statement as well as his courageous act will do more for the march of justice for the victims than ten years of closed door meetings, hearings, testimony and remedial statements by the bishops, the board or anyone else trying to save the institutional church structures from the impending crash with reality.


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