Archbishop Comments on Priest Accused in Hidden Camera Case

StFrancis1The local media called it an apology, but that’s being generous. Archbishop Alexander Sample made a pastoral visit to St. Francis Catholic Church in Sherwood recently to talk about the diocesan priest who allegedly hid a camera in a church bathroom. The priest, Father Ysrael Bien, has fled the country and returned to his native Philippines, presumably to escape accountability for his conduct.

During his talk, the Archbishop said that he was betrayed by the priest and that parishioners had a right to be disappointed. The media called it an apology. But a real apology means admitting wrong and asking for forgiveness. What Archbishop Sample offered was the classic apologia – meaning a defense of the Church he represents.

When speaking to The Oregonian newspaper after the church service, Sample bolstered the Church’s defense by subtly blaming the police for a slow investigation and their inability to monitor Fr. Bien’s whereabouts. Rather than taking responsibility for the Church’s failure to monitor and control its own priest, Sample sought the sympathy of parishioners by noting that he felt betrayed. Like Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in the gospel, Sample implied that the matter was out of his hands.

That’s not an apology. It’s an attempt to exonerate the Church and himself by blaming others. It’s not the act of a community leader. Ever since the Catholic Church sex scandal broke more than 15 years ago, bishops have made public statements like these to protect their reputations, exonerate themselves from wrongdoing, and protect the institution of the Church. “People should expect more from us” was the most sincere statement of the day. Indeed, we do expect more. We expect more from Fr. Bien. And we expect more from Archbishop Sample.

Dumas and Vaughn Attorneys at Law has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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