Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Anyone who has worked as a college newspaper editor or reporter understands the tremendous burden of carrying a full academic load while simultaneously attending to what feels like a full-time job. That’s why it was remarkable, in addition to its usual coverage of tri-campus events, that The Observer conducted its own enterprise reporting in writing recently about the library funding controversy in St. Joseph County.
By contrast, The Observer relied exclusively on the Washington Post in rewriting its incomplete and unfair portrait of Archbishop William Lori, a panelist Wednesday at the Notre Dame Forum on the Church sex abuse crisis.
The Observer used others’ accounts to report that Archbishop Lori accepted a donation from Wheeling Bishop Michael Bransfield, later accused of sexual harassment and financial misconduct, and that he delayed in disclosing as much.
Yet Archbishop Lori thoroughly investigated the same bishop, showing him no favoritism, resulting in his permanent ban by Pope Francis from engaging in public ministry in the Catholic Church. Archbishop Lori also authorized the sale of the bishop’s house, with proceeds going to victims.
Archbishop Lori was the architect of the 2002 landmark Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, credited with helping the Church prevent future cases of abuse by mandating zero tolerance and other key provisions throughout the Church in the United States, including mandatory reporting to the police. It also resulted in a steep decline in abuse.
Archbishop Lori established a strong culture of accountability in Washington, D.C., and Connecticut, where he published the names of credibly accused clergy.
He was the first bishop in America to establish an independent, third-party reporting system for allegations against bishops nationwide.
In Baltimore, he instituted a lay pastoral council in response to urging for more lay involvement in diocesan governance. Archbishop Lori also expanded the authority of the independent, lay child abuse review panel there.
Archbishop Lori said later that he regretted not making public the donations he and other clergy received from Bransfield. He apologized and told the Washington Post that he went to confession regularly, not because he wanted to, but because he had to. The Observer elected not to include that insight into the man’s humility.
Archbishop Lori was invited to the forum not because he is perfect, but because he is insightful, experienced and tenacious in addressing the Church’s sex abuse crisis.
Paul J. Browne
Vice president, public affairs and communications
University of Notre Dame
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.