Authors Greg Erlandson and Matthew Bunson continue the discussion they began in the book from Our Sunday Visitor, Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Working for Reform and Renewal. Send us feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kindle Edition available for download at amazon.com.
Judge Anne Burke of the Illinois Supreme Court has had extensive experience with the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. She served as interim chair of the National Review Board, monitoring the Church's response to sex abuse in the wake of the Dallas Charter and the series of reforms endorsed by the U.S. bishops.
Judge Burke became a blunt critic of the bishops at times, scolding those who she felt were not cooperating fully with the review board, but she had words of praise for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Cardinal Ratzinger was one of only a few Vatican officials who was willing to meet with her as interim chair, In a subsequent interview, she praised the cardinal "for being far more open to meeting with members of the national review board than our own bishops and cardinals. He took in everything we had to say and answered our questions. And we pulled no punches."
In an article in the June issue of U.S. Catholic, Judge Burke expressed dismay with how the Vatican was handling the latest phase of the abuse crisis,criticizing Rome's "siege mentality." But she still had kind words to say about Pope Benedict: "Benedict has done many good things, and on clergy sex abuse his record is better than he is given credit for."
Now, in an interview with David Gibson on the blog Politics Daily, Judge Burke has ratcheted up her criticism, suggesting that the Pope trade in his fancy papal vestments for simple black clerical garb. He has to do "something extremely dramatic" as a sign of penance. Her suggestions:
"The pope's red shoes should go to a museum, replaced by flat black brogues."
"Fur in all its uses should be set aside demonstrating a change of heart on the pope's part."
"The pope should urge members of the hierarchy to demonstrate similar simplicity by giving up the vestiges of privilege. They should show externally how seriously they are taking the scandal of abuse."
"The pope should invite clerics and hierarchy to spend one day each week in fasting and prayer -- as an expression of public sorrow for failing to safeguard the safety of generations of minors."
Judge Burke said she had written to the Pope in the spring offering to share her expertise with the Vatican, and last month received a letter back from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone simply suggesting that she contact the Vatican's lawyer in the United States, something not possible given her role in the judiciary. Gibson wrote that "Burke doesn't necessarily blame Benedict for the Vatican's current problems; she hopes he is still the same man she and her colleagues met in 2004 -- a cardinal willing to listen, dressed in plain black cassock without a hint of red and no outward sign of his ecclesiastical rank."
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