The Orange County Register has taken Bishop Tod Brown to task, and rightfully so. In the past few days, since the transcript of Bishop Brown's deposition was published, his credibility as a Catholic leader has dissolved to nothing.
Reading Bishop Brown's testimony, I must either concur that he is a completely inept manager for the Diocese of Orange who - despite his role as its leader - remains perpetually in the dark and allows the people around him to run the show while he remains ignorant, learning of things only after the fact and then from diocesan lawyers . . . or he is lying. My inclination is to think the latter.
As an attorney, I do not find the revelation that Brown failed to disclose an accusation made against him the 1990's as worrisome as Monsignor Urell's sudden trip to Canada. Trial is to start next week and a key witness - whose own deposition had to be suspended when he was unable to continue testimony - is medically unable to go on and is sent to Canada for treatment? The first issue that must be raised is the fact that this witness is now beyond the reach of subpoena (assuming no subpoena was served for his presence at trial and I will say that's a safe bet, else John Manley would be screaming about a bench warrant) as he is outside the jurisdictional boundaries of the United States. It looks, it smells like a deliberate act, especially when (a) he could receive the same treatment in the United States, if not locally, and (b) his deposition began in August and the timing of his departure just lends itself to speculation. Brown may cry foul at Manley's attempts to contiribute to scandal, but this is a situation Brown has set up by his own actions.
The official diocesan spin can be found here, with Brown's "Clarification of Current Media Reports." I find some of the statements serving even more to destroy Brown's credibility:
** Regarding his failure to disclose the accusation leveled against Brown, "[t]he unsubstantiated allegation had already been disclosed earlier in the press." Indeed it had, but not by Brown or any diocese - instead, it was disclosed via a weekly local, alternative newspaper, The OC Weekly, back in April.
** The diocese states: "The recommendation to place Msgr. Urell in a residential treatment facility was made by Msgr. Urell himself, his doctors, his family and close friends and the diocesan Vicar for Priests, Father Christopher Smith. At no time was the diocesan legal team involved in making this decision." Msgr. Urell is pastor of St. Norbert's in Orange, CA. It is quite a large parish and one whose congregation has a number of locally influential persons. The decision to remove its pastor temporarily was made without the input of Brown, to whom Msgr. Urell reports directly? That is incredulous.
** Also: "Bishop Brown is committed to following the recommendation of medical professionals and providing the best possible treatment for priests in need of it. " Really? Ask the former Fr. Cesar Salazar.
Bad faith or just bad P.R.? Either way, I think Bishop Brown could best serve Mother Church by resignation, either because of his incompetent handling of this situation or his willingness to sacrifice his priests to protect himself.