Will Bishop Lori Be Missed?

John Marshall Lee is a member of the Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport, an affiliate of an international group of Catholics that support persons abused by clergy and works to shape structural change within the Catholic Church. He shares a commentary in response to a Connecticut Post editorial Bishop Lori will be missed following the announcement Bishop William Lori has been appointed archbishop of Baltimore.

What likely “will be missed” by the exit of Bishop William Lori are face-to-face discussions with him by (fewer than the reported 460,000) Catholics in the Diocese of Bridgeport about three subjects raised by your editors today.

Bishop Lori was initially assigned to the Diocese of Bridgeport because of his previous experience managing what has come to be known as the ‘clergy sexual abuse scandal’ elsewhere. During several years including Bishop Edward Egan’s departure and Bishop Lori’s takeover, over $37 Million of Diocesan funds were settled on abuse claimants because of civil court activity. When the Boston scandal exploded in 2002 showing the abuses of power and sexual predation kept secret for so long, the public was told it was a local or American problem. When the Bishops met in Dallas in 2004 many returned to their dioceses with notions of continuing to manage public perception.

In Bridgeport the Safe Environment program was prescribed for all serving in church service of any kind. A Diocesan Sexual Abuse Policy was adopted as well. Article 11.2 of that Policy indicates “the Diocese maintains a public record, including a website, that lists the names of priests and deacons who have been removed from ministry under this Policy.” Where is that public record today? Where is the website? Perhaps the clergy for whom the millions were spent by the Diocese were not perpetrators for whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor had been verified? Does this look like episcopal ‘unfinished business?’

Misuse of parish funds exceeding $1 Million by a Darien pastor led to scandal, dismissal and a guilty plea in Federal court to one count of interstate transport of embezzled funds. A second priest from Greenwich was similarly dismissed as a pastor by Bishop Lori but curiously no charges have yet been levied. News reports also indicated activities in each case of clergymen failing to live up to ordination promises. New accounting and money handling procedures followed. Today each parish in the Diocese follows a strict reporting and disclosure procedure assuring the Bishop knows where the cash flows and the people in the pews know the details of their parish finances including budgets and balance sheets. However, Bishop Lori has added no new updates to already sketchy fiscal disclosure since June 30, 2008 reports. Full diocesan financial disclosures may be more important to Catholics in the pews today than the few parish closures so far. If more people appealed to the Bishop and were heard about such disclosure, results of the Bishop’s Appeal might be currently stronger.

Bishop Lori is one of several American Church voices laying out the case for “religious liberty” in the past two years. No local churches have been closed by civil authorities nor burned by religious dissidents. No Bridgeport clergy or religious have been attacked or persecuted as in other lands historically or currently. No Fairfield County Catholic seeking a place in a pew to worship has been denied. So the appeal to liberty has been more a call by the hierarchs to maintain the status quo, their power over the people, legal control of the machinery, and rights over all property. It may seem fair to most that American religious groups are provided all benefits of a 501(c)(3) designation without the requirements to file regular financial reports. However, most religious groups internally restrict clergy from handling the funds of the community. In the Catholic Church the American Bishops in the 19th Century effectively used State laws to continue financial secrecy from the people in the pews. It may ultimately be difficult to rouse the public, Catholic or other, to a defense of “religious liberty” in this sense when it really continues just another version of power abuse into the 21st Century. Since the Bishop has carried his message to Congress rather than public meetings in his diocese, this may be additional unfinished business. But it does not offer any hope for dialogue that respects the people.

Keeping the faith is important. Providing counsel to leadership with respect to change is also important. As in the early days of the Church when Bishops were selected by all of the people from their locale, where is the local ‘priest of integrity’ worthy to lead us forward?



  1. Well Lennie, three articles on OIB this week and no one is biting except yahooy … and he is like the raven … nevermore.

    So the institutional state of the Catholic Church is not of interest? But then it is when you have a child who wants to marry in a Church (I know that is rarer these days), or a grandchild is to receive First Communion, or more likely one of our readers faces the death of a family member or friend and community wishes are ignored by “rules and regulations.” I don’t want to hear about it then.

    But just this week I have had two people contact me about a parish north of Bridgeport where the many subjects that could be called to attention in a homily seemed to be trumped by a priest focused on abortion. Driving people away. Surprised or not. One of the parishioners wrote a letter and is presenting it. That’s pushback and rarely happens but just as in Bridgeport governance it is necessary.

    And one 80 year old reading my Letter to the CT Post in hard copy, wrote back to me: Father Charlie Stubbs (St. Mary’s Greenwich) predated Lori. A lay committee of that church recommended criminal prosecution but Egan disallowed that. He was later accused of sexual misconduct, etc. What became of him after his “house arrest” at Bloomfield?

    So a few people care about OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT and question and research answers. Is there another way to get there “O ye of few words?” And the rest, how say you? Time will tell.

  2. You must mean my parish in Trumbull. Two weeks ago I had a check written out for $25 for my usual donation. The priest started spouting on about religious freedom, etc., and I took out a pen and wrote “VOID” across the front, and on the back wrote “Funds will continue when you stop bullying women from the pulpit.”

    You know what’s really sad? Driving by the Msgr. William Genuario memorial playground across from the Cardinal Shehan Center. Nobody ever plays there.

    What goes around comes around, Monsignor.

    1. Thank you, Sue. That is the parish from which I received the two aforementioned comments, and each statement was from a woman. Unfortunately, there is no forum in most parishes for respectful dialogue where women (or men) who believe for instance, they as well as men were made in God’s image can listen to 21st Century explanations for Church teaching positions on sexuality and the many subjects that touch upon that subject in religion today.

      And voting (or pushback) by the financial route is one thing Catholics can do. There is no “representation” for all of the “people of God” in the Church today. So voluntary donations will likely continue to diminish, while the Church sends out Bishop Appeal info long on food programs and other social services that actually get more government financial support than Diocesan. Yet the Diocese refuses comprehensive accounting for its expenditures and revenues. Open, accountable and transparent financial process can supply so much information to those who wake up and wish to become informed. And that is probably the major reason why Bishop William Lori and Mayor William Finch, each in their own way, provide limited information, allow few open opportunities for questions where honest answers are expected and often are accused of secrecy where accountability is expected. Time will tell.


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