January 13, 2005

The All-Spin Zone

Orange County Weekly

by Gustavo Arellano

Now that the Diocese of Orange has agreed to pay $100 million to victims of its pedo-priests, Bishop Tod D. Brown is busy cobbling a new persona for himself. Goodbye, bumbling protector of molesters; welcome, O valiant reformer!

The national media bought this false idol immediately at a Jan. 3 press conference held in Los Angeles Superior Court announcing the settlement, the largest in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Fawning reporters didn’t bother to ask Brown any probing questions—they found their answers instead in the form of a cardinal-red folder eagerly distributed by diocesan spokesman Father Joseph Fenton that contained an official statement, a FAQ sheet and a full-color glossy of the bishop. Photographers and cameramen quickly clicked and filmed Brown accepting the tearful, grateful hugs of victims, images they splashed across TV screens that night and front pages the following day.

As always, The Orange County Register—the once-critical paper that nowadays reads like the Orange diocese’s official newsletter, the Orange County Catholic—spun it the Church way. "Some hailed Brown as a hero" was religion reporter Ann Pepper’s summation of the man. His Excellency, obviously reveling in his newly scrubbed celebrity, solemnly told Pepper, "If I’ve been able to be of any assistance in bringing [the sex-abuse cases] to a conclusion, I am most grateful for that."

In a statement published in many parish bulletins last Sunday, Brown wrote to Orange County’s 1.2 million Catholics, "We can stand tall having kept all our pledges to the victim survivors and having reformed our way of dealing with this horror in our Church. Let’s be the Church that is known for keeping its promises and being trustworthy, the Church where what you see is what you get, no spin or excuses."

But that period of clarity is over. An internal church document obtained by the Weekly shows the Orange diocese accepted the $100 million settlement not to, as Brown told the faithful, spare victims from "years of emotionally difficult litigation," but because Church officials knew just a minute before a civil court would "return devastating jury verdicts against the diocese."

Posted by kshaw at January 13, 2005 06:47 PM