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Flashback to June: Amy Welborn on O'Brien (and us)

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 19, 2004

Back in June, when the news was just breaking that Bishop Thomas O'Brien had been taken into police custody, Amy Welborn posted a striking reflection on her (now retired) In Between Naps blog -- striking at the time it was written for its trenchancy and all the more striking today for its prescience. As the sad story has unfolded over the intervening months I've never forgotten it. Her post deserves another reading, and Amy Welborn deserves credit for having pounced on the heart of the tragedy, and that without departing from the scant information known at the time. Remember, this was written June 16th of last year, simultaneously with O'Brien's arrest and less than 48 hours after the hit-and-run incident that occasioned it. Remember too that the U.S. bishops were just beginning their June meeting that same Monday.

I have to say that first thing this morning, when I blogged about bishops dominating the news this week, I never could have imagined it would come in this way at all.

There will undoubtedly be more to this story as it develops, but IMHO, the bishop's primary responsibility for this death is clear. Take a look at the windshield, after all.

As it stands at this moment (about 10:30 pm Monday night), the tragedy simply screams symbolism.

The week that the bishops of the United States are meeting to discuss, among other things, their response to the sexual abuse of children by clerics and the policy that is supposed to correct their shocking treatment of victims and perpetrators over the past two decades (at least) and are discussing this issue behind closed doors, in private, without even press briefings to tell the rest of us what's going on -- the very beginning of the week that this is to occur, one of their own is arrested and charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident which he seems to have caused.

It's all there. Mortal harm is rendered. The one responsible hits - and runs, denying, in that very act of running, that he has any responsibility to the victim, for either his physical or spiritual life. He continues to run, keeping the harm he has caused a secret from authority, covering up a crime, going on with life as usual while the victim loses his life.

I am not drawing conclusions about character or drawing direct, connecting lines between this behavior and what has been revealed about the behavior of so many of our bishops towards sexual abuse victims.

But you can't deny this most powerful sign of the real and profound harm of personal irresponsibility and indifference to the preciousness of each individual life, created by and for God's love.

One would hope, that the bishops, being men who have studied theology and philosophy, are astute and sensitive to the power of signs, and might take this tragedy, not only as an opportunity to pray for this particular victim of an episcopal hit-and-run, but to reflect on their own individual and corporate acts of hitting, running, and hiding in silence while victims bleed.

One would hope.

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