Why is power of incumbency a juicy thing? Because you can make things happen such as paving streets (if you have money).
News release from Mayor Bill Finch:
Street Paving Project Announced
The City of Bridgeport today announced that it has completed preliminary design for street repaving improvements on Capitol Avenue and Iranistan Avenue, expected to begin in Spring 2010. The $2.1 million projected cost will be paid for through a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The project will cover reconstruction of pavement on Capitol Avenue from Main Street to Lincoln Boulevard, and on Iranistan Avenue from State Street to Admiral Street. The pavement reconstruction project will entail a full depth reconstruction of the entire roadway from curb to curb. Iranistan Avenue from Admiral to Atlantic Street will be repaved. Streets will be open to traffic during construction work.
Any community members or residents who would like more information about this project should contact: Jon Urquidi, Engineering Supervisor, City of Bridgeport, City Hall, 45 Lyon Terrace, Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604, or by e-mail at email@example.com. Please refer to State Project No. 15-343 in all correspondence.
Top Decade Stories
For me, the sexual abuse scandal in the Diocese of Bridgeport is among the top stories of the decade in Bridgeport. Yes, much of this stuff goes back decades, but it took the guts of a number of adults abused as kids to let people know the last leaders on the planet you’d expect to molest kids were priests. And wouldn’t it have been nice if the bishops in charge showed real leadership instead of lawyering the abuses? I asked John Marshall Lee, an OIB reader, to write a guest blog to place into context what happened and what it all means to the church. Lee is an officer with the Bridgeport chapter of Voice of the Faithful, a support group of the abused that seeks structural changes in the church. See www.votfbpt.org.
BRIDGEPORT: The Story of the Decade–2000-10
By John Marshall Lee
“Dog bites man,” is not a story worth running with print space so precious these days, and even “Man bites dog” may not be worth more than a couple lines. So a Bridgeport ten year story has to have durable “legs” and teem with the unholy trinity of subjects: “sex, money, and power.” I’ll guess that the major nominees to Only In Bridgeport will be members of our political cast where personal reaching for goods or money stretched the low level local understanding of “conflict of interest” too far, and the judicial system removed Mayor Ganim from his chair. The “legs” in this case extend for those hopefuls during Joe G’s Federal prison sentence, expecting him to be received home in 2010 in an “all is forgiven” embrace by an electorate fully reconciled to the financial and reputational damage done to the City.
Well all of that may play, but the story I would nominate is a longer running “immorality play” locally, having cost “powers that be” more “loss of authority” and financial consequences. No one has yet gone to prison in the past ten years for the major “sex, money and power” story that is present in spades. I am talking about the Diocese of Bridgeport under former Bishop Edward Egan and more recently Bishop William Lori. The territory they rule from a Bridgeport headquarters on Jewett Avenue extends the entirety of Fairfield County within which about 50% of the population is identified as Catholic by the Diocesan website. The stories of sexual abuse of youth by Catholic priests exploded in 2001 out of Boston. Bishop Lori went to the 2002 US Council of Catholic Bishop meeting in Dallas that addressed this scandal and came home with a solution, the Safe Environments program that he has installed in the Diocese. 90,000 persons have taken VIRTUS training and a Diocesan Review Board was appointed to receive reports of abuse but have provided little if any info about their work since then.
Around $40 million has been paid to claimants. Thirty-four priests have had public allegations made against them. More than two have protested their innocence yet still serve as priests because some allegations of abuse have not been found “credible” by the Diocese. But the priests did not get a chance in court to clear their names and reputations, nor did they have recourse to Canon Law rights. Why not? Well, perhaps it is because the power of the Bishop is such that only he gets to practice full “freedom of religion,” pointing out that the Roman Catholic Church is not a democracy, that ‘brother priests’ promise obedience to him (rather than the ‘independent contractor status’ explained by Bishop Egan), and that laypersons, especially, hold no real practical power under Church law. Even when laypersons are included in Church administration, they are appointed by a Pastor or Bishop, serve at their pleasure solely, and are there merely for their “advisory” potential, if and when called.
Diocesan governance is thus even tighter than Democratic party control of the levers of power in Bridgeport. There are no elections. Candidates are not even part of the local citizenry when Rome selects you. And the trappings of your office include a 10,000 square foot residence in the ‘burbs. The Bishop has his own newspaper, The Fairfield County Catholic, a monthly, in which his words and image appear frequently. A member of the faithful with a contrasting opinion may not get printed in a Letter to the Editor or even in a paid advertisement!
While Bishop Lori gets to review the finances of all 87 parishes (since millions were discovered missing during the decade in at least two parishes, and one pastor was Federally indicted and sentenced), the people in the pews have no audited comprehensive view of Diocesan finances, which certainly exceed $1 Billion of assets. Significant revenue flows from “taxation without representation” paid by parishes to the Diocese, educational assessments on parishes by the Diocese, and a Bishop’s Annual Appeal that becomes a parish obligation when goals are not met. Income flows from investments and grants from governments to support service programs, as well.
How else could one: Support a legal battle to keep thousands of pages of legal documents (revealing the mindset and confidential inner workings of clerical leadership)? Keep sealed and secret records of sexual abuse response for the better part of ten years? Fight major US newspapers waging battle in CT State courts and finally in the US Supreme Court where, after all appeals were exhausted in 2009; some of the 12,675 pages were released? How else could you provide multiple “secret settlements” of tens of thousands of dollars except that Catholic ‘citizenry’ has been expected to pay, pray, and obey? For the most part they have stayed, too. But many Catholics have abandoned the pews or have begun to send dollars where there is fuller accountability to indicate the works of Christian mercy that are supported.
• Multiple credible cases coming to light of “sexual abuse,” otherwise felonies, perpetrated by multiple “men of God” against children and youth but no court action or prison time;
• Lots of “money” spent and held (financial or real assets representing real value) that is neither subject to income, property or estate taxes and for which no open or transparent record is required or voluntarily made at this time;
• Incredible “power” abuse as hypocrisy as stewards by a small group of ordained men to frustrate any timely or meaningful response to complaints or reports about “sexual abuse” or other improper priestly behavior and a continuing effort to fashion State Law to support their own Canon Law position and then to guide the faithful to support without any discussion any changes in the rules of governance or structural change raising the banner of “religious freedom” in opposition.
Isn’t this Bridgeport’s BIG STORY of the past decade?