under oath

By Diogenes (articles) | Sep 20, 2007

Bishop Tod Brown, greater Santa Ana's hammer of homophobes, has painted himself into a legal corner by flying his vicar general to a Canadian treatment center after said vicar staged a swoon in the middle of a sticky deposition last month. That deposition (don't be shocked) concerned diocesan foreknowledge of the kind of boundary violations that typically earn the violator a couple months in an out-of-state treatment center.

Lawyers for a former Mater Dei High School student suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in a sex abuse case are seeking to hold Bishop Tod Brown in contempt of court, arguing that he allowed his chief investigator of molestation complaints to be sent to a Canadian treatment center so that he could avoid testifying.

Msgr. John Urell is under a court order to complete a deposition that abruptly ended in July after about six hours of questioning, when he became overwhelmed with emotion and walked out in tears, telling the judge he was unsure whether he would ever be able to finish.

Brown later testified during his deposition that he made the decision this month to send Urell to Southdown Institute, a facility that treats clergy for a variety of conditions, knowing at the time that the monsignor was required to resume his deposition.

Walked out in tears, did the VG, telling the judge he was unsure whether he would ever be able to finish. How very sad. And now he's in Canada, being treated for a condition the Apostle of Openness can't bring himself to give a name to. My hunch is dandruff.

Last week Brown himself gave a deposition -- a transcript of which you can find here. It's a disappointing performance by all concerned, as no one on either side seems able to frame a question lucid enough to land a punch; even the judge seems to have his mind elsewhere. That gives the bishop plenty of room for maneuver. There's a wryly amusing aspect to Brown's verbal tightrope walking. He wants to get home the point that Urell's collapse was so total that immediate and drastic remedies were called for, but he also wants to convey that Urell's residence at a facility best known for treating sexually deranged clergy is no big deal and nothing to get excited about. The following exchange (pp. 53f. of the transcript) purports to explain Brown's decision to yank Urell and airmail him across the border:

Question: What did [Diocese of Orange Vicar for Clergy Fr. Christopher] Smith tell you was wrong with Monsignor Urell?

Bishop Brown: Father Smith told me Monsignor Urell was very upset, was not really able to continue on with his normal pastor duties, that he was not well, in Father Smith's opinion, and that there was a consultation after that with Father -- Monsignor's Urell's doctor and with his attorney.

And with his attorney? Now that's a novel approach to healing. One would like to know whether Brown was moved by curiosity to ask Smith a couple follow-up questions about Urell, or whether in fact he asked no such questions because he didn't need to. It's been noted that there is no shortage of psychotherapists in California to which Msgr. Urell might, with less inconvenience to himself, have sought relief from his distress. They say the air at Southdown works wonders, however.

Perhaps Bishop Brown will here remind us of the Fifth Thesis of his vaunted Covenant:

We will be open, honest and forthright in our public statements to the media, and consistent and transparent in our communications with the Catholics of our Diocese.

Nothing in there about straight-dealing in the courts, is there?

Richard Cross holds a doctorate in psychology, who has taught at the university level, including at Franciscan University. He is currently an educational researcher and consultant in the field of psychology and related disciplines.
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