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Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

healed wounders

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jan 19, 2004

With the action news team cameras trained on him, Bishop Brown takes a deep breath and gives us DRAMA:

Turning to an ancient method of public notice, Bishop Tod D. Brown on Sunday nailed to the doors of Holy Family Cathedral a document proclaiming a commitment by the Diocese of Orange to help heal the wounds caused by the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal. ...

"I call on all Catholics in our diocese -- clergy, religious and lay -- to join me in wearing our ashes on Ash Wednesday as a sign that we acknowledge the pain of the victims" of the sex scandal, Brown said.

As a publicity grabber, Brown's stunt ranks somewhere between bungee jumping and juggling magnums of champagne while on a unicycle -- though theologically it's more problematic than either. But the greater dismay is caused by his Seven Point Pledge itself, which is fluffy to the point of weightlessness. Just what, in fact, does he promise?

1. Healing
2. Implementation of the Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
3. Healing
4. Healing
5. Healing
6. Healing -- and, last but not least
7. Healing

If you read the actual pledges themselves, you'll find that none (with the possible exception of Charter implementation) is concrete enough to be verifiable. There's no measure against which we can say that he delivered on his promise or failed to deliver. Of course, all that's beside the Diocese's point, which is to remind us that we have the problem, they have the cure.

So you want to promote healing and restore trust, Excellencies? Let me make this proposal as a starter:

Rent a hall one Saturday a month for a year, big enough for some laity as well as the media. Convince at least one other California bishop to appear with you. Invite too some of the journalists that have made the most specific criticisms of your conduct; preferably from the Left and Right equally -- say Ron Russell and George Neumayr, or Steve Lopez and Maria Kennedy, or Jason Berry and Rod Dreher. In this setting, with no escape hatch, let them give you their best shots, and let us hear you handle the tough questions, commenting not only on your own bailiwick, but on the difficulties your brother bishops have faced (it's about trust, remember?).

But will it spread scandal? On the contrary, the accusations are already out there in public and eating away at your credibility; this is your chance to put a stake through their heart. Will you lay yourself open to outrageously groundless charges maliciously cooked up for partisan motives? Well, that's what the balance is for. You can trust Neumayr to demolish Russell's groundless fictions and vice versa. It's a perfect chance to level with us.

You can leave the hammer at home.

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