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8 Named to Review Misconduct by Catholic Clergy

Religion: Two from California and abuse survivor are included on the board. Members of an activist group, however, are omitted.

July 25, 2002|TERESA WATANABE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vowing to restore faith in a church battered by sex abuse scandals, the head of the nation's Roman Catholic bishops Wednesday announced the appointment of eight additional members, including two Californians, to a new clergy misconduct review board.

Although the all-lay board includes a former abuse victim, the nation's largest victims' group, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, failed to win an appointment and immediately expressed concern about the review panel's independence.

The board president, Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma, said the board would actively solicit the abuse network's input. But he said network members were "angry and agenda-filled" activists whose prosecutorial zeal was inappropriate for the review panel's judicial nature. Keating said he and the board's three other core members, who were appointed last month by bishops' conference President Wilton D. Gregory, decided to exclude the victims' organization.

Keating, a former prosecutor and FBI agent, vowed that the 13-member panel would aggressively seek to end what he called these "dark nights" of the church.

"We do not intend to be apologists ... for corrupt acts or indifference or evasion," Keating said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "All of us are independent-minded individuals. All of us deeply love our faith. But all of us are shocked and outraged" by the sex scandals.

The new national board members are all practicing Catholics drawn from the media, legal, medical and business worlds. They include Alice Bourke Hayes, president of the University of San Diego, and Leon E. Panetta, head of a Bay Area think tank who served in Congress and was chief of staff to President Clinton.

The lay board will monitor the progress of the nation's 192 dioceses in carrying out a "zero tolerance" policy against abusers, which was approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas in June. It will also commission studies on the cause, context and extent of sex abuse by priests, ensure that allegations are properly referred to law enforcement and, according to Keating, seek to make "all financial transactions fully transparent."

The policy adopted in Dallas calls for the ouster from public ministry of any priest or deacon who has abused minors, the formation of local lay review boards to monitor cases and the establishment of a national Office for Child and Youth Protection. The office will work in tandem with the national oversight board, which is scheduled to meet July 30 in Washington.

So far, the scandals have led to the payment of millions of dollars in legal claims, the resignation of at least four bishops and the ouster of more than 250 priests.

In Southern California, more than 60 priests are under investigation for alleged sex abuse, and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony has apologized for mishandling some cases, such as reassigning a self-confessed abuser, Father Michael Baker, before finally ousting him in 2000. In recent months, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has toughened its policies on abuse.

Other members announced Wednesday are William R. Burleigh, board chairman and former chief executive of the E.W. Scripps Co. in Kentucky; Nicholas P. Cafardi, dean of Duquesne University Law School in Pittsburgh; Jane Chiles, former director of the Kentucky State Catholic Conference; Pamela D. Hayes, a New York attorney specializing in criminal defense and civil rights; Paul R. McHugh, chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore; and Ray H. Siegfried II, board chairman of the NORDAM Group, an international aviation service and manufacturing firm in Tulsa, Okla.

Gregory, in a statement, said that board membership demonstrated "that the bishops are seeking the forthright advice of the laity to help resolve this crisis.... "

Others, however, were less optimistic. "It's a prestigious group, but what's needed is not necessarily prestige but independence," said David Clohessy, national director of the survivors' network. Clohessy and others said they were disappointed that the "collective wisdom of survivors of clergy abuse" would not be represented.

Michael J. Bland, an abuse survivor, former priest and clinical-pastoral coordinator for victim assistance in the Chicago archdiocese, is one of the board's four core members. But the survivors' networks suggested he is too close to the church to be independent.

Besides Keating and Bland, the core members are Robert S. Bennett, a former federal prosecutor who practices civil litigation in Washington, and Anne M. Burke, justice of the Illinois Appellate Court.

Clohessy said it appeared that Keating was backing down from tough talk in Dallas to pursue prosecutions or Vatican removal of bishops who cover up abuse. In a USA Today article last month, Keating said he would not seek either measure against bishops.

On Wednesday, however, Keating said it was primarily the diocesan review board's job to pursue its own bishops, but "if they turn their heads against evil ... yes, we will get involved."

Despite the differences, Clohessy and Keating reaffirmed their desire to work together to protect children.

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