As US Catholic bishops convene today for a biannual meeting in St Louis to discuss the status of the priest sex abuse scandal, the news appears less than promising. After a difficult year laden with legal battles, pricey settlements, disputes with lay Catholic groups, and diminishing financial contributions, the bishops opened their meeting faced with yesterday’s resignation of Phoenix Bishop Thomas O’Brien under felony charges for leaving a fatal hit-and-run scene and Monday’s ouster of former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating as leader of the National Review Board, created to monitor and advise the Church’s handling of the scandal. Keating was forced to resign after he made statements to the Los Angeles Times likening the bishops’ behavior and stronghold of power to that of the Mafia, reported the New York Times. In his resignation letter, Keating insisted that despite the fact that “most bishops” support the review board, “[t]o 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,” according to the Associated Press.
Several victims advocacy groups, including the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and Voice of the Faithful, gathered in St. Louis, reiterating calls for greater accountability and cooperation from the church. SNAP is urging that Keating’s replacement also have prosecution experience.
Meanwhile, according to the New York Times only two-thirds of the bishops have responded to surveys issued by the national review board to evaluate priest sex abuse in the church.