Long-time observers of the Catholic Diocese of Orange pedo-priest scandal no doubt remember Father Joseph Fenton, the former director of communications who was an unrepentant asshole and didn't mind using sex-abuse survivors when convenient for Bishop Tod. D Brown. He's no longer the Orange diocese's PR flack; that dirty work now falls to one Ryan Lilyengren. And the man is earning whatever Brown pays him.
On Thursday, after Brown's deposition for a civil lawsuit filed against former Mater Dei boys' basketball coach Jeff Andrade revealed that Brown allowed a confessed pedophile to continue working in Orange County parishes and also revealed a sex-abuse allegation against His Excellency, Lilygren released a statement that read, "Bishop Tod D. Brown has served with distinction for 43 years and is today widely recognized by Catholics and those of other faith communities as a progressive church leader committed to transparency and accountability." Oh, the lies and hyperbole in that statement! Rather than go link-crazy, just read through the Weekly's years-long coverage of the Orange diocese sex-abuse scandal--you shan't be disappointed.
But Lilygren and his communications team outdid themselves on Sept. 14 on the Orange diocese's website. Under the headline, "CLARIFICATION OF CURRENT MEDIA REPORTS," their report purports to set the record straight on Brown's recent shuffles. "The courts give great latitude to lawyers in the way they represent their clients, particularly in cases involving civil litigation," the introduction states. "In the current case involving former Mater Dei basketball coach, Jeff Andrade, certain lawyers have gone beyond the facts."
Notice how the headline doesn't mesh with the intro, how the "clarification of media reports" quickly becomes an attack on "certain lawyers." Lilygren doesn't even have the guts to identify those lawyers: the Newport Beach-based law firm of Manly, McGuire & Stewart, which has battled the Orange diocese for almost seven years.
It's not an auspicious start for the report, and it goes only downhill from there.
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The report splits the media's "Spin" with the diocese's "facts." It claims Bishop Brown never hid the allegation of sex abuse lodged against him in the 1990s. Besides being investigated by the Fresno diocese, "The unsubstantiated allegation had already been disclosed earlier in the press," states the diocese's "facts."
Funny, that statement. On page 112 of his deposition, Brown admits he never divulged the allegation to the public, stating "it was very embarrassing" to do so. By "disclosed earlier in the press," Lilygren's team refers to the Weekly's five-month-old story, which the Orange diocese refused to comment for, which a diocesan lawyer dismissed as "not a compelling matter of public interest" since "it was not picked up in the legitimate press," and Brown never acknowledged until the deposition and subsequent media attention.
Amazingly, the spin gets worse from there. In the next Spin/Facts section, Bishop Brown didn't break his much-derided Covenant with the Faithful that promised transparency, according to the report, because it "does not require the disclosure of allegations which have no credible or factual basis." But in 2004, Brown publicly disclosed that Father Richard Delahunty--who at the time served at St. Nicholas in Laguna Woods--was being placed on administrative leave after a lawsuit claimed Delahunty molested a boy in the 1980s while at Santa Ana's St. Barbara's Church. After a year-long investigation, Brown reinstated Delahunty after the diocese's sexual abuse misconduct board found the molestation allegations unfounded. Delahunty remains at St. Nicholas.
The report goes on, but you get the point--besides, lunch beckons for me on this gorgeous Saturday afternoon. And somewhere, Joe Fenton's Irish eyes smile on Lilygren's Holy Doublespeak.