The Softness Group

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 29, 2004

An official notice from the office of Orange Bishop Tod Brown begins this way:

Father Richard Delahunty is on Administrative Leave from his duties as pastor of St. Nicholas parish.

After a few sentences of boilerplate legalese, stating that Delahunty is accused of sexual misconduct with a minor in 1981, the notice ends like this:

If you would like to send cards to Fr. Dick, you can do so through the parish office at St. Nicholas. Please pray for all who have been affected by this allegation.

So, he's "Fr. Dick" now? The allegation is neither proven nor disproven as yet, but it's an allegation of a crime. The victim, if there is a victim, was not affected by the allegation, but by the crime the allegation asserts. Brown's phrasing suggests that it's the complainant who has caused the trouble, and prayers are requested for those whose lives have been made difficult by his allegation. If the bishop were maintaining neutrality, why couldn't he equally offer to forward sympathy cards to the complainant through his attorney? Failing that, couldn't he at least use the formal "Fr. Delahunty" instead of the familiar "Fr. Dick"?

This same Bishop Brown earned national attention (including our own) by devising a 7-pledge Covenant on the diocesan handling of sexual abuse and nailing it to the door of his cathedral -- for which he is cautiously commended by the NCR's Arthur Jones:

The diocese confirmed it paid $90,000 to the public relations firm, Softness Group, for assistance in crafting the covenant and seven points. But with all 56 Orange parishes set to receive copies of what Brown nailed to his door, with instructions to pastors to nail the copies to their doors, Brown still is stepping out front in his bid to rebuild trust.

Take note that Brown does not pay $90,000 to ex-cops or experts in psycho-pathology for a concrete plan to eradicate sex abuse -- no, the money goes instead to a PR firm to spin his fuzzy and wholly unenforceable Covenant. It's about image.

So let's step inside the episcopal brain to see how it reasons: priests grope kids, parents get mad, church asks parents for cash; bishop pays cash to spin-meisters, spin-meisters devise stunts, stunts make parents believe that -- though they may not realize it -- they trust their bishop. Money well spent.

The problem, you see, is the faithful. They have a bad attitude -- mistrust of clergy -- and that has to change. So your effort and your cash goes to fixing the emotion instead of fixing the clergy. If you wanted to fix the latter, a friend of mine points out, the fee paid to the Softness Group might have bought more tangible benefits. Like a private investigator who knows the local bar scene. But the lid on that particular can of worms has been welded shut by the bishops, for whom rebuilding trust precludes ...

Never mind. Send a card to Fr. Dick.

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  • Posted by: - Jan. 30, 2004 2:46 AM ET USA

    I'm just wondering if a child is more likely to be molested by a "Father Dick" than a "Father Delahunty." It just seems to me that priests can still accomplish their God-given mission to preach and save souls without sacrificing the formality of being addressed by their last names. It is more professional. Perhaps the Father Bobs and Buds and Joes should consider this?

  • Posted by: - Jan. 29, 2004 9:52 PM ET USA

    I believe Bishop Brown is a graduate of the Cardinal Mahony School for Shepherds in Los Angeles.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 29, 2004 12:18 PM ET USA

    Orange Bishop Brown is walking on the Razor's edge -- Ockham's Razor. Nice to see that Nominalism is alive and well in California. If they taxed it, they could wipe out Caleeforneea's deficit tomorrow.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jan. 29, 2004 11:18 AM ET USA

    The presumption of innocence is actually neutral. In this case and many others it is mutated into a presumption of empathy for the named priest and a presumption of supicious antipathy for the unnamed accuser. There's plenty of time later for sympathy when there has been a judicial determination that the accusation was false.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 29, 2004 10:38 AM ET USA

    Yes, of course. The medium is the message -- not truth.