Chairman Keating Quitting From Sex-Abuse Panel

Likens Church Leadership to the Mafia

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NEW YORK, JUNE 16, 2003 ( Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating is expected to quit as head of a review board examining sex abuse by Catholic priests, after he likened Church leadership to the Mafia.

A spokesman for Keating said his boss will send a resignation letter to Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, the Associated Press reported today. Bishop Gregory appointed Keating chairman of the 13-member panel last year.

The resignation follows a Los Angeles Times interview in which Keating said of unnamed Church officials: “To act like La Cosa Nostra and hide and suppress, I think, is very unhealthy.”

Keating stirred controversy last year by suggesting that parishioners who disagree with how their bishops handle abuse should withhold contributions and switch parishes.

The Mafia reference prompted a stream of calls from angry bishops to Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony late last week, said archdiocesan spokesman Tod Tamberg.

Speaking outside a church on Sunday, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago dismissed Keating’s comments.

“Episcopal authority is a gift from Christ. Sometimes it is badly exercised, and that is sinful and wrong, but there’s no possible comparison to something as evil as La Cosa Nostra,” Cardinal George told the Chicago Tribune. “In that sense, it’s an inaccurate and insulting comparison.”

Referring to the bishops’ meeting this week in Missouri, Cardinal George said of the Keating incident: “I don’t think in practical terms it’s going to make a great deal of difference.”

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