National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  January 30, 2004

Bishop nails 'promises' to cathedral door


By knocking nails in doors, Orange, Calif., Bishop Tod D. Brown is attempting to open a few. On Sunday, Jan. 18, Brown nailed to the door of his cathedral “seven promises” to Catholics of the Orange diocese outlining the diocese’s attempts to rebuild trust following the clergy sex abuse scandal.

When in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany, he was challenging the church structure, rather than apologizing for it.

Though eyed warily by sexual abuse survivors and their organizations, Brown has taken the initiative on several occasions to air sex-scandal-related issues ahead of the episcopal pack. The Orange diocese was one of the few to make its compliance goals public ahead of the bishops’ national child protection policies report (NCR, Jan. 19).

While Brown’s stated goal in his “Covenant with the Faithful” -- now tacked to the Holy Family Cathedral door -- is to “provide an atmosphere of openness and trust” with everyone in the diocese “as partners,” abuse survivors see it more as a ploy or window dressing. The diocese confirmed it paid $90,000 to the public relations firm, Softness Group, for assistance in crafting the covenant and seven points. But with all 56 Orange parishes set to receive copies of what Brown nailed to his door, with instructions to pastors to nail the copies to their doors, Brown still is stepping out front in his bid to rebuild trust.

The seven points are a pledge that the diocese and its bishops will:

1) continue to do everything possible to help heal sexual abuse victims;

2) implement the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People;

3) attempt to “heal the hurt” felt by a humiliated clergy, religious and laity “disgraced by the actions of priests who abused children” and leaders who “failed to respond appropriately”;

4) work collaboratively to establish openness and trust to empower “all members of the diocese” to “create a new era” for the Orange County church;

5) be honest and open in communications and public statements;

6) restore confidence in their role as bishops;

7) rededicate the diocese as “Ambassadors of Love” focusing on the needs of the poor and needy.

Arthur Jones is NCR editor at large. His e-mail address is

National Catholic Reporter, January 30, 2004

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