Wednesday, October 26 , 2016, 5:39 pm | Fair 68º


Tim Durnin: The Troubled Seat of the Santa Barbara Pastoral Region’s Auxiliary Bishop

“A sad end to a ministry that will forever be defined by a malignant dedication to the institution over the truth and self-preservation over doing the right thing.”

I grew up as a Catholic in the Santa Barbara Pastoral Region, a region that has been served by only two auxiliary bishops in my adult life. The first was Bishop Patrick Ziemann, who served from 1986 until his departure in 1992. The second and still acting auxiliary bishop for the region is the Rev. Thomas Curry.

Bishop Ziemann was a charismatic church leader and much beloved by his flock. His departure was seen as a significant blow to Santa Barbara and a boon to the Diocese of Santa Rosa, where he was appointed bishop.

In retrospect, it is best that Bishop Ziemann left, taking his tragic flaws with him. It was best for the people of Santa Barbara, not so much so for the people of Santa Rosa, who endured one of the most twisted church scandals in recent memory at Ziemann’s hands.

Ziemann became embroiled in a torrid affair with one of the priests in his new diocese that culminated in him being accused of sexual assault. After his fall, the diocese found itself in debt by tens of millions of dollars due to Ziemann’s mismanagement.

In a final blow, it came to light that Ziemann had ordained a priest without proper training or education, presumably as part of his troubled sexual misconduct. For those of us who knew and came to love him as our bishop, it was a crushing and disturbing blow.

Moving forward 20 years, the faithful of the Santa Barbara Pastoral Region are once again reeling from the fall of their pastoral leader. On Monday, Bishop Curry’s role in the protection of pedophiles and willful disregard for law enforcement became painfully and shockingly apparent.

On Monday, correspondence between then-Archbishop Roger Mahoney and then-Monsignor Thomas Curry became public. The communications are deeply disturbing and are far more indicting than anyone, certainly far more than I, had anticipated. Mahoney’s and Curry’s actions were nothing short of ghastly.

In May 1987, Monsignor Curry acknowledged the felony criminal acts of a fellow clergyman and actively engaged in activities to thwart law enforcement from pursuing a criminal investigation.

In a sickening insight into the deceptive and depraved mind of Monsignor Curry he writes that one pedophile priest could see “an attorney who is also a psychiatrist,” thereby being able to hide behind attorney-client privilege and avoid being reported to law enforcement. As a reward for his service to the church, Curry was elevated to auxiliary bishop for the Santa Barbara Pastoral Region in 1994.

The documents released Monday are related to only four of the cases settled in the Archdiocese sex abuse scandal. Documents related to hundreds more are slated to be released in the coming months. Monday’s documents reveal criminal activity and intent on both Mahoney’s and Curry’s part. The coming deluge just may result in their rightful prosecution.

I suspect that if Bishop Curry has not already done so, his resignation will be forthcoming. Lesser men have been expelled from the church for lesser crimes. Lesser men have gone to prison.

It is a sad end to a ministry that will forever be defined by a malignant dedication to the institution over truth and self-preservation over doing the right thing. As a Catholic in the Santa Barbara Pastoral Region, I hope the next selection of an auxiliary bishop will be driven by more concern for the faithful and less concern for the need to reward those willing to act unconscionably in the name of God.

— Tim Durnin is an independent consultant for nonprofit organizations, schools and small business. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), follow him on Twitter: @tdurnin, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk's intent is not to limit the discussion of our stories but to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and must be free of profanity and abusive language and attacks.

By posting on Noozhawk, you:

» Agree to be respectful. Noozhawk encourages intelligent and impassioned discussion and debate, but now has a zero-tolerance policy for those who cannot express their opinions in a civil manner.

» Agree not to use Noozhawk’s forums for personal attacks. This includes any sort of personal attack — including, but not limited to, the people in our stories, the journalists who create these stories, fellow readers who comment on our stories, or anyone else in our community.

» Agree not to post on Noozhawk any comments that can be construed as libelous, defamatory, obscene, profane, vulgar, harmful, threatening, tortious, harassing, abusive, hateful, sexist, racially or ethnically objectionable, or that are invasive of another’s privacy.

» Agree not to post in a manner than emulates, purports or pretends to be someone else. Under no circumstances are readers posting to Noozhawk to knowingly use the name or identity of another person, whether that is another reader on this site, a public figure, celebrity, elected official or fictitious character. This also means readers will not knowingly give out any personal information of other members of these forums.

» Agree not to solicit others. You agree you will not use Noozhawk’s forums to solicit and/or advertise for personal blogs and websites, without Noozhawk’s express written approval.

Noozhawk’s management and editors, in our sole discretion, retain the right to remove individual posts or to revoke the access privileges of anyone who we believe has violated any of these terms or any other term of this agreement; however, we are under no obligation to do so.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >