A Question of Character

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 18, 2004

From a news story on Bishop O'Brien's conviction for hit-and-run:

In a news conference after the trial, jurors said they believed the bishop did not act reasonably when he drove away from the accident, which shattered his windshield. "This was obviously not just a little bird flying into the windshield," juror Erik Mikkelsen said. "We all have compassion for the bishop, but we felt that what he did was not the way a reasonable driver should react."

Well, right. And "reasonable" here should mean reasonably humane as well as reasonably aware of what's happening around him.

Suppose it had happened differently -- that O'Brien had been mildly intoxicated when, unavoidably, he struck and killed a man who walked out in front of his car. Suppose further that, horrified, O'Brien had stopped instantly, ran over to the victim, tried to resuscitate him, and phoned for an ambulance or put him in his own car and drove him to the ER. Perhaps most of us would feel that, while justice demanded that O'Brien undergo the due punishment, he was still deserving of sympathy: though caught in an appalling misfortune, his underlying compassion showed through.

But that's not the way it happened. Having run away from he harm he caused, he continued to run away from responsibility for that harm.

Maybe, in some twisted sense, O'Brien was sincere when he testified he'd never have left the scene if he knew he'd hit a human being. Maybe he was sincere when, earlier this year, he claimed he'd never knowingly put children at risk by re-assigning molester priests. But if so, he's a profoundly disturbed man, a man you wouldn't trust to deliver newspapers on a bike. Not for us, obviously, to ask why his brother bishops trusted him with the care of souls.

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  • Posted by: - Feb. 18, 2004 10:00 PM ET USA

    Right on, Zozima! Maybe the rule should be no more than 3 letters after your name. My uncle used to refer to a certain type of person as an "educated idiot."

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

    It is very painful to see the bishop, wearing his roman collar and cross looking like a scared rabbit in court. What a shame for us Catholics! But that is what we get for having politicians, gray accountants, worldly managers and liberal disillusioned men acting as bishops instead of saints, pastors of souls and fathers of their flock. All their masters degrees, PhD’s, Doctorates will not make them any better than simple fisherman Peter.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 18, 2004 10:07 AM ET USA

    In Aquinas' Commentary on the Gospel of John, Aquinas asks why someone wouldn't convert, on the spot, when God made man confronts them. He answers brilliantly, of course. Sin darkens the soul, and the more you sin and continue to sin, you face a downward spiral, and, eventually, you will not recognize God even when he stares you directly in the face. Right now, things look very dark indeed for O'Brien.