Tuesday, February 27, 2007

In San Diego, A Disingenuous Start to Lent

Bishop Robert H. Brom (left)
Passing the Buck?

By Lisa Haddock

For the Diocese of San Diego, Lenten repentance seems all about “do as I say, not as I do.”

The diocese may try to wiggle out of a court fight with more than 140 alleged sex abuse victims by declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to an Associated Press report published on Feb 19.

In a statement read at Masses throughout his diocese, San Diego Bishop Robert H. Brom wrote: “We are painfully aware of the harm that the victims of abuse have suffered, and we want to treat all of them fairly and equitably. At the same time, good stewardship demands that settlements not cripple the ability of the Church to accomplish its mission and ministries. Consequently, we must consider how best to fairly compensate the victims while at the same time not jeopardizing our overall mission. If this cannot be done through settlement negotiations, the diocese may be forced to file a Chapter 11 reorganization in bankruptcy court.”

The statement, issued just before the penitential season of Lent, should raise eyebrows among the faithful.

Church teaching stipulates: “One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries). Simple justice requires as much” (Catechism 1459).

Are there two sets of rules operating here? One for the faithful? Another for the hierarchy?

Yeshiva University Law Professor Marci Hamilton argues that the bishop is being inconsistent.

“Brom pits the victims against the parishioners, as if they were somehow adversaries. Of course, this is far from true: The victims were children of past parishioners. And if they had not been brave enough to come forward, then current parishioners' children would continue to be at the same risk as they were. These are two groups joined in a commonality of interest, not two groups at loggerheads.”

As I have written elsewhere in this blog, the laity have the right and the duty to speak out “on matters which pertain to the good of the Church.” They may address their opinions to “the sacred pastors” as well as to the rest of the Christian faithful (Canon Law 212, Paragraph 3).

For the health of the Church, they should do just that.

Read more at Bishop-Accountability.org.

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