By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 19, 2007

The Diocese of San Diego is considering bankruptcy, for the usual reasons. Bishop Robert Brom has issued a Pastoral Statement that was distributed last weekend. It's not wrong in any obvious way, but exasperatingly tone-deaf. The following is from the part Brom addressed to his priests:

While only a few from among us have been guilty of abuse, all of us have suffered shame. We should not become bitter, we must become better, better shepherds after the manner of the Good Shepherd. I know, as you do, the deep appreciation of our people for all of us who are laying down our lives for the sheep.

Ouch. Brom seems to be on homiletic auto-pilot with his "don't get bitter, get better" line. The Rotarian cutesiness is out of place in a document dealing with the effects of sexual predation. And as for the verse about the good shepherd's laying down his life for his sheep, I've always understood it to mean his being killed -- or at least putting himself at risk of being killed -- while defending the flock against a marauder. It's a paradigm of heroic self-sacrifice. To imply that by ordinary parochial ministry priests are "laying down [their] lives" is grotesque. Finally, on the occasion when a bishop is announcing to his diocese that it has been buggered into bankruptcy by its priests, isn't it better for the lay faithful to express whatever lingering appreciation they may feel for their clergy, rather than for the bishop to assure his priests of that appreciation in their stead?

Anscombe once wrote that, when our language loses a connection with the reality it purports to convey, we "feel like someone whose jaws have somehow got out of alignment: the teeth don't come together in a proper bite." That's how Brom's discourse comes across to me. We understand the words well enough, but they don't fasten on the moral reality of the subject he's talking about. You'd think he were addressing priests interned in Chinese prison camps for offering clandestine Masses; you'd think he were addressing the laity about a factory closure.

They still don't get it, do they?

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  • Posted by: - Feb. 21, 2007 7:05 PM ET USA

    Don't know that much about the San Diego abuse situation but my guess is this bishop inherited the problem. I do know that he has welcomed many conservative catholics to teach in his diocece -- those that are not welcome in the diocese of LA or Orange County. Let's not condemn all Bishops for the sins of some.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 21, 2007 2:43 PM ET USA

    May I recommend this month's HPR. Particularly the article by Fr. Thomas Morrow. That's HPR, not NCR.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 21, 2007 6:46 AM ET USA

    The point, Rsteele, is precisely what Diogenes says: the church is in the state she is because bishops did NOT lay down their lives for their sheep -- they sacrificed our childrens' lives, the lives of our adolescent males, for reasons that had nothing to do with love, compassion, or Christianity. The minimalizing, the excuse-mongering, the fatuous and false claims of ignorance on the part of the episcopacy continue, against all fact and reason. Most priests knew of the abuse, too, IMO.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 20, 2007 5:44 PM ET USA

    RSteele: No priest in American today makes his bed on a dirt floor, is imprisoned in a dank cell, receives only bread and water for nourishment, has no bathing facility, annoints lepers, or endures anything approaching deprivation for his love of the Church and his flock. To agree that priests in California daily "lay down their lives" betrays a short-sighted understanding of the priesthood. And is, yes, a true emotion-driven, knee-jerk reaction.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 20, 2007 2:27 PM ET USA

    Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust...

  • Posted by: - Feb. 20, 2007 11:13 AM ET USA

    "While only a few from among us..." According to the John Jay report, there were more than 4,000 credible accusations of abuse.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 20, 2007 8:58 AM ET USA

    Bankruptcy means that the San Diego parishioners are picking up the finances. And remember that California Dioceses are "self-insured." "Self-insured" means that all of the Catholic Californians pay for the financial/sexual abuses of San Diego and Santa Rosa and Oakland and the SF Seminary. Ne illegitimi carborundum.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 20, 2007 12:33 AM ET USA

    Hey Di, it sounds like R. Steele is part of a PR machine. It is possible that he would even be from the Diocese of San Diego. Now you even have "Concerned With Liturgy" joining the PR machine. I almost cried, because I did not know that this Bishop and his Priests have gone and are going through so much suffering that they are almost classified as martyrs.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 19, 2007 10:46 PM ET USA

    I agree with RSteele. The phrase is: "who ARE laying down our lives for the sheep." Present tense, day by day. I was struck by that line when I read it. I thought it was strong and would be very meaningful for the priests under his care. Then there is: "I know, as you do, the deep appreciation of our people..." He's reminding the priests of the people's awe (we all feel it) and loving support. Sounds like a good shepherd to me. Also remember: this Bishop could well read your words.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 19, 2007 5:48 PM ET USA

    This is knee-jerk bishop bashing, criticism for criticism's sake, and quite obviously jaded. You've done much, much better than this, Di. To cite one instance of inaccurate nitpicking : daily priestly ministry is indeed "laying down one's life." The Popes, saints and Church Fathers who have written of it as such are too numerous to mention. Thumbs down on this post.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 19, 2007 5:48 PM ET USA

    They'll get it on Judgement Day. Four!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 19, 2007 5:07 PM ET USA

    "While only a few from among us have been guilty of abuse". Bishop, a few is one too many! Were there not "gay" priests pushing their agenda in your care?. Why has this taken so..long? Is it the year of the pig? Are you still harboring recognized "gay" parishes in San Diego? I am sure that John Paul II not only meant that there is no place for a priest that would hurt a child. He would also say ,that there is no place for a "gay priest" or any priest, ruining 12 to 18 year olds, nor seminarians.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 19, 2007 3:03 PM ET USA

    Too many of our good and faithful priests* will sacrifice a lot, but not their tee times. *And I do not intend that sarcastically in this case---I mean, they are good and faithful priests. Only they have no appetite for martyrdom. As to the bishops, Di and special ops are, of course, right. They still don't get it.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 19, 2007 1:29 PM ET USA

    It looks like laymen will have to save our Church. The bishops just do not get it! There are 16 brave Catholic bishops led by the great Bishop Bruskewitz. Maybe we will some day have over 100 of them!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 19, 2007 1:06 PM ET USA

    No, they don't get it. Not sure they ever will. However, we do know that the Church will survive them, so there is at least hope to shine on the disappointment.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 19, 2007 12:07 PM ET USA

    No, Diogenes, the bishops still don't get it (with the exception, it appears, of only a few)... a fact that wears me down on a daily basis. You are right: by the grace of God, as a priest in the trenches (sanctifying, teaching, governing), I am doing no more than my duty. I have suffered in defending the Faith... & if Almighty God called me to do so, I would lay down my life for Jesus & His Church. Yet, as far as I've heard, there are no reports of martyrdom in San Diego. Mary, ora pro nobis.