I know you're going to find this hard to believe, but when I was a teenager, I was a nerd. And a wonky nerd at that!

I even helped form a youth commission for my town, with representatives from schools and clubs throughout my community, so that kids could get a say in local government. On paper, it seemed brilliant. And indeed, we did get to meet with the mayor now and then. But we quickly realized, there were limits to our power. Everything we proposed got knocked down.

We wanted a town youth center. No money.

We wanted a greater say in school budget issues. No room.

We wanted a permanent elected official on the town board. No way.

I was no rocket scientist, but even I could figure out when it comes to changing city hall, city hall holds all the cards.

The Catholic Church (search) in this country has its own city hall -- the Roman Catholic bishops. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise. They call the shots, not the Catholic Lay Board they formed to monitor abuses in the church.

And, just like my youth commission, I'm getting the feeling this Catholic Board is all show, and no go.

Now the guy who headed the board, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating is bounced off the board. His Cosa Nostra comment about the church hiding and concealing did him in; "the last straw," as Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles put it.

The last straw for whom, cardinal? You because it's the truth? Or the laity because it's their church?

The irony, of course, is that laymen and women pay the bills for the church, but they get sham treatment from the church.

Laypeople wanted to know details about abuse cases in different diocese. Some bishops complied. Most did not.

Laypeople wanted details on where their donation money was going. Few dioceses to this day have done so.

Laypeople were supposed to show the way. Little did they know they'd be only shown the door.

Trust me, I believe most priests and bishops are good men, whose good deeds heavily outweigh the sins of a few.

But they're not infallible. The Boston Archdiocese is in the red and at least one bishop, Thomas J. O'Brien of Phoenix is out of a job.

Look, if you're going to act like a saint, you better be a saint. News flash: I've been following a lot you bishops and you're not saints!

I know you're not a democracy, but you are deaf. If you want to open yourselves up to the flock you claim to love, then act like a shepherd and lead the flock that wants to know you care.

It is ironic that so many Catholics who pay the bills are the ones getting stiffed. Just like when I was a kid.

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