A reader writes in about Bishop Hogan’s letter of warning to “wayward” priests:
I wouldn’t call myself overly Pollyannish about the state of the Catholic clergy and hierarchy, but I still can barely get my mind around the fact that Hogan’s was a form letter.
A form letter.
Take a mega-diocese like Los Angeles, with about 500 diocesan priests to deal with. If the LAPD were to report to the archbishop the misbehavior of his priests, with names, such that he was obliged to resort to a standard letter in order to remonstrate with them, it would be stunning even to RCF. Altoona-Johnstown has 150 priests.
Thus Hogan: “Since your name appears on reports—of either ‘hangout’ association or frequenting of ‘cruising’ areas, I deem it my pastoral duty to call it to your attention.”
My pastoral duty. Any guesses as to how Hogan would respond to, say, old Mrs. O’Flanagan, who’d guessed correctly the reason for her pastor’s odd absences and worked up the courage to write a letter to the bishop?
Hogan again: “It appears that this activity was prompted by complaints relative to underage involvement. Which, incidentally, has caused one Judge to threaten ‘throwing the book’ and to call attention to enormous litigation indemnities now being awarded in such cases.”
Complaints relative to underage involvement—a nice Clintonian passive-voice. It’s reassuring to see the bishop go right to the spiritual disorder at the heart of the crisis and use the language of the prophet Isaiah: “enormous litigation indemnities.” Or is it Ezekiel?
Hogan: “Needless to point out, no one more than I hopes that there is no need to experience suspicion or anxiety.”
This one defeats me. I think he means: it would be wonderful if the police reports were in error. But we all know they’re not. Be more discreet.
More Hogan: “If I find it painful to write these notes, I can understand that it is distressing for you to receive them.”
Hogan feels their pain. Very touching. If the diocesan collection revenues were a third of the expected amount, and parishioners bombarded the chancery with letters complaining about the pastor’s Lamborghini coupe, and the cops turned over reports of priests’ nocturnal frequenting of known bookies, illegal off-track betting parlors, and crap games, would the corresponding letter to the malefactors speak to their distress so tenderly? You make the call.