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?

Some facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets

Welcome to the unofficial end of summer! The time when campaigns begin to ramp up activities and a sense of urgency starts to develop.

Here are some facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets for the beginning of September:

  • All serious campaigns have already or are now finalizing their plans for mailings, advertising, and targeted campaigning. Oh yes, and raising more money.
  • On the other hand, Democratic candidates for president may be adjusting their approach now that the stage is set for the next debate on September 12th in Houston. We won’t be seeing all those desperate emails asking for one dollar because the candidates needed 130,000 unique donors, dispersed among several states, in order to qualify for the debate stage.
  • One of the failed candidates is New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Maybe now that she does not need to spend time in Iowa we might spot her occasionally in Western New York.
  • Unfortunately, the rules for the October presidential debate will give more time for some of the candidates who did not qualify for September to raise sufficient funds or to rise in the polls to qualify, which might mean more than ten candidates and debates again stretching over two nights – not a positive development.
  • We would all like an extra $1,000 to spend, although perhaps not from the deficit-ridden federal government, but why can’t Andrew Yang, who adds nothing to the primary debate, see the light and graciously depart?
  • Quote of the pre-Labor Day week from Donald Trump: “We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!” Wow! What is the world coming to when Fox News makes Donald Trump unhappy? Can this marriage be saved?
  • When will the Republican debates be scheduled now that Trump has two opponents? For those not paying attention, they are former Massachusetts Governor (and failed candidate for New York Governor) William Weld and former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh; and maybe former South Carolina Governor and Congressman Mark Sanford.
  • Trump clone Boris Johnson, new Prime Minister of the country formerly known as Great Britain, has prorogued Parliament for a month in order to hasten the country’s departure from the European Union. Prorogued is a technical term meaning “shut up and go away,” and is not to be confused with pierogis, which are a Polish delicacy. Trump would no doubt like to do the same thing with Congress and is probably even now checking to confirm that the Constitution permits him to do that.
  • Why not the Trump Doral Resort in Miami for the G-7? The sessions are held in August, which is the height of the hurricane season, so the place will probably be empty. If a storm were to strike when G-7 was there, Trump could go from bungalow to bungalow passing out paper towels.
  • As economic signs point more and more to an economic slowdown or maybe a recession, Trump is doing anything and everything to point the finger to anyone but the guy he sees in the mirror. The sugar-high benefits of the corporate tax cuts have worn off and his tariff shenanigans are a disaster.
  • And why so little reporting about the likelihood that Trump is really pushing for the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates because the “king of debt” stands to benefit personally from lower rates on his failing properties?
  • In local political news, there is hardly any. Candidates are campaigning. There basically is no local political media coverage for anything below the countywide level, and even that is only occasional.
  • On August 27th this blog pointed out that the Erie County Board of Elections’ website had no mention of the dates and locations for early voting in Erie County this year, which begins on October 26 and runs through November 3. On August 28th the Board of Elections’ website provided information about early voting and the locations that will be available. Thank you.
  • The early voting could change the dynamics of the election – or not. It will come down to what the parties can make of it. Democrats usually do better with a larger turnout, and Republicans usually look for ways to keep turnout down. At the very least early voting will not keep turnout down.
  • Interesting factoid: during this year’s state legislative session, Senator Tim Kennedy sponsored the most bills passed in the State Senate, 65.
  • There have now been two State Supreme Court decisions concerning last year’s legislation that provided pay raises for the state’s elected officials while tying the second and third helpings of ten thousand dollar legislative raises to limitations on their permitted outside income. One of the decisions said that the raises could not be linked to the outside income limitations and that the second and third legislative pay raises could not occur. The other decision allows the additional raises but says that the Commission that linked the raises to the income limitations exceeded any authority to do so. The Court of Appeals will eventually weigh in.
  • So the question is, does the matter of legislative authority essentially being given to an unelected commission carry over to the 2019 version of a commission?
  • That body is charged with setting up procedures for public funding of statewide and legislative elections, and oh yeah, deciding whether fusion voting should continue in the state.
  • Public financing of state elections could be tremendously expensive. It could also significantly change the landscape of those elections by encouraging potential candidates who might not otherwise have the money to run, to jump in. In the New York City model that the commission might be following, lots of money is spent and wasted on fringe candidates.
  • The question of eliminating fusion voting, however, might in the end become the predominant matter coming out of the Public Campaign Financing Commission’s work. If they recommend the end of fusion voting and that recommendation is sustained, the political landscape in the state will change considerably. Statewide the Republicans opportunities for election will be damaged. The same will apply in some parts of the state such as Erie County where the Conservative Party has been of great assistance to Republicans.
  • The Commission has hardly started its work, but already it has created one of the strangest, though unofficial alliances in state politics. The left-leaning Working Families Party and the right-leaning Conservative Party are already working feverishly to prevent or defeat any effort to end fusion voting. Strange bedfellows.
  • The Bills kick off the new season next Sunday. Forgive me for not being too excited.
  • During the current millennium (which has run 19 years thus far) the Bills have had only three seasons where they finished with more wins than losses, and of course, just one playoff appearance. Go back to the team’s beginning in 1960 and you will see that there have been only 23 winning years out of 60.
  • That being said, my opinion is that Josh Allen can turn out to be a good quarterback. They have added some better receivers and have beefed up the offensive line. It is still hard to think, however, that they will go past another 9 win and 7 loss year and make the playoffs.

Immigration discrimination

 

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The New Colossus,” a poem written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 to raise funds for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. It was later mounted inside the pedestal’s lower level. Continue reading

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

While Republicans stand by silently, Trump signals his willingness to break the law again; the Democratic primary

Donald Trump last week once again told the world that he is willing to break the law. Evil doers around the world smirked.  Republicans throughout the United States mostly observed the latest instance of Trump’s above-the-law attitude in silence.

As Paul Simon sang, “Fools” said I, “You do not know Silence like a cancer grows…” Continue reading

So what do you think? Here’s a really, really early voting opportunity

The Democratic presidential field is very crowded, with 24 candidates. The Republican presidential field, not so much, with Donald Trump and Bill Weld. One guy is thinking of running as an independent candidate. There are lots of campaign issues out there, but which ones are really important? Time to take a little look.

This post is asking you to take a couple minutes to weigh in on the candidates and the issues of the day. There are also a couple sports questions at the end.  Check back to see how the poll is going. Continue reading