Much has been said and written about the recent comments of two prominent Catholic women, each a judge from Chicago, on their disappointment with Pope Benedict XVI and the Church’s handling of the sex-abuse scandal.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, a former member of the National Review Board established by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to address the sex-abuse scandal, recently suggested that the Pope switch to a black cassock and don other than red shoes as an act of penance over the Church’s handling of the scandal.
Illinois Appellate Judge Sheila O’Brien wrote in the 8/4/10 Chicago Tribune a plea to “Excommunicate me, please,” out of her frustration with the Catholic Church over the abuse scandal.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Justice Burke on several occasions, a few being events of the former Reynold Hillenbrand Institute in Chicago. Chicagoans know that Justice Burke played an integral role years ago in the establishment of the Special Olympics, and that she is a very committed, talented, and special person. I do not recall meeting Judge O’Brien.
But as a Chicagoan, I must observe that it is rather contradictory for Chicago judges to be so very shocked at the Catholic Church, and to be generally silent on the long and jaded history of corruption in the very political party that benefited and advanced them almost every step of the way to their positions of prominence. I do not recall that these judges have called for the ward committeemen who slated them for election in exclusive sessions over the years to change their apparel, or to do penance for anything. Nor have these judges asked their political party to expel them out of embarrassment over their political party’s actions, or for that matter over their political party’s anti-life positions.
Indeed, political corruption is enabled, and government-reform factions appeased and kept within a winning voting coalition, when a few qualified judges like Justice Burke and Judge O’Brien are slated for judicial election along with former precinct captains and assorted other political hacks. For this corrupted judicial appointment arrangement to work, it is essential that qualified judicial candidates keep substantial silence about political corruption, and in some cases, the very means of their own selection to the bench.
I do agree that all of us Catholics should do penance, pray over, and work to end the sex-abuse scandal. But I also think that we Catholics have an obligation, if we work within one of the most corrupt political environments in the United States, to speak out about it on occasion.
The more silent one might feel constrained from speaking out about one’s job or one’s government, the more perfect one wants the Church to be.
Please see a classic article by journalist Abdon Pallasch on how Illinois and Chicago judges are slated for election. The slating of Justice Burke is described in the article.
On 8/11/10, I received a very cordial note from a person identifying herself as Judge O’Brien, who stated: “Just one note: I was not endorsed/slated by the Democratic party or any party in my run for public office. I ran against the Democratic party’s endorsed candidate.”
I thank the Judge for her kind note, and wish her well in her government reform efforts.
© Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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