Now this is different. Bishop Lennon has decided to sell some archdiocesan property and is also filing for dismissal of the lawsuits on First Amendment grounds. Now, under previous management, we’d only hear about this when the filings hit the court and the plaintiff’s lawyers started screaming bloody murder. Instead, Bishop Lennon called in reporters and told them, “Look we’re filing for dismissal, but only because the insurance companies are making us pursue all defenses before they’ll write a check. We intend on paying out settlements.”
In other words, it’s the transparency and accountability that everyone’s been screaming for. I’ve been saying for years that the Church needs to be proactive in getting its message out. Too often we let the press or critics frame the story. For example, when the archdiocese sent out the order banning all archdiocesan-sponsored or -related events from Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton, it didn’t give any reasons why or even anticipate that anyone would care. Instead, the story ended up on the front page of the Boston Globe, above the fold, with Fr. Cuenin telling everyone that it was about the priests meeting to discuss the capital campaign, when it is likely it had nothing at all to do with that. Or when a local parish, St. Mary’s, is told it will be closed and merged, rather than contacting the media with the spiritual and material reasons, the archdiocese says nothing, and the newspaper is filled with angry Catholics and the Church looks like an uncaring monolith and even more Catholics have another reason to doubt the faith.
I think Bishop Lennon’s actions are a good sign and a hopeful sign for the future. I hope that it signals a new recognition that Catholics want to know and understand, to not be mindless drones, but to be considered with respect when decisions are made by bishops and priests.