Former Oklahoma governor, head of sex abuse panel, “caught off guard” by latest Catholic Church abuse report

OKLAHOMA CITY - The former head of a sex abuse panel convened by the Catholic Church in the early 2000s said he was caught off guard by the most recent report announced by Pennsylvania's attorney general last week, claiming hundreds of priests preyed upon more than 1,000 victims and the abuse deliberately covered up.

Frank Keating, the then-governor of Oklahoma, was named as the chair of the Catholic Church's National Review Board in 2002 in the wake of the sex abuse scandal broken by the Boston Globe.  Less than a year later, Keating resigned after comments he made comparing some bishops to the Italian mafia.

"Yes, and they were," Keating said in an interview at his office Tuesday afternoon, a week after Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released the grand jury report.

"(The bishops) obfuscated, they hid, they prevaricated. My reaction was, if this was Christ's church -- which I believe as a Catholic and my faith today is stronger than it was then -- then why do we have this?"

"The grand jury uncovered credible evidence of sexual abuse against 301 predator priests," said Shapiro during a press conference last week. "They actually received files on more than 400 priests."

The two year investigation by a grand jury found systemic abuse and elaborate, deliberate coverup of abuse by more than 300 priests and more than 1,000 victims spanning more than 70 years.

"In each diocese, the bishops had the key to the secret archives," said Shapiro, "Which contained both allegations and admissions of the abuse and the coverup."

Pope Francis released a letter this week condemning the crimes and demanding accountability, saying "We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them."

"I thought most of this was behind us," said Keating of the church scandals. "In my judgement, we need another National Catholic Review Board, with nobody on that has anything to do with the church."