The head of the Roman Catholic Church's U.S. sexual abuse oversight panel will resign his post, his spokesman said Saturday -- an ouster brought on by controversy that began last week when he publicly compared some Catholic bishops to "La Cosa Nostra."
The resignation of former Oklahoma Gov. Frank A. Keating as head of the church's National Review Board comes after his words were denounced as "off the wall" by Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and after a majority of members of the oversight panel privately called on him to quit.
During the year in which he has headed the board, Keating -- who is a former federal prosecutor -- has been the public face of the church's effort to reassure Catholics that the bishops are serious about confronting the scandal of priests sexually abusing children.
His strong stands made him a favorite of victims' advocates, but his penchant for vivid language rankled many of the bishops he served and some members of his board.
Even before the announcement of his departure, church officials had said his leaving office would threaten to revive questions among many Catholics about whether the bishops were willing to accept independent, outside oversight of their work. That was precisely the issue the bishops had sought to lay to rest when they appointed Keating and the other 12 members of the review board a year ago.
Keating's spokesman, Dan Mahoney, said the departure would come in the next few days, before the bishops convene in St. Louis for their semiannual national conference, at which they are scheduled to review how their year-old policies against sexual abuse are working.
Mahoney said Keating continued to stand behind his remarks. "He uses strong language to make a point. He tells the truth, and apparently some people don't want to hear the truth," Mahoney said.
He conceded that the timing was "awkward" but sought to portray Keating's resignation as a previously scheduled departure after a year on the job.