The Enabling Bishop

The faithful waited for what seemed hours for the Bishop to address the problems at hand; deacons and parishioners who had had enough and others who hoped for the best took turns speaking while the Bishop sat quietly in the front pew with his contingent, taking notes.

At the root of everyone’s complaints was Father E, nominally under the Bishop’s supervision. The parish had been roiled by rumors of Father E’s emotional, physical and verbal abuse of female students, and by his surrounding himself constantly with a threatening entourage of tattood Altar Boyz. Father E and his Boyz, who had dominated the previous convocation with their intimidating behavior, were notably absent from this gathering. A tearful victim, MH, spoke of how often she had brought her complaints about Father E to the Bishop, how she was ignored each time, and how now, having left the parish, she feared for her life each morning due to the threats of the Father E gang. Another alleged victim was afraid to show up to the convocation, and had Sister Martie read her statement instead, on how Father E had tried to run her off the freeway.

Even the church’s devout faithful, who had been hoping for a speedy uncontroversial end to the matter for the good of the church’s unity and her reputation, were shaken by the testimony of MH.

Pressure and expectations built and built as we waited for the Bishop to speak.  Surely he would rise and address these issues once and for all, repudiate and perhaps defrock the abusive Father E, and fearlessly chart a new course for his flock?  The congregation was for once unanimous: the Bishop must speak!

It was like pulling teeth to get the Bishop up there…

The chapel fell hushed as the Bishop approached the rostrum.  He stood silently at the microphone for a moment. Then in a plaintive tone, he began to tell us a story… about how at an earlier Mass some of us had laughed at his Vietnamese accent. 

Our hearts slowly sank as he droned on for minutes and minutes on the topic of why he is a Catholic: the Church embraces immigrants, the Church embraces the poor, the Church embraces all its employees, the Church embraces all races.  “Everything but to the point.”

When the Bishop finally finished this obvious stump sermon, the august Deacon Burke, expressing the exasperation of all present, protested, “We know that you are a holy man, and that you want to serve the Lord, but this is not what we came here to hear. We want to know what you are going to do about these issues we’ve been discussing all night – the abusive workplace environment, the financial hinkiness, the lack of accountability, the Altar Boyz!” There was irreverent applause to this outburst.

And the Bishop, as so many Catholic Bishops before him, claimed ignorance of and lack of responsibility for anything his subordinates might do, on or off the job, pled amnesia regarding the numerous complaints, suggested that critics of the Altar Boyz are guilty of racism and intolerance, and in true lawyerly Scott Mc Clellan style, refused to comment on ongoing investigations.

And it got even better when his right-hand man Cardinal Phu Doc Nguyen came out to do the dirty work:  Victim MH it turns out was a disgruntled and incompetent employee who just wanted more money, and it was only thanks to the intervention of the selfless Father E that she was kept on her job!  A disgusted shock ran through the congregation at the familiarity of this classic Clarence Thomas-style blame-the-victim maneuver.

But at the end Church unity and face-saving carried the day, and the Bishop made off with a slight scolding and promise to try to do better: “I can accept that,” he reluctantly mumbled.  But we drove off with heavy hearts and troubled consciences, with visions of the frigthened victims, the unrepentant Father E, and the marauding Altar Boyz in our heads, drove off into the night toward our homes all over sleepy Orange County.



1. This will all be over in a week.

2. Janet Nguyen will kick Dina’s and Hoa’s skinny butts, which is probably for the best as she seems to be the most competent of the sorry lot.

3. The Nguyen Win will help marginalize the Oil Spill known as Van Thai Tran.

4. The Bolsavik thinks this was the wisest decision politically, for the future of the Democrats in the Vietnamese community: “Imagine yourself as the DPOC, five or ten years from now. Which question do you think is easier to answer, between ‘Why did you not disassociate yourself from Hoa Van Tran’ and ‘Why did you dump a Vietnamese candidate?'”  And I trust the Bolsavik’s judgment.

5. We have this object lesson to start looking NOW for better candidates for future races, as well as better campaign managers.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.