A Critique of a Critique Criticizing My Bishop Brown Critique
Google is great, really: a couple of random searches, and voila! You have a media critique. At least that's how Dave Pierre, author of The Media Report and a contributor to NewsBusters, operates with my recent LA Times opinion piece bashing Catholic Diocese of Orange Bishop Tod D. Brown. Under the headline, "Facts, Fairness Out the Window In LAT Op-Ed Attack On Calif. Bishop," Pierre proclaims that my article's premise that Bishop Brown's handling of the Orange diocese sex-abuse scandal is horrible and almost worse than the actions of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony "falls flat on its face in light of a flagrant disregard for honest facts and fairness." Pierre then proceeds to try and deconstruct my arguments--and fails spectacularly due to his own ignorance of an ordeal that's continued for the better part of 20 years.
Pierre begins by trying to excuse Brown's role in the Jeff Andrade matter by pointing out Brown didn't assume Orange's bishopric until almost two years after Mater Dei High School officials let Andrade go. He keys in on my passage describing the current lawsuit against the Orange diocese as one where a former student "alleges that church officials ignored her abuse."
"In other words," Pierre excitedly writes, "Arellano implies that Bishop Brown 'ignored [the] abuse' of a high school student in Southern California when, in fact, he was serving as a bishop several hundred miles away in another state (his emphasis)!"
I wasn't implying anything, Dave, just reporting the facts. The current lawsuit filed by Newport Beach-based attorney John Manly is against Andrade, Mater Dei, and the Orange diocese--last I checked, Brown was still bishop. Whether Manly should be deposing Brown regarding a case that didn't happen under His Excellency's watch is another matter, but the fact is Manly says Brown is part of the conspiracy--read the legal briefs (not found on Google). And let's not pretend Brown is innocent in this matter, either: after all, it was His Excellency who signed off on a secret $100,000 payoff to admitted statutory rapist Andrade.
Pierre continues by stating I "clearly impl[y] that Bishop Brown wanted his deposition sealed in order to hide something about himself from the public." He cites my discussion of Brown's not-so-new disclosure that he was accused of molesting a child years ago in his deposition. But Pierre conveniently chops off the next passage in my Times' opinion piece: Brown's discussion of Monsignor John Urell's acute anxiety brought about by a half-finished deposition for the Andrade case, the main reason Brown and his lawyers say they wanted to seal the deposition. Why, Dave?
A quick aside: Pierre tries to bolster his argument against me by referencing the Orange diocese PR flack's already-notorious "Clarification of Current Media Reports." Read mine and Mickadeit's debunking of that nonsense, por favor.
More: Pierre then complains that I say Urell "was the Orange diocese's point man on sex abuse for more than a decade and was personally involved in the cover-up."
"Cover-up of what?," Pierre whines. "Up to this point of the article, Arellano does not elaborate about a 'cover-up' of anything."
Interesting. I opened the Times piece with Brown's nailing of his Covenant with the Faithful in 2004. The Covenant was written specifically regarding the Orange diocese's sex-abuse scandal response and promised blah blah blah. When I start like that, mention that Urell was the Orange diocese's lead figure on investigating sex abuse allegations and mention "cover-up," even a grade schooler should be able to get to which cover-up I refer. Not Pierre, though.
Next up for Pierre is my critique of Brown for not disclosing his molestation allegation. He brings up the fact that the alleged victim, Scott Hicks, only remembered the alleged abuse due to recovered-memory therapy, a controversial procedure. "Arellano, in the OC Weekly, first broke the story of this allegation back in April. His original article made no mention of the 'recovered memory' element of the case." He also doesn't like that I think Brown should've disclosed his allegation.
"Arellano's article illustrates that the mere accusation of abuse, even if it's totally 'baseless,' can still be reported years later, maybe even still after you've died, if you're a Catholic priest," Pierre writes. "Does Arellano doubt that something like that would be 'very painful' and 'difficult to deal with'?"
Here's the thing, Dave: the story for me has never been about whether Brown's accuser is telling the truth or not, nor is it the focus of my op/ed piece. What I do care is that here in Orange County, we have a bishop who claims to be "open, honest and forthright" will all molestation allegations lodged against Orange diocese employees, then isn't, then pretends he is but really isn't. If the allegation was found to be baseless, it really would wither in the public memory--how many people think of Cardinal Mahony as an abuser? Instead, because Brown tried to hide the allegation, people will remember him for that, and not the validity of the accusations.
Pierre concludes on a bizarre note: he accuses me of "a record of taking cheap slaps at Christians" and cites a long-ago response by me to two letter writers. Predictably, Pierre takes the article that provoked that exchange out of context, describing it as me "bristl[ing] at Bible study groups in Orange County." Uh, no: that article criticized a group of Santa Ana Unified School District officials who ran a Bible study group during school hours that a lawsuit claimed school employees had to attend for promotions and favored status.
Pierre only got one thing right: it's Matthew 6:6-9, not Matthew 5 that describes when Jesus taught the disciples to "not be as the hypocrites are" and "when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." I wrote otherwise--my apologies, Jesus. But why criticize my use of the King's James Bible, Dave? We all know it sounds purtier than the Vulgate of St. Jerome.
And as for Pierre's ridiculous, pointless admonition that "If Arellano is genuine about shining the light on child abuse in this country, he might want to consider directing his energies toward the public school system": what the hell does that have to do with my coverage of the Catholic sex-abuse scandal? Are you implying I'm piling on the Church at the expense of other child molestations? So what's this, then? Idiot.
(Full disclosure: Pierre and I have gone at it before. And the beat goes on)