The Most Reverend Daniel F. Walsh
Diocese of Santa Rosa
320 Tenth Street
Santa Rosa, California 95401
March 25, 2002
Dear Bishop Walsh:
This morning’s San Francisco Chronicle has your picture on the front page, and staff writer Jim Doyle has a story about your Palm Sunday address to your parishioners. “The smearing of all priests,” he has you saying, “and the open questioning of their fidelity to their vows because of the sins and crimes of the few has caused great pain.”
Like you, I have complaints with the media. It’s possible Jim Doyle misquoted you, or took you out of context. But even if smearing the imperfect media was not the primary focus of your sermon, your choice to call the kettle black suggests that, after all the attention this issue has demanded, you apparently still do not understand the reason for the widespread outrage and disgust. You still evidently think the fault lies elsewhere but in the hierarchy that circles the wagons to protect its corporate interests, even at the expense of the young souls in its charge.
You may be justifiably resentful that the media help keep this story alive, but you should recognize it is remarks such as yours that drive the outrage that drives the interest in the first place. Attempts to deflect attention from the real problem will only hurt the church in the long run. Lust for children does not stem from celibacy; it’s not about celibacy. And the presence of a few sexual predators in a brotherhood of hundreds of thousands surely is beyond human control; it’s not about statistics.
And it’s not about the media. The issue is whether the arrogance of power that led bishops and cardinals to cover up abuse will ultimately destroy the church from within, and whether catholics will withhold contributions to an organization managed for bureaucrats in cassocks, rather than for human souls.
More than 80% of Roman Catholic Americans admit to practicing birth control, according to a report I read recently. The fact that this represents about the same percentage as among Protestants is telling. Figures are similar for ever increased recognition of gay and lesbian relationships as loving and healthy. These trends and patterns demonstrate that Catholics are no less than Protestants full participants in American culture and that they are governed more directly by cultural norms than by institutional religious directives.
A few screwed up priests won’t drive most catholics out of the church any more than mediaeval constructions of sexuality. One can learn to live with imperfection. Arrogance, duplicity, and deflection of responsibility, however, is another story.
Alan J. McCornick
Bishop Walsh reponds:
April 5, 2002
Dear Mr. McCornick,
I wish to acknowledge your letter of March 25th, and want to thank you for your observations. I do feel my words were taken out of context and the primary focus of my sermon was encouragement to priests as well as acknowledgment of mistakes made in the past by the hierarchy in dealing with this question. I thank you for your observation.
With kindest personal regards I am,
Your Brother and Servant in the Lord,
Most Reverend Daniel F. Walsh
Bishop of Santa Rosa