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Earning your trust

By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 19, 2009

All it took was a front-page article in the New York Times, and the Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin, took action, suspending a priest who fathered a son during one of an indeterminate number of affairs with women. (The woman featured in the Times story is, and was, an adult; another woman implicated in the case was not. We don't know if there were others.) The priest's child is now an adult, but Superior Bishop Peter Christensen only learned about his existence recently, according to a spokesman for the diocese.

Well, "recently" in this case means September 17. One month later the priest in question, Father Henry Willenborg, was suspended. What happened during that month? Oh, right: the front-page story in the New York Times.

When Father Willenborg told his parish about the situation, the diocesan spokesman said, he "received a standing ovation." In the context of the AP story we don't know why the parishioners applauded. Was it because they support their pastor, even in his misdeeds? Were they relieved to learn that the scandal involved women for a change?

Here's one thing we do know: Those Wisconsin parishioners were not applauding Willenborg for having the courage to come forward and admit his failings. Because he didn't come forward--at least, not on his own. The New York Times did it for him. Without that front-page story there would have been no suspension, no confession. And, paradoxically, no applause.

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  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Oct. 20, 2009 8:07 AM ET USA

    Please stand for the screed.

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