If I were a bishop ...

By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 28, 2005

If I were a bishop, I'd write the following letter to the Bishop of Spokane:

Dear Bishop Skylstad,

I confess I was dismayed to read the following words in your Inland Register column of October 20th:

There are many wonderful and excellent priests in the Church who have a gay orientation, are chaste and celibate, and are very effective ministers of the Gospel. Witch hunts and gay bashing have no place in the Church.

First, by referring to priests with "a gay orientation" instead of "a same-sex attraction," you cross the line from the descriptive and morally neutral to the political and morally problematic. This implies, even if it does not state, acquiescence in the self-understanding of those homosexual persons who call themselves gay. This is a disservice to those persons with same-sex attraction -- not only those in your own diocese -- who are struggling against enormous odds to live according to Church teaching, and whose resolve is seriously weakened by bishops who suggest "Gay is OK."

Second, it is hardly a secret that your own diocese is bankrupt -- and that because of your and your predecessors' catastrophically bad decisions about keeping sexually disturbed priests in ministry. Yes, I know some victims were female. Yes, I know most homosexual priests don't molest minors. But the fact remains that Spokane was buggered into bankruptcy by priests known to be deviant, and the underlying causes could have been avoided by unexacting prudential decisions well within the moral compass of an ordinary parishioner. Staggering naiveté is the kindest way of accounting for your own baffling action and inaction, and I think it behooves you, as head of a diocese bankrupted by sexual anarchy, not to touch on the subject of gay clergy at all, for any reasons. I say this with the good of the larger Church in mind.

Then too, Bishop Skylstad, the admonition against "witch hunts" comes ill from your mouth. Most Catholics who read that line will recall all too vividly your predecessor Lawrence Welsh of unhappy memory. They'll remember the police report concerning the male prostitute Welsh throttled during an act of fellatio in a Chicago hotel room back in 1986. They'll remember the fact that it was the terrified prostitute that went to the Chicago police, who in turn only contacted Spokane law enforcement because of a long-shot connection with the Green River serial killer. You were Bishop of Yakima at the time, of course, but your comments on Welsh's behavior three years ago -- "Obviously, he had a very serious drinking problem. Certainly, it's very sad behavior associated with that drinking. That would be my observation" -- render your recent "witch hunt" language farcical. If, confronted with a bishop's sodomy and attempted manslaughter, you can't do better than "drinking problem," would you be able to put the right name to a witch even after she'd turned you into a bat?

Let's face it: in the only relevant sense, there are altogether too many witches on the prowl, and indeed "the witches" are the reason Spokane is not a solvent diocese today. We have to bear in mind, moreover, that the faithful can't help but take to heart the news reports, inasmuch as they've gone unchallenged except on trivial points. They know that Archbishop Hunthausen promised the Spokane detectives to get Welsh into counseling, and they know that, in spite of Hunthausen's awareness of the Chicago episode, Welsh was back in the saddle for the next four years. They know Welsh's drinking caused him to be retired at Bishop of Spokane at age 55 in 1990. Worst of all, though, we have to deal with the fact that after Welsh was deposed from Spokane he was almost immediately made an auxiliary bishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis. So tell me: how do we explain to the laity why a bishop can pull that kind of squeeze-play, drink himself out the ordinary's job, and still end up ministering to God's people as an auxiliary?

When folks put the Welsh saga together with the reasons for the Spokane bankruptcy, they're going to think along these lines: "I can see a couple bad priests as an honest mistake. I can see a bad bishop as an honest mistake. Really stretching it, I could even see bounce-passing the bad bishop to another diocese as an honest mistake. But the mistakes all hinge on a particular misjudgment no normal person would make. It can't be a coincidence."

What answer can we make? Not only is such a suspicion wholly justified, to suggest that there is an "innocent" explanation borders on perfidy. Don't you see that -- against this background, and especially in view of the added embarrassment of your election to the USCCB presidency -- your remarks condemning "witch hunts" could hardly have come at a worse time? No one is taking a tire-iron to effeminate clergy; your "gay bashing" line is preposterous. Most of the faithful are not looking for vengeance but for candid explanations. Your saying, in effect, "There is nothing to find behind that door," inflames the very suspicions it was meant to allay.

Bishop Skylstad, I have my own diocese to run, my own faithful to tend to. Many are shocked and bewildered by the negligence of us bishops. My own moral authority, and hence my ability to guide my flock, has been weakened by our collective equivocation and especially by our inability to purge our own body of ineptitude, villainy, and sloth. How can we call others to make heroic personal sacrifices when we can't confront the unpleasantness that would attend telling the truth about ourselves? Ultimately I'm going to have to answer to a higher tribunal than CBS News, and when I do, I want to be able to say that I lost none of my flock through my own deliberate inaction. With that in mind, I plead with you: pay your bills, and keep your head down, and don't fret yourself about the witch-busters. The job belongs to others.

Your apostolic brother,


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  • Posted by: - Dec. 15, 2005 2:27 PM ET USA

    Can we bargain with God? If you find 10 good bishops will you spare America? God agrees. If we can find 5 good bishops will you spare America? Again God agrees. But we count and can only find 3? Will God agree? Will all faithful bishops please stand up and be counted.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 03, 2005 3:11 PM ET USA

    Good point, Charles.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 02, 2005 2:41 PM ET USA

    You should send him the letter as a Christian brother, modified of course so as to convey that you are a humble ordinary lay member of the church. You, though not a bishop, are a member of the church. The church is not divided into "them" (clergy-bishops, priests, nuns,etc.) and "us". Farmmom

  • Posted by: Charles134 - Oct. 31, 2005 9:54 PM ET USA

    Nice letter, but let's not just assume the pen is mightier than the sword. I say we give the sword a try.

  • Posted by: Eagle - Oct. 30, 2005 8:49 AM ET USA

    No surprise. Bishops today are barons of their fiefs, held together by a committee which works through appointed staffers oriented toward their own agendas, and loyalty to a far-off ruler who takes few steps to curb them, which never includes removal. The barons' goals include "no waves", retention of authority and status, and keep the money rolling. In the first millenium, we tried election. It didn't work. Appointment hasn't worked in the second. Time to rethink for for the the third.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 30, 2005 12:22 AM ET USA

    The cellular customer you are trying to reach is outside of the calling area.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 29, 2005 1:27 PM ET USA

    Diogenes for bishop!

  • Posted by: Tony D - Oct. 29, 2005 12:30 PM ET USA

    The e-mail address for the bishop's office in the diocese of Spokane according to their web site is: [email protected]

  • Posted by: florentine - Oct. 29, 2005 11:34 AM ET USA

    Uncle Di... our own Braveheart.... please do send that letter to ALL the bishops. As long as the liberal bishops are allowed to water down faith, truth and discipline, we all will suffer... Interesting that the diocese (Lincoln,Neb.) that holds to the highest standards ie. Church teachings, and toughest, no nonsense, policies, also produces the best, brightest, and greatest number of priests. I wish we could be part of a diocese w/out having to live there. Hmmm ... is that a solution?

  • Posted by: - Oct. 29, 2005 11:10 AM ET USA

    "Laity could send the letter without the last paragraph. I'd sign it! " Can anyone provide Bishop Skylstad's e-mail address?

  • Posted by: - Oct. 28, 2005 11:48 PM ET USA

    By all means send the letter as is to ALL the US Bishops. They all need to be reminded who is heading up the USCCB.

  • Posted by: Bernadone - Oct. 28, 2005 8:25 PM ET USA

    There is always another possibility: Write the letter to the good Bishop; send copies of the Bishop's letter to the rest of the Bishops in the US. The Bishops who are involved in these problems in their own dioceses will be on notice; those whose hands are clean will know they have support from the laity. All will be aware that the rest of the Church[the laity] is not as gullible and stupid as some seem to believe.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 28, 2005 7:36 PM ET USA

    If I were Catholic, and I am, I'd write the good bishop & reassure him of my love for him & his position within the Church. I'd humbly encourage him to stand with the Church & remind him that one is not forced into the priesthood but is called by Christ. That this call comes with the grace to fulfill the vows taken & that those lacking that grace or frustrated by the Church's teachings should serve the Church in other non-leadership or teaching capacities. Above all I would remain charitable.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 28, 2005 7:07 PM ET USA

    Laity could send the letter without the last paragraph. I'd sign it! A few years ago, I gave a (signed) letter to my Pastor re the abuse issue. I used the term "feckless bishops." He was irate at my disrespect of bishops and railed and shouted from the sanctuary before weekday Mass about the awful person who had sent him the letter and that said person should just "get out of my church," which he repeated several times, shouting louder each time. He was IRATE! (We later made up.) Gigi

  • Posted by: - Oct. 28, 2005 6:35 PM ET USA

    Once again Diogenes you have proven that the pen is mightier than the sword. You are truly blessed with a gift. If, one day... you decide to write a letter... a petition perhaps, I would be more than glad to sign it. In my opinion I feel that it is the Gay/Homosexual community of priests that are the activists who promote their brand of liberal and relativistic agendas. To, me that is why we have this problem and that is also why Rome is addressing the issue of Homosexuality in the Seminaries.

  • Posted by: Meg Q - Oct. 28, 2005 6:32 PM ET USA

    You know Bp Skylstad was just over in Rome with Cdl George and Msgr Fay; they met with the Pope on Monday. Gotta wonder what that was like. I think that's a very good rule of thumb: Any priest who *wants* to be a bishop, isn't cut out to be a bishop, at least not a very good one. God will give you grace with the station, but it's nothing to seek. This is where the whole "bishop-as-CEO" model breaks down, innit?

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Oct. 28, 2005 4:03 PM ET USA

    If I were a bishop, I would ask "Bishop" Diogenes for permission to co-sign his letter and send it to Bishop Skylstad; and permission to adapt it for all the bishops immersed in the Scandal, especially those in the "Skylstadian" style of "administration" (starting with Cdl. Mahony and Cdl. McCarrick). (God have mercy on those of my brethren who desire to be bishops -- I think that they're the ones who should never be bishops; for it's a call from God through the Pope, not their own call.)

  • Posted by: - Oct. 28, 2005 2:56 PM ET USA

    Uncle Di, whoever you are, I hope you are a bishop because we need apostolic brothers like the one in this letter. Please, courageous shepherds who became priests not to fulfill your lusts, but to serve our Lord and His people, stand up and oppose the enemies within for the good of the flock. We are ashamed and discouraged and need your guidance. We know there are many of you on this site. Pray for those of us who are discouraged by these scandals.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 28, 2005 2:50 PM ET USA

    Which is why, obviously, you're not a bishop. May we once again be one (in the correct sense, not "tolerant"), holy (as in every sacrament valid and licit), catholic (as in universal truth), and apostolic (as in the most efficacious and apparent movement of the Holy Spirit being in the apostles among us)!

  • Posted by: - Oct. 28, 2005 2:14 PM ET USA

    If I were a bishop, I'd ask my Bishop Brother in Christ Diogenes to allow me to also sign the bottom of that letter before he sends it off.

  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - Oct. 28, 2005 1:38 PM ET USA

    Send the letter anyway! (when I got to the last paragraph, I though you were also going to announce your resignation fro the USCCB!)