Action Alert!

A refreshingly candid explanation of a diocesan bankruptcy

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jan 14, 2014

Another American diocese filing for bankruptcy? Ho-hum. That’s become fairly routine, hasn’t it?

Yes, but look again.

Stockton’s Bishop Stephen Blaire announced that bankruptcy was the only realistic choice for the diocese, because of the sex-abuse scandal. As he put it:

Very simply, we are in this situation because of those priests in our diocese who perpetrated grave, evil acts of child sexual abuse.
Now that is new. It’s not new that the sex-abuse scandal has plunged dioceses into bankruptcy; we’ve known that all along. It’s new that a bishop is explaining the problem in such plain language.

How often have you heard a bishop explain that the funds required to settle sex-abuse lawsuits have not been taken from the diocesan budget, but from insurance and/or the sale of property? And when dioceses have closed parishes and schools, we’ve been assured that these moves were prompted by declining revenues and the shortage of priests, not the million-dollar legal settlements. The tortured logic of these explanations has done nothing to enhance the credibility of diocesan leaders.

Give Bishop Blaire extra credit for his reference to “grave, evil acts” rather than “boundary violations.” Candor helps.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: cwj - Jan. 14, 2014 8:05 PM ET USA

    Wow. "Candor" is something that does not go in our parish. Just try to distribute objective data and it is brushed aside. We've been working on the New Evangelization for months and its not really off the ground. The reason is obvious. You don't know what to do when you lack the honesty to admit the extent of the problems we face. c.j.

  • Posted by: Savonarola - Jan. 14, 2014 5:54 PM ET USA

    You're right Phil. Give the bishop credit in this respect. But Bp Blaire should perhaps spend more time focused on his diocesan clergy and less time in constantly sounding off as to "social justice" issues where Catholics in good faith can have differing views in their prudential judgment. Big government is NOT the answer to poverty, health issues, etc. There's no such thing as charity via taxation. Nor is unlimited access to immigration the proper approach to that problem. Regards.