For immediate release: Thursday, Aug. 20
The spokesman for Portland’s Catholic archbishop is either lying or dead wrong about the church’s ability to supervise sex offender clergy.
David Renshaw claims that church officials could not have taken Fr. Ysrael Bien’s passport. (Fr. Bien has fled to the Philippines despite his facing charges of using a hidden camera in a church restroom.)
That’s simply not true. Archbishop Alexander Sample could have insisted that Fr. Bien give him his passport the minute the camera was discovered.
Priests can’t do whatever they want. They can’t date, marry, masturbate or volunteer for Planned Parenthood. They can’t live or work where they want, take Sundays off.
Priests can’t even say whatever they want. (Watch what happens if one of them advocates married or women clergy.)
The church is a monarchy. The bishop is the lord of his kingdom, the diocese. Every priest must swear to obey his bishop. And bishops often use their nearly limitless power to discipline priests who disobey them.
There’s a simple test that proves Renshaw is wrong or lying. Have you ever heard of a priest successfully suing his bishop for anything? Nope. It doesn’t happen. And one reason why: priests, like Catholic laypeople, are essentially powerless serfs in an ancient, rigid, medieval hierarchy in which bishops have vast, almost unchecked power. (Ever heard of a priest filing a grievance against his bishop through the International Union of Priests? Nope. There is none.)
Here’s a hypothetical: What if we’re wrong? What if Sample had taken Fr. Bien’s passport and later, a higher ranking church official told Sample he erred and must return the passport? That would have been virtually unprecedented in Catholic history: a bishop criticized for doing TOO MUCH – instead of TOO LITTLE – to protect kids. What a stunning breath of fresh air that would have been. We suspect that Portland Catholics would have enthusiastically rallied around a bishop who took strong action against a suspected criminal cleric.
So we call on Archbishop Sample, who refuses to give interviews about the Fr. Bien case, to honor his pledges to be “open and transparent” about clergy sexual abuse. He should answer questions in public about his role in this troubling case. And he should issue an apology and correction today about the misleading, self-serving comments of his spokesman.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org