no orange jumpsuit yet

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 21, 2006

Yet another American bishop has avoided jail time in connection with the sex-abuse scandal.

Sonoma County (California) DA Stephan Passalacqua has announced that Bishop Daniel Walsh of Santa Rosa will not face formal charges if he enters a state counseling program. The bishop-- who faced a slam-dunk conviction carrying a 6-month prison term, for failing to make a prompt report on a priest who admitted to child abuse-- is ready to take the deal.

“We certainly hope that our decision involving Bishop Walsh will send a clear message to all mandated reporters of the importance of immediately reporting to law enforcement any child abuse or elderly abuse any injury of an assault,” said Passalacqua.

A clear message? Not likely, pal. Nearly 20 years after the Gilbert Gauthe scandal, 15 years after the Porter case, 4 years after the Dallas meeting, 1 year after the Portland bankrupcty... After all that, if an American bishop still doesn't get the message, you can't seriously expect 4 months of counseling to do the trick.

Meanwhile readers might be wondering about the priest whose dalliance with a teenage boy got the ball rolling. Francisco Xavier Ochoa faces 10 felony counts of child abuse, but first the California authorities will have to catch him. Those crucial hours between his (non-sacramental) confession to Bishop Walsh, and the bishop's required report to police, gave the accused molester time to go on the lam. Ochoa is believed to be hiding now in Mexico. He got the message.

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  • Posted by: - Nov. 21, 2006 7:12 PM ET USA

    Sue Ellin Browder's coverage of this affair in the National Catholic Register cleared Bishop Walsh of wrongdoing in my mind. Yes, he made a mistake (to which he readily admits) by contacting his attorney first. But the bureaucratic bungling in the county offices certainly didn't help him or the situation at all. Is the DA willing to put bungling secretaries and clerks on trial as well as Bishop Walsh? Or is he a ready target because he's a bishop?

  • Posted by: - Nov. 21, 2006 5:24 PM ET USA

    Immediately means “without delay,” “directly,” and “without intermediary,” and one of its synonyms is “instantly.” Walsh delayed, and did not report directly and without intermediary. And according to the news report, Walsh was also required by the statute to make the contact by phone, not by fax. I know, I know--facsimiles are transmitted over phone lines, but that’s twisting the intent of the law, and the diocesan attorney (a lawyer, for Heaven's sake!) must have known that.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Nov. 21, 2006 3:12 PM ET USA

    Nobody has more contempt for the bishops---who are more guilty in all this than the pederast priests---than I do, but in this one case I'm with Bp. Walsh. He is being charged because he found out on a Friday and didn't report till Monday, for Heaven's sake. The law says immediately, not instantly. I'm sure the DA isn't going to take him to trial because he knows he would never find a jury to convict him.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 21, 2006 2:45 PM ET USA

    Walsh may indeed be a good man, but the fact remains that he broke the law by not immediately reporting Ochoa to the authorities. The responsibility was his, not the diocesan attorney’s. The delay tells me that Walsh thought first about protecting himself, not the children. And that’s precisely how most bishops reacted when confronted with clerical sex abusers--they looked to protect themselves first. And let’s not forget, Di, this isn’t just a sex-abuse scandal, it’s a homosexual abuse scandal.

  • Posted by: ladybird - Nov. 21, 2006 12:00 PM ET USA

    I understand that Bp. Walsh also made the attempt to report the case immediately to Child Protective Svcs and got voice-mail run-around and only found out on the Monday that no action had been taken when he reported to attys and they found out in follow-up that no CPS action (ie report to police) had been taken and Bp. Walsh's orig report had been lost. So, I have to agree with Leo, it seems Bp. Walsh has made a good faith effort to clean up the mess.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 21, 2006 8:37 AM ET USA

    Bishop Walsh is a good man. He straightened out the mess left behind by Bishop Ziemann. He personally took responsibility for his mistake at an early stage. He admitted he had been too cautious in waiting the weekend to consult his attorney before reporting Ochoa. Had he been charged with a crime by the DA, he probably would have entered a guilty plea up front. Give him a break. By the way, Walsh immediately relieved Ochoa of his priestly faculties.