Before I get into an overview of my own feelings and reasons for all this writing, a quick update from yesterday afternoon: a Pleasanton parishioner has been reading my blog and offered to help. This is wonderful news! The person emailed me a copy of a report that I thought at first was a mistake due to the dates on it. The dates are not an error: it is an old report but it is helpful. I am still reading it and will report back later. And for those wondering: no response from the Pastor or his council to any of my requests.
I think I have to pause here and remember why I am doing all this in the first place because I managed to make myself angry all over again as I wrote that post on the 17th. My anger surprised me.
Ruth does not like me scowling at the keyboard and Veronica hides under the kitchen table as if she were being scolded. I had thought I was no longer angry after the Cathedral was dedicated; it seems not. Perhaps I said some intemperate things in that post but I will not delete it.
Back in 2008 I was still working and hence didn’t have the time to really do anything about the Cathedral besides gripe — including working through my own conflicted feelings on the matter; but now with all this time on my hands I feel the need to revisit what happened and perhaps call attention to what is going on at the diocesan and parish levels that make the problem so pervasive. It made me upset then, but I did not have the inclination to deal with it beyond gossiping over coffees after Mass at Holy Rosary. I could talk to Fr. Roberto about it but, good person though he is, he belongs to the problems and is not much help with this either.
Why am I angry?
I was angry as the abuse revelations came out, and angered further that a decision was taken to build a cathedral in Oakland while nothing regarding the abuse in our Diocese had really been settled. To call it Christ the Light while the true extent of the dark stain of abuse was still spreading… The audacity of the act left me (leaves me) breathless.
I am reminded why I dropped out of seminary all those years back. My dear brother, were he still alive, would, I’m sure, see a reason for compassion in all of this; but he was after all a Priest; they’re supposed to do that kind of thing. Me? All I see is waste. The waste of so much good from the hard work of the people of our diocese. Our Bishops abused, built and borrowed and now as the magnitude of those collective errors are tallied, a new Bishop has decided to ask for even more in the form of a capital campaign. How much more are the people expected to pay without being clearly told the reasons, because our total is looking to be close to $250M!
I have a strong hunch, based on what I see in the figures, that the $65M being asked for is not nearly enough, which means even more will be asked for later. I also suspect that Bishops and Pastors count on time as a tool that helps laypeople forget. Neither spends any siginificant time explaining “how we arrived here” because doing so would cause them to question the actions of their predecessors. There is a code amongst Priests that starts with silence about other Priests. That code is what led to the abuse scandal going on for so long and left the laypeople unprotected.
So, I am angry too at the willingness to unrepentantly ask for money while tacitly ignoring the decisions of the Bishops that brought us to this point. The debt, the abuse, the construction… All are a pattern of decision making that excludes the concept of layperson collegiality. Think on it for a moment and wonder: what if Bishop Cummins had consulted a lay review board and asked them if he should be transferring Priests accused of abuse? Do we really think a review board of our lay peers would have said the Bishop should go ahead and make transfers? But he did not consult a layperson (and if he did, he ignored the advice), he consulted other Priests. Aside from the incalculable harm that was visited on the bodies and souls of our young people, we can in fact calculate the fiscal ramifications of the decision: you and I paid $30M (and funded his pension too).
My diagnosis, and of course it comes through the lens of my own financial experience, sees the corporate structure of the diocese as a tool reinforcing the tendencies of Bishops towards dictatorial behavior and sowing confusion as to whom our treasure actually belongs to. Our Bishops have acted with impunity and acted as if our money was theirs. The Diocese certainly shows a pattern of that behavior dating back to the 1970’s–just look at the results we have now. We laypeople might refer to some of our bishops as benevolent dictators, but the capricious nature of their financial decisions so far have turned benevolence to bankruptcy. Bishop Barber certainly was not here for any of the aforementioned issues, however, he works in a system designed to reinforce past decisions; to never question fellow Bishops and to protect his Priests. None of those structures that led to the abuse or financial mismanagement are different now. Yes, we have a thing called ‘safe environment’ designed to safegaurd the kids, but what about a program called ‘safe investing’ designed to protect laypeople from the financial abuse of the Catholic hierarchy? If you are going to run a corporation sole, you should have a financial background check and be certified to make financial decisions. If a Bishop can’t pass that inspection, then he shouldn’t be given a checkbook. This is just common sense.
Bishop Barber’s office, as that of all Bishops, remains suspect by what transpired in it prior to his arrival. The simple fact is that a pattern of fiduciary irresponsibility is evidenced in each of our prior Bishops except for this last one (so far). Bishop Barber must then be assumed to have the same poor financial acumen as his predecessors. Instigating a $65M capital campaign indicates I am probably right.
And it makes me angry.