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Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Phoenix, from the ashes?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 22, 2005

Lifeteen founder and Diocese of Phoenix priest Dale Fushek was arrested yesterday on ten misdemeanor criminal counts of sexual abuse, including indecent exposure, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and assault. Maricopa County DA Andrew Thomas had harsh words for Fushek and a good word for current Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmstead:

"It is a striking contrast from the behavior of the prior bishop [Thomas O'Brien] and his regime of stonewalling and of avoiding responsibility for the crimes committed on his watch."

Buick buffs may recall the name of the District Attorney from his excellent essay in National Review concerning the downfall of Olmstead's predecessor of unhappy memory. The following paragraph (published before his election as DA) gives us hope that there may be some changes afoot in Phoenix:

O'Brien also exemplified and perpetuated the moral relativism that has taken hold of so many of the other upper reaches of U.S. society, including many quarters of organized religion. O'Brien plainly equated accusations of pedophilia with gay bashing. As a result, he felt obliged to chastise the accusers: Their complaints, by his standards, were evidence of bigotry. This view was symptomatic of his broader disconnect with Catholic doctrine, a schism that rendered O'Brien's diocese one of the most liberal in the country. O'Brien's top lieutenants reflected this tilt. In 1999, the monsignor who served as O'Brien's top lobbyist at the legislature worked to torpedo a piece of anti-abortion legislation by convincing two Senate Democrats to withdraw their support of the bill unless the Republican leadership agreed to repeal welfare reform (this writer was witness to those machinations, which became well-known in the Arizona right-to-life community). The same monsignor was an open backer of liberal Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano -- with O'Brien's tacit support.

Mister Thomas, you're no Janet Reno.

Under Bishop O'Brien, and his own appalling predecessor, James Rausch, the Diocese of Phoenix was reduced to state of moral disarray hard to exaggerate. Even if he is innocent of the crimes with which he is charged, Fushek, as O'Brien's vicar general, will have a tough time denying complicity in the decisions that brought out the diocese's disorder -- a disorder that seems to have touched every aspect of diocesan life. One detail easily eclipsed by the gravity of the allegations is the claim that one abuse incident occurred in "a hot tub on [St. Timothy's] church property." Doesn't possession of a hot tub (a fact easily verifiable or falsifiable, one would think) indicate of itself that something is off-kilter in the life of the clergyman who owns it? The lines between simplicity and comfort and comfort and luxury are fuzzy, I admit, but I find it hard to picture Charles de Foucauld reclining in the mission Jacuzzi, cooling his brow with an ice cube fished from his Perfect Manhattan.

But it may not remain this way forever. The glimmer of hope visible in this story is that, unless they are knee-capped by those who yearn for the ways of old Phoenix, men like Olmstead and Thomas might clean the stables thoroughly enough to provide a model for other Catholics in similarly afflicted areas. A single example of a single successful turnaround could encourage the folks who have no say in the matter and embolden those that do.

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