Archbp. Sample interviewed. Well done.

His Excellency Most Reverend Alexander Sample, the next Archbishop of Portland, was interviewed by The Oregonian.  They didn’t lob him softballs.

After an introductory paragraph or two in which they tee the reader up with the news that he is a rising star and that he likes the pre-Conciliar liturgy.

Here is the business end of the piece.  I think you’ll find that he acquits himself very well.

In a telephone interview Friday, Sample talked about his experience handling clergy sex abuse claims, his “obvious fondness for traditional liturgy” and how open he is to the diversity of Western Oregon’s Catholic community. His answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What did you know about the Archdiocese of Portland when you received the call about becoming the next archbishop?
 

A: I knew about the bankruptcy. The archdiocese was the first to go through with that. It was huge news. But other than knowing about some of the past archbishops, I didn’t know a whole lot. As soon as I got off the phone, I pulled the National Catholic Directory off the shelf. 

Q: A priest of the Archdiocese of Portland is facing criminal charges related to sexual abuse. What does an archdiocese owe to a priest in that position? For example, is it appropriate for an archdiocese to give or lend an accused priest money to cover his defense?

A: I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to comment on that situation. I’m not the archbishop there yet and don’t know all the details. But I can answer from my own experience.

A lot of people in the church don’t understand the implications of what we call incardination, the attachment of a priest to a diocese. The church has certain obligations. If a priest is completely dismissed from the clerical state, the responsibility of the archdiocese ceases. But if he is removed from ministry, but not dismissed from the clerical state, canon law requires that the church provide some sustenance, some decent support of living to that person. Not that we have to support them in luxury, by any means, but health insurance and a minimal stipend to live on is required. Many of these men are elderly and not able to find other employment.

This causes great concern from people used to a more secular mode, where a person is fired and you’re done with him, you have no other responsibility.

Q: The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, says you’ve “done nothing to distinguish” yourself from “the overwhelming majority of Catholic officials who continue to minimize and hide clergy sex crimes.” How could you be more transparent in regard to this issue?

A: It’s a very tricky minefield I have to navigate. There are competing interests at stake. First and foremost are the interests of those who have been victimized. But there are also the interests of the accused. We live in a system, in a church, where the accused has a right to defense. And, in civil cases, we have to be concerned for the patrimony of the diocese and the interests of the folks in the pews.

Sometimes the bishop is in the middle. People are angry because he hasn’t done enough for the victims or hasn’t been just to the priest. Parishioners are mad because we’ve removed their beloved pastor and the charges couldn’t possibly be true and why are they bringing it up 25 years later. And the issues of confidentiality and the right to privacy apply to victims as well.

I mean to be as open as we can, saying as much as we can, keeping people as informed as we can without getting into confidential details. If a priest is removed for some kind of misconduct, we used to say he had health issues. We wouldn’t give the reasons. That’s what we have to get over. If father is removed because of an accusation, we need to tell the people straight out. They are adults, they have a right to know this information. We can’t afford to forget about the victims, they need to be informed and brought along through the process.

Q: Catholics in Western Oregon are divided between those who long to return to traditional liturgies and strict adherence to official church teaching and those who are critical of church teaching, often presenting their cases with careful historical and theological reasoning. What do you have to say to these two groups?

A: I am called to be the shepherd of all of those people. I probably Google-up as a more traditional, strong defender of church teaching kind of person. That shouldn’t communicate that I’m not willing to engage in dialogue. I want to understand people’s perspectives.

Q: Are you bringing a more conservative point of view to the archdiocese?

A: I don’t come in with any sense of stridency. It will take me some time to get to know the church, the people there, the culture of Portland and other areas. My first task is to learn, to listen, to observe, not be like a bull in a china shop.

Q: Why are you a fan of the old rite, or Latin Mass?

A: I am completely a product of the second Vatican Council. That period of renewal and reform in the church is part of who I am. I was in college before I really knew what that older Mass was like. I took a music appreciation class and heard Gregorian chant for the first time. Then five years ago, the holy father asked his bishops to be generous with the traditional liturgy for people who were attached to it. I was a bishop, I needed to know both forms. I got my videotapes and learned to do it privately. I’ve had three opportunities to celebrate it as a bishop. From my experience, the old Mass enriches my understanding of the ordinary, or English, Mass. People don’t need to be worried that I’ll suddenly introduce the traditional liturgy in every parish of the archdiocese. But I will be generous with the folks there who request that form.

Q: Women are active in the archdiocese, as teachers at every level of education, as parish administrators and volunteers. Catholic sisters have played and continue to play a major role. Some of these women have organized to challenge the church to use their gifts more effectively. How do you see the role of women in the church?

A: Aside from the issue of women’s ordination, I’m comfortable, supportive and encouraging. I’ve worked with a lot of women in leadership and we’d be lost without them. The feminine genius needs to be part of the conversation.

Q: Some people wonder if you’ll be here in Western Oregon very long. They’ve read that you are a rising star and might move on quickly to another church post. Cardinal Francis George was here for about a year.

A: Listen, that is the farthest thing from my mind. I wasn’t looking for a move. I have every intention to be there for a long time. I’m even thinking of relocating my 84-year-old mother there.

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Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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21 Responses to Archbp. Sample interviewed. Well done.

  1. benedetta says:

    Excellent! His interview responses were very well articulated.

  2. Bryan Boyle says:

    He’s no dummy, either, reading the questions he was faced with. Interviewers these days don’t just ask questions, they frame them in such a way that it’s like trying to navigate a mine field blind and deaf.

    He stated his thoughts quite clearly from what I read…and didn’t take the bait. We need more like him. Portland is lucky.

  3. Margaret says:

    Very savvy answer to the “women” question. To all of them, really. So nice to hear from a churchman who can hold his own with the media.

  4. poohbear says:

    But if he is removed from ministry, but not dismissed from the clerical state, canon law requires that the church provide some sustenance, some decent support of living to that person

    I am one who has great difficulty with this. It makes it seem like the diocese is turning a blind eye to the problem. Its like being suspended with pay in the secular world. No punishment at all, keep getting paid and not have to work. This causes great animosity among the people.

  5. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Every bishop or archbishop swears to stand as father to his priests. He’s their primary family, because they’ve given up mother and father and the rest.

    Now, even if your minor son or daughter is wicked and psychopathic, you can’t kick an eight year old out of the house to grub through garbage. You can send him to juvie, or to a mental hospital, or go live with him out in the desert. But you can’t kick him out to live or die on his own.

    Similarly, if Adolf Hitler were a priest of Bishop Y’s diocese, Bishop Y could take away his faculties or testify against him in a court of law to send him away or get him executed, or he could try to get him committed for life. But he couldn’t kick Adolf out onto the street to live off his paintings, unless very specific requirements were met. And even then, a good bishop would probably feel that he had a moral requirement to keep tabs on Fr. Adolf to keep him from starving to death.

    Now, as we saw elsewhere, some dioceses and bishops don’t do a good job of taking care of their good priest sons who retire, or who wind up falling through the cracks. So yes, sometimes an organization like Opus Bono P takes care of the matter.

    But really, the bishops are supposed to do it themselves, even to the point of real difficulty or having priests live in their own house, because all their priests are their sons. Even the sons who are bad seeds.

  6. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Okay, I don’t know if the bishops _swear_ to their priests, although I seem to recall that priests have to swear to _bishops_. But there’s a pretty clear expectation in church tradition, just as the bishop is really supposed to be the father of his diocese’s people (in a somewhat more remote way). Which is why bishops (and their feet, the deacons) were always supposed to be working on feeding and clothing all the souls in their dioceses, including non-Catholic ones.

    So yes, there’s a lot of expectations there on a bishop.

  7. Norah says:

    Well said Surburbanbanshee.

  8. trespinos says:

    Archbishop, consider moving Mom into Calaroga Terrace, which sits directly across the street from Holy Rosary Church, the nonpareil parish of Portland. It’s across the Willamette from St. Mary’s Cathedral, but not far at all from the Chancery.

  9. poohbear says:

    Even if your son is involved in a multi-state drug trafficking and money laundering deal and having gay sex parties in your rectory and has a 6 figure income from those drug deals? Do you still take your other children’s money to ‘help’ the wayward son? Sorry, I think there is a point where the line has to be drawn and the cord cut. I didn’t make up this scenario, and I don’t like that donations given in good faith to the diocese go to someone like this. I’ll stop now, ’cause it’s probably a rabbit hole, but, just sayin’

  10. acardnal says:

    I really, really appreciated this comment of Bp. Sample. If only ALL bishops felt the same obligation.

    “Then five years ago, the holy father asked his bishops to be generous with the traditional liturgy for people who were attached to it. I was a bishop, I needed to know both forms. I got my videotapes and learned to do it privately.”

  11. Jackie L says:

    What is it with these secular reporters, going to SNAP, proposing that those who oppose Church teaching are “presenting their cases with careful historical and theological reasoning”, I don’t find any of this in my experience, they base Church teachings on whatever is convinient, like at the NcR, and I doubt the dissidents in Portland are more well thought out then anywhere else.

  12. Panterina says:

    Okay, thet me preface this by saying that I like what the Archbishop is saying.
    But I have a problem with this statement” If a priest is removed for some kind of misconduct, we used to say he had health issues.
    How is this not lying?

  13. Reginald Pole says:

    Panterina says:
    “Okay, thet me preface this by saying that I like what the Archbishop is saying.
    But I have a problem with this statement” If a priest is removed for some kind of misconduct, we used to say he had health issues.
    How is this not lying? ”

    Because the health of his immortal soul is in danger.

  14. Pingback: In U. S. Debut, Rome's "Grand Inqusitor" On the Ordinariates | Big Pulpit

  15. Navarricano says:

    Panterina says:
    “Okay, thet me preface this by saying that I like what the Archbishop is saying.
    But I have a problem with this statement ‘If a priest is removed for some kind of misconduct, we used to say he had health issues.’ How is this not lying?”

    I would consider this statement a kind of mental reservation rather than a lie, i.e., it could be understood as a reference to the misconduct as a manifestation of a psychological/mental health disorder. And a mental reservation is permitted in situations like that, because while we have a grave moral obligation to speak the truth, not everyone in every situation has a right to know all the details.

  16. Athelstan says:

    “often presenting their cases with careful historical and theological reasoning…”

    Talk about a loaded question.

  17. wmeyer says:

    poohbear, Take a deep breath. The bishops must act within the Canons; they do not have a free hand to define justice.

  18. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Poohbear, I think you’ll find that I said, “….if Adolf Hitler were a priest of Bishop Y’s diocese, Bishop Y could take away his faculties or testify against him in a court of law to send him away or get him executed, or he could try to get him committed for life. But he couldn’t kick Adolf out onto the street….”

    Court of law, send him away = secular prison, in case you were in doubt. To the Big House, the calabozo, the place behind bars. And committed for life = mental hospital, the looney bin, the Gotham Home for the Criminally Insane. And executed = executed.

  19. Pingback: Interessant intervju med erkebiskop Sample i Portland, Oregon » EN KATOLSK WEBLOG

  20. Magash says:

    I find it very disturbing that no thought is being given that some, if not many, priests who have been accused of abuse are not guilty. It seems that many comments make the supposition that accusation=guilt. So would you have the bishop suspend the priests from ministry, cut off their support, expel them from Church property, and have them count on the public defender for their defense? One only need to look to Fr. Gordon MacRae to see how both Christian and just that is.
    I also realize that some response by the bishop is required. I would propose that it would be more beneficial for both the Church and the priest for him to be sent to a monastery or retreat house under stringent supervision of a superior while an extensive investigation is carried out by both the diocese and the local authorities. The Church should pay for reasonable legal costs and should not think of removing the priest from the clerical state until he is convicted. This should be done not only for the rights of the priest, but also because once dismissed from the clerical state the bishop has no control over the priest. I propose stringent supervision because we know from past incidents that merely order a wayward priest to behave in some way doesn’t always work. Put him in a condition of 24/7 supervision, and make coverage of legal fees contingent on not talking to the press, not leaving the grounds of his retreat house, except to speak police, attend court, see the bishop, and then only with escort. Also make an outside priest available for his confession.
    Pretty harsh? No worse than many religious have had it for centuries. As long as the priest remains obedient the bishop should support him financially, even if he admits wrongdoing. At least until convicted. Priest should also be free to contribute to their own defense if they have the means.
    We should never forget that it that the priest has rights and that the bishop and the Church has obligations to the priest as well as to the accusers. It might even be that a priest innocent of abuse might need to permanently remain outside the public life, or that a guilty priest will be found criminally innocent but that the Church will determine otherwise. In both cases it might be best for the priest to remain in cloister. Remember once removed from the clerical state the Church has no control over the priest.

  21. Charles E Flynn says:

    When I first glanced at the impressive photo in this article, I thought I was looking at a still from the film “The Cardinal”:
    Portland’s new archbishop: “I’m a teacher at heart”, by Jim Graves for the Catholic World Report.