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Jesus Will Save the Catholic Church, Bishop Brown Says

Religion: In his Easter message, the cleric says of sex scandals, 'We can meet the challenge.'

April 01, 2002|CHRISTINE HANLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Punctuating his Holy Week theme, Bishop of Orange Tod D. Brown promised Easter Sunday worshipers that Jesus will save the Roman Catholic Church from any harm arising from the allegations of sexual molestation now sweeping the nation and his own diocese.

Brown, with tall candles and Easter lilies around him, wrapped up the most solemn week of the Christian calendar by delivering his message from the pulpit of Holy Family Cathedral in Orange.

"Neither you nor I had any idea what Lent 2002 would be like," Brown said. It has been painful and difficult for Catholics "as the tidal wave of publicity and revelation rolls across our country about the terrible deeds and crimes committed by a number of our own clergy."

Brown then referred to the question posed on this week's Time magazine cover: Can the Catholic Church save itself? "The answer is clear: no," the bishop declared. "Jesus is our only savior. Only Jesus can save the church. And Jesus will save the church."

Brown alluded to the doubts Jesus' followers had when he was crucified and resurrected. He drew parallels to the confusion that may now exist because of the sex scandal, and Brown reminded parishioners how long it took for the disciples and others to find or rediscover their faith.

"All their hopes had come crashing down with the arrest of Jesus and his crucifixion," Brown said. "They moved from unbelief, gradually, and ever so slowly to faith."

Easter, the bishop concluded, is a time for a new beginning and, for religion, a new way of seeing.

"So with the eyes of faith we can see the terrible news coverage that our church has experienced over these recent months and we can see beyond that and realize that indeed we can address these difficulties," he said. "We can meet the challenge.... There will indeed be life on the other side of Easter."

Brown, whose diocese contains about 1 million Catholics, has been praised for his candor during the unfolding crisis. He and other bishops across the country have used Holy Week sermons to call for a new openness about the issue, which drew attention beginning in January when it was revealed that a former Boston priest had been moved from one parish to another after accusations of sexual abuse.

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, whose archdiocese has an estimated 3.6 million Catholics, planned to discuss in his Easter message how sinfulness can intrude upon those who are ordained.

"In our times, even as we await the Easter dawning, we stand at the foot of the cross gazing upon the one betrayed ... horrified at the harm done to innocence," Mahony wrote in the sermon he planned to deliver Sunday. The Los Angeles archdiocese and Orange County's diocese established zero-tolerance policies for priests last year as part of a $5.2-million settlement against a prominent O.C. priest. Since then, three priests in Orange County and several in Los Angeles have been dismissed.

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