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Posted February 15, 2006

They Don't Get It!

We often hear the phrase, "They donít get it!", meaning the bishops still arenít responding well to the sex abuse issue. In Origins Feb. 16, 2006, we hear one bishopís experience of dealing with the issue, and what it taught him. Readers might want to compare Bishopís Brown experience with Karl Rahnerís idea of what todayís priesthood should be. Rahnerís article is posted on our web site. Just go to search and search only jknirp and put Rahnerís name in to find his thoughts.

An Excerpt from the article:

Finding Needed Wisdom and Courage
During Difficult Days

by Bishop Tod Brown

If you ask me where I found the wisdom and courage to move forward during those days, I have to say it was the personal support, honest advice and professional direction provided to me by the other leaders and experts in our diocese, particularly the laity. In legal affairs I not only was assisted by a fine, experienced and able legal team, I was also advised by a dozen or so Orange Country judges and top-level attorneys in the various legal fields.

. . . I have learned two things through all of this:

First, frequent and transparent communication, not only with your advisers but with the whole people of the diocese, is essential, although at the start it feels like the last thing you want to do. As a bishop, I believed that it was my job to figure it all out, to make the right decisions and then tell everyone that Iíve solved the problem. Like any father of a family, I wanted to solve the problem before anyone knew there was one.

What I and the other bishops of our diocese did instead was to make a covenant with the faithful and then keep that pledge, which included, among other things, to be as clear and honest as we could in our communications. Sure, many who had their own agendas did not believe us, and many people do not believe us even today. To them it is still all "spin."

But many, particularly among Catholics, did listen to what we communicated and, after sifting it for themselves, became more and more convinced of the honesty of our statements and commitments. At any time communication with a large, rambunctious and multilingual, multicultural and ethnically diverse flock is difficult, but even more so in the midst of a crisis. But if I ended up making difficult decisions, it was because the people of God were part of the process. I listened to them, and eventually many of them listened to me.

This leads to the second thing that I learned: the church is all of us. Of course, I knew that in theory and in theology before all this happened. I have been committed to collaborative ecclesial leadership during my years as a priest in the Diocese of Monterey and as a bishop in both the Diocese of Boise and the Diocese of Orange. But I had the experience of it at a very deep level during this crisis.

It was only with many people Ė lay, religious and ordained Ė working at a very high level of commitment, through many long hours of meeting wherein each brought their expertise to bear, that I was able to take decisive action with conviction and confidence. Along with Bishop William Skylstad, I believe that the whole church will learn "how helpful it is to have the laity involved as fully as possible in the life of the diocese and the parish.