The Bishop as politician

As one news day rolls into the next the Buffalo News and many, many television and radio newscasts have become swamped with stories concerning the investigations of clergy accused of pedophilia and sexual abuse in Western New York. Increasingly the focus has expanded to the handling of such issues by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. The face of the Diocese, Bishop Richard Malone, has been at the eye of the storm.

Pretty much all stories manage to work in a comment about how the scandals go back decades, with the Diocese under the management of several bishops over that time. That being said, Bishop Malone is the man in charge now.

This blog is mostly about politics, and this is other stuff. This is a story, however, about how politics and other stuff seem to be merging as this sad and sorry tale continues to unfold. The fact is that the Bishop, as days go on, is acting more and more like a politician than a spiritual leader. Consider a few things:

  • The media frenzy is exactly like one might see when a major political scandal breaks involving dozens and dozens of players. Stories similar to this are being played out throughout the country, like multiple wildfires breaking out all at once.
  • The Bishop is the chief executive of the Diocese, and as such he controls the management of the Diocese’s response to the unfolding scandal. That’s not so good, since he himself has become part of the larger story. Unlike a certain other chief executive politician much in the news these days, however, rather than punch back, Malone has mostly assumed a curled up, defensive posture. His attempts to defend himself are weak and mostly ineffective.
  • Like some other political scandals that we have been observing of late, there have been “leakers” or “whistleblowers” in the diocesan news. The information that has leaked, however, has been much more pointed and therefore more effective than we have seen in most political scandals these days.
  • That is because the whistleblowers have sized up the situation and decided to courageously come forward with very damning information. The diocesan leakers have risked their own futures. There have been telltale books and commentary coming out of the scandals that envelop the Trump administration, but that information has generally been tabloid-style stuff. Most of the DC leakers are wimpy and more concerned with their own futures than that of the country.
  • Malone, as part of his effort to defend himself, has talked about a dozen or so emails of support – sort of like Trump always noting “people are saying…” to embellish his fabrications.
  • Malone has said that he has a majority of Catholics in the Diocese behind his actions. Did I miss something? When did management of the Diocese get turned over to the constituents as if their opinions matter in how the Diocese operates?
  • The Bishop does however has his supporters – his base. I noted that in a previous post when I reported on one of the Bishop’s listening sessions held in June. Most of the table spokespersons at that event supported the Bishop and many attacked the media.
  • The Bishop’s base, however, is swimming against the tide of reality in the form of smaller numbers of attendees at mass and smaller collections from Church members. The Catholic Charities organization has suffered collateral damage.
  • Malone seems to have gravitated to right-leaning WBEN Radio as his preferred media outlet.
  • Malone’s PR team has even taken to excluding Channel 7 investigative reporter Charlie Specht from Malone’s press availability last week – as if that somehow would lessen coverage of the session. Specht, of course, has done more than any other reporter to break and report on the story.
  • Calls for Malone to resign have intensified, and the effort seems to be pushed most strongly by a politician, Congressman Brian Higgins.
  • Malone has now turned on the lay group that set themselves up to improve things, the Movement to Restore Trust. The Movement has now fallen in line with other calls for the Bishop’s resignation. The efforts of the group were well-meaning, but the laity is not going to restore trust in the Church. That needs to come from the Church’s clerical leadership.

With the Bishop dug in and new information about the scandals coming out on nearly a daily basis, the siege is going to continue for a while. The Vatican, of course, could intervene, but the Buffalo Diocese will need to stand in line with other similar scandals throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

That leaves the Bishop (and I use these words lightly) “in control” of the administration and the defense of the Diocese. His management of the situation is poor.

Some key aides of the Bishop have resigned. Those who are remaining, including outside counselors, have been an integral part of the management of these issues. They are part of the problem, not the solution.

The solution would need to involve a radical change in how the Diocese management is set up and functions. Transparency is key. So is the involvement of the laity in all aspects of the management, and not in the form of some token advisory councils.

The thing is, Bishop Malone at this moment is “the chosen one” for the Diocese of Buffalo. One has to wonder, what would Jesus do?

The Biden base

We have gone through the second round of debates among 20 Democrats running for president. The most recent sessions might be described as the elimination round of a game show.

It is hard to get an assessment of any candidate when they are talking, in a two-plus hour period, for just nine or ten minutes – with nine other people are also trying to make an impression on the voting public. It is not a great way to sort things out, but there aren’t a lot of appropriate alternatives. Continue reading

Regardless of what the Barr Report claims, there are plenty of reasons to hold Trump accountable

“A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest…” Simon and Garfunkel

So it’s finally out. The Mueller Report, that is. Followed just 48 hours later by the long awaited Barr Report.

Working overtime during the past weekend, Attorney General William Barr and his gang of Republican-appointed attorneys digested twenty-two months of work by the Office of Special Counsel and wrapped it all up in a concise four-page political summary. Continue reading

When the Republican Party claimed to be fiscal conservatives and constitutionalists; Roger (Stone) and me

You don’t need to think too far back to remember a time when the Republican Party touted the idea that they were the party of fiscal responsibility. They also said they were constitutionalists or originalists.

This is not to say that the Republicans were always pure about such subjects. They took great joy in quickly turning the Clinton budget surpluses into deficits with the Bush tax cuts of 2001. Continue reading

Will Sanders crowd out the other progressive senators? And a couple footnotes on the Erie County Executive race

Welcome to Sunshine Week. Politics and Other Stuff does its part by writing about public institutions that need some sunlight. Sometimes it’s necessary to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

I haven’t watched American Idol or Survivor in a long time, but it seems like we are living in the political version of those TV reality shows at the moment. The Democratic presidential sweepstakes has people coming in; dropping out; trying to decide what to do – it seems like nearly every day.

I’m sure it is just a coincidence, but why did all the “progressive” senator Democratic presidential candidates all seem to enter the 2020 race in a bunch? And now there may be the march of the moderates – some governors, plus former Vice President Joe Biden. Is Beto O’Rourke in this bunch too? Continue reading

Civility and trust don’t come easy

Back in the days when a real Republican was President of the United States, people like Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush ruled the land with strength, grace and eloquence. Democrats fought Republicans over policy, but could still occasionally work together. Compromise was not a dirty word.

That seems so long ago, but as the nation honors the memory of H.W. this week there have been lots of commentaries about how it used to be. Reagan talked about a “city upon a hill.” Bush spoke of “a thousand points of lights.” They were trying to inspire the country by speaking of charity and volunteerism. Continue reading

The mid-term election day edition of facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets

Today is Election Day – the mid-term of all mid-terms. This one feels a lot different. Sort of like Super Bowl Sunday, especially when your team was playing that day. Come on, you can remember how that felt.

I’m not offering any specific predictions here. After all that has been said, written and done, you can draw your own conclusions about what is about to happen. Try to be objective, because like it or not we are all about to come face-to-face with political reality. Continue reading