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Keating Quits

Aired June 16, 2003 - 19:40   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The sometimes rocky relationship between former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating and the Catholic Church's hierarchy is at an end. Keating says he's stepping down as the head of the panel overseeing sex abuse reforms in the Church.
Now some of the tension stem from Keating's comments comparing some Church leaders to organized crime. Jason Carroll reports.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A spokesman says Frank Keating doesn't regret what he said. The former Oklahoma governor, meeting the Catholic Church's effort to better deal with sex abuse charges, had said getting information from bishops was like dealing with the mob.

He told "The Los Angeles Times" -- quote -- "I certainly have concluded that a number of serious officials in my faith have very clay feet to act like La Cosa Nostra and hide and suppress, I think, is very unhealthy."

As chairman of the Catholic Church's National Review Board, Keating was surveying bishops to see how bad the sex abuse problem really is. But a Keating spokesman says a few bishops were stonewalling, including Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles and Cardinal Edward Eagen of New York, leaders of the nation's two largest archdioceses.

Mahoney had legal concerns about the review board survey and called Keating's comment irresponsible. So did one of Keating's fellow board members.

PAMELA HAYES, NATIONAL REVIEW BOARD: I thought it was inappropriate. I thought it was inappropriate because I can't say with any certainty that they had been stalling and acting in secret. For the most parts, the bishops have been cooperating.

CARROLL: A spokesman tells CNN Keating -- quote -- "still feels tough language was needed to deal with the crisis."

Keating is resigning, but insists he had planned to do so anyway. One group of lay Catholics in Boston, the epicenter of the church crisis, says his resignation sends the wrong message.

JIM POST, VOICE OF THE FAITHFUL: I think this is going to back fire on the bishops. I think that now they're going to have an even more difficult time convincing the public that they are not trying to suppress information.

CARROLL: The bishops had asked the board to study the scope of abuse had they created it at their meeting last year. That's when the bishops adopted a tougher national policy in dealing with abusive priests. They also named former FBI official Kathleen McChesney to head a new office to help diocese implement the new policy.

KATHLEEN MCCHESNEY, OFFICE OF CHILD AND YOUTH PROTECTION: The National Review Board is like a freight train going down the track and one person jumping off isn't going to affect the direction and the speed with which that train is going.


CARROLL: And McChesney he says that she hopes Keating's comments do not undermine her office's work. She'll give the bishops a progress report at their national meeting, which is this Thursday -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, Keating -- as you said in your story, Keating says he was going step down at the end of the year all along, or when his year was up. Did he have any support left on the board, though?

CARROLL: It's an interesting question. We spoke to some of the members of the board. And it seems as if at this point he did not have the support of his own board. So it would have been better, many felt, for everyone involved, for Keating to sort of step aside and move on and let the healing process continue.

COOPER: All right. Jason Carroll, thanks very much.

Is this a move forward for the Church or a sign of more problems?

Joining me now from Boston, Ray Flynn, former Boston mayor and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. And Mitchell Garabedian, attorney for people who say they were victims of abuse by Catholic priests.

Gentlemen, appreciate you joining us.

Ambassador Flynn, let's start off with you. Should Keating step down now and if so what impact do you think it's going to have on the board?

RAY FLYNN, FMR. BOSTON MAYOR: Well, I just heard the report and the members of the panel and I had been hearing this that -- they were dissatisfied with Frank Keating for awhile. I think the personalities of the board are rather irrelevant. I think what is real important is they come up with a policy that is going to protect innocent young minors from sex abuse and coming up with a policy and I would be more concerned about what they report on Thursday in St. Louis and what kind of progress is being made than the personalities in the statements being made by individual board members.

COOPER: Let me ask Mr. Garabedian: do you think they have been making progress? MITCHELL GARABEDIAN, ATTORNEY: I think this incident is just a diversion. It's a diversion the church wants. This board is not independent. It hasn't been independent. This church has been policing itself for years unsuccessfully. Thousands of children have been molested. Supervisers were been allowing it. And now we have a board being controlled by the Church.

It's just a diversion. Let's get to the truth. Let's let the secrecy end. Let's get to the truth, let the healing begin.

COOPER: Ambassador Flynn, let me jump in here, because there are those that say while Keating's remarks were not particularly helpful, comparing these Church leaders to organized crime figures, but that publicity was really the only means he had to try to police these things, that really there was no enforcement tool at his disposal, just garnering publicity was the only weapon, if you will, that he had to effect change.

FLYNN: Well, he indicated earlier he was going step down at the end of one year. The one year is up. And I thought it would have been more appropriate for Mr. Keating to make a presentation to the formal conference of bishops which is coming up in two days anyway in St. Louis. Instead of that, he's not going to even be at conference.

Again, I think most traditional Catholics like myself -- although I don't speak for the Catholic Church -- but I think people like myself -- what we're looking for is to see a policy that is implemented in our Church, a Church that we love, admire, respect, including the overwhelming majority of good, faithful priests that we have in our Church, so we can move forward, provide the justice for the victims, but yet at the same time come up with a policy that is going to resolve this issue and it is going protect innocent victims in the future.

COOPER: Mr. Garabedian, have, in your opinion, Church officials been as forthcoming as they should in these investigations? Keating was critical of the L.A. bishop as well as the bishop here in New York, of their cooperation with prosecutors.

GARABEDIAN: No. Not at all. Last report is 61 of the 195 dioceses in the United States have not conveyed information to Mr. Keating, to Governor Keating. They have not revealed the information they have and they have, in fact, rejected presenting the information to him.

So they haven't been at all. It's more secrecy, just as the predator priests told the child to keep the molestation a secret and the diocese supervisors for years, for decades kept the molestations a secret,. Now the information once again is being kept a secret.

It's not going to help anybody. This is not a moral example that should be set.

COOPER: Ambassador Flynn is the church being as cooperative as they should be in your opinion? FLYNN: Well, again, this is a panel that had some very highly professional people and you've heard one of those professional people on the panel today expressing her displeasure with Mr. Keating.

Frank Keating has had responsible position. He knows the rules of again when you assume the positions.

COOPER: Right. But the question is, in your opinion, are Church leaders being as cooperative as you think they should?

FLYNN: Well, I don't know all the details of that, of course. I would assume that the majority of them are. I would assume some of them are hesitant. That's usually the way in any kind of -- any kind of profession. The big difference, of course, here is there is so much media attention focused on the Catholic Church where in other professions there wouldn't be this be type of scrutiny and media attention.

COOPER: Mr. Garabedian, your final thought. What happens now at this review board and does it have -- will it really matter? Will it be effective in the future?

GARABEDIAN: Well, let's see how independent the review board is really going to be.

On the review board, the question will remain, do we have apologists on the review board who want to be independent, or apologists don't want to go along with the party line? That's going to be the telltale story here. We'll have to see what happens. But they're going to have to be aggressive.

In the Church's view, 100 year will lapse and this will all be history. That's how the Church functions. They don't function in terms of five or 10 years. They're looking at it from the point of view, In 100 years, who's going to remember this? What's the difference?

COOPER: All right. We're going to leave it there. Mitchell Garabedian, Ambassador Ray Flynn, appreciate you joining us. Both of you.


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