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Accountability in Dallas

By Fr. Wilson (articles ) | Jan 07, 2004

"Accountability" has come to be a word much heard in Church discourse in the last couple of years. It means different things to different people; among some groups pressing for change in the Church, it seems to be a code word for the introduction of democratic decision-making structures in the Catholic Church, a prospect which leaves me very cold.

But accountability itself, manifesting itself through communication, explanations, apologies when needed is in itself a good thing, and one often wishes for more of it.

If you go to the Dallas Morning News editorial blog and scroll down over the last two days, you'll find three postings from editorial board member Rod Dreher, each having to do with Bronson Havard, the deacon/spokesman/diocesan newspaper editor of Dallas. Deacon Havard posted a statement on his paper's website, angrily denouncing as "malicious lies" the allegations of a San Diego man that Havard had, in a conversation, belittled the ministry of Fr Paul Weinberger, dismissed his sacramental ministry as "busywork" and saying that other priests he had known who had thrown themselves into such 'busywork' had turned out to be pedophiles. Havard's public statement on this was in response to his having been denounced for these comments by Fr Weinberger at his final Mass.

As you'll see from the DMN blog, Rod Dreher had no difficulty locating the man, John Giery of San Diego. Moreover, Giery professed puzzlement at how Havard could say that he was 'anonymous:' apart from the phone conversation in early December, Giery had sent Havard an email rebuking him for his comments.

Then, Rod Dreher goes through his email box and discovers one he had sent to Havard on Dec 5 in which he TOLD Havard Giery's name and where he was from. How can it be that Giery was spoken of as 'anonymous??' Rod has invited Havard to make a public clarification.

Bronson Havard is not just spokesman of the diocese, but a close advisor to Bishop Grahmann, a key figure in a diocesan administration which seems anything but responsive. .One reads with amazement of how, after Father Weinberger received an illicit decree removing him from office, he immediately reached out to the Bishop in FOUR letters, asking for the decree to be corrected and later, as Havard's comments poisoned the situation, they the comments be addressed as well. All four letters and the concerns they raised were ignored. Meanwhile, the diocesan spokesman, an ordained Deacon, apparently felt free to make belittling comments about Father Weinberger's ministry, secure in the knowledge that there would never be any accountability for those remarks demanded of him by his employer.

In the last several weeks I have received a steady stream of communications from Dallas Catholics, testifying to their frustration -- not just over Fr Weinberger's situation, but longstanding frustration with problems and concerns about which they have never gotten a respectful hearing. Dallas seems to be a microcosm of the Amchurch. And the party goes on, even in a diocese where the signs of the disastrous effects couldn't have been more dramatic.

It shouldn't be this hard to get diocesan authorities to say, "We're sorry. We were wrong. Please tell us about it -- we're listening."

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  • Posted by: frjimc - Jan. 08, 2004 8:15 PM ET USA

    Just to give y'all an idea of the intellectual and theological luminary who's making public pronouncements for the diocese, go to http://www.ourladyrockwall.org/20020616.html, (or go to ourladyrockwall.org, click on homilies, and go down to Deacon Havard's homily for June 16, 2002). Sample: "Since there are so many who do not go to church to hear how Jesus expresses love, it is good that we in this country have a national day of recognition for mothers and fathers." Fr. Paul, we love you.

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