Monday, June 20, 2005

The Catholic Bishop of Fort Worth Gives In to the Witch Hunt.

continued from Saturday’s post

When you have a witch hunt, as we are now, it’s needful for real men (and gutsy women) to stand up against it and say, “Enough!”

But instead of courageously defending dead and falsely accused priests who have been under the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, Bishop Joseph Delaney gave in to the litigation of the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and released their names to the media right along with the names of those who are alive and rightly accused of child abuse.

Four names were released for the first time, not being the subject of previous news coverage. (I don’t have a problem with the release of the other names.) Two of those men are dead. Real courage there, bishop, throwing the names of the dead to the mud.

But the release of one new name in particular has provoked me to throw off my caution and denounce this betrayal. Read the Dallas Morning News front page story (Registration may be required.) and note the following about that name:

The priest who is known to have remained in ministry is the Rev. Joseph Tu, who has been serving for years at a Houston parish and could not be reached for comment Friday evening. Nor could officials of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese.

Father Tu is a member of the Dominican religious order, and Bishop Delaney referred questions to its officials in New Orleans, saying that they had made the decision to keep him in ministry. The officials could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Here’s another news account.

But look at what the Dallas Morning News did reveal a few days later:

Galveston-Houston officials gave this written account of the allegations and their aftermath:
• Father Tu was accused in 1993 "in reference to an incident in 1980, in Fort Worth, with two minor girls."
• He was temporarily removed from his Fort Worth parish while his Dominican superiors investigated.
• "The alleged victims' family confirmed that there was no sexual abuse."
• He "received a psychological assessment which ruled out any sexual attraction to minors, and he returned to ministry in Fort Worth."
• His order transferred him to Houston in 1994 "in response to the needs of the Dominican fathers' ministry."
• "There have been no complaints of a sexual nature raised against Father Tu during his 11 years of ministry in Houston."

The Star-Telegram story (really obnoxious registration. I go through a lot for you people.) begins:

A priest accused of sexually abusing two girls in the Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese was cleared after a church investigation found no wrongdoing and the family recanted, according to a recent letter written by Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese.

So the accusations against him likely were false. In any case, the matter was long ago, recanted by the family, and not repeated in the twenty-five years since. But Bishop Delaney threw his reputation to the wolves anyway.

I’ve had it with the so-called Voice of the Faithful as well. In pushing for the release of these names and in their conduct in general, they have shown little or no concern for protecting the falsely accused.

The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram are certainly not clean in this matter. A judge rightly sealed the names, and the bishop originally wanted them kept private. But the papers sued to have them released anyway. I understand the news media’s job is to uncover and report. And to their credit, they later reported information that at least largely clears Tu’s name. But the damage was done.

And surely they understand some things are best kept private to protect the innocent. Newspapers rightly don’t reveal the names of sexual abuse victims. But where’s the protection of those who may be falsely accused of sexual abuse?

But the news media’s persistence is no excuse for the bishop to jump the gun and release the names, especially the names of Fr. Tu and of the deceased. And he gave little indication in releasing the names that Fr. Tu has been cleared. If anything, he did the very opposite. Here’s the diocese press release page.

The bishop dared to say through a spokesman that he thought releasing the names also would "exonerate the overwhelming majority of priests who have served faithfully throughout their priesthood."

What!? Not only does that sound like Father Tu has not served faithfully, throwing more mud at his name, it implies that the way to protect of the reputations of priests is to throw the reputations of priests to the wolves. If I worked under Bishop Delaney, I would certainly feel differently about that.

And then this statement from the bishop: “I want to be certain that we acknowledge the faithful, Christlike service of more than 98 percent of our priests who have not been accused of wrongdoing.” What about those who have been falsely accused? It’s hard to escape the tenor of the bishop’s statement that if you are merely accused, you and your reputation are treated as unfaithful and worthless.

I would say that’s guilty until proven innocent, except that the bishop’s treatment is worse. For Fr. Tu is at least close to proven innocent (and it's exceedingly difficult to prove innocence in such cases), but +Delaney still treated him as if he were proven guilty.

Bishop, your job is to shepherd the flock under you, both clergy and laity. That job isn’t easy. It often means defending the flock against wolves, including witch hunters.

But instead of doing that, you practically joined a witch hunt yourself. You threw the reputation of a faithful servant to the wolves and treated him as unfaithful, even though there are good reasons to believe the accusations against him were false and even though he has been cleared by both his order and another diocese.

Shame on you, Bishop Delaney! Shame on you!

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