|| Lay review board outlines ambitious
By JOE FEUERHERD
The 13-member lay board, established by the U.S. Catholic bishops to investigate causes and propose cures to the clerical sexual abuse crisis, spelled out its plan of action to reporters Jan. 17 at a luncheon briefing on the final day of the groups two-day meeting in Manhattan.
The board will:
In addition, the panel is commissioning two studies. The first is designed to determine the scope of clerical abuse and answer questions such as: How many priests have engaged in the sexual abuse of minors?
People have been trying to get their arms around these numbers for years, said board member William Burleigh, who said he hopes the study will nail down the statistical picture definitively. The report, which could be ready as early as June, will include figures on the costs associated with settling abuse claims.
Further, the board will commission a more comprehensive study, designed to give us a context and causes from which this terrible abuse emerged, according to board member Paul McHugh, formerly psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
This epidemiological survey will be conducted by an independent entity experienced in such work and will, among other things, compare the rate of priestly abuse with sexual abuse of minors in the public at large, said McHugh. The study will be of sufficient rigor to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, said McHugh.
The board meeting took place amid some controversy, as New York Cardinal Edward Egan snubbed the board. Although board members who are also members of the Knights and Dames of Malta had invited all board members to attend the knights annual gala at the Waldorf-Astoria as their guests, Egan notified the board earlier in the fall that only members of the Malta organization should attend. He also sent a message suggesting that McChesney break a speaking engagement at a local church at which she was to discuss her work as director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection, the investigative arm of the board. He also denied a request that he or one of his auxiliary bishops say Mass for the group (NCR, Jan. 24).
Despite that brouhaha, said board members, church officials have been responsive to the boards requests. We are getting the support and the cooperation of the bishops, said Bennett. Combined with that you have a laity out there that is not going to tolerate a particular bishop in their diocese if such a bishop decided they were not going to cooperate with the board. he continued.
Ultimately, said board member Leon Panetta, this is about restoring trust. He continued: So in the end its in [the bishops] interest to cooperate in this effort because if we dont restore trust it is the church and its institutions that are going to be damaged.
Joe Feuerherd is NCR Washington correspondent. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
National Catholic Reporter, January 31, 2003