Gilbert: ‘He made me rethink the faith’: Bishop Blaire’s impact reached many

The Record

By Lori Gilbert
Record Staff Writer

It may take up to two years for Pope Francis to act, but I’m sad nonetheless that the tenure of Bishop Stephen Blaire, who has led the Diocese of Stockton since 1999, is coming to an end.

Knowing him has made me rethink the faith in which I was raised. It’s not easy to be a Catholic woman in the 21st century, or in the 20th or any other century for that matter. It’s a patriarchal faith and its position on some issues, such as an opposition to birth control, makes my blood boil.

But Bishop Blaire has made me want to be more than a Christmas and Easter Catholic. …

Bishop Blaire’s heart is big. Even as he dealt with the financial woes and loss of trust brought on by the sexual abuse scandal that his predecessors failed to stop, Blaire always appeared upbeat and unflappable. He had to make tough calls, including declaring bankruptcy in 2014. As he struggled with all that unpleasantness, he was never anything but pleasant and kind to others.

Even after he cleaned up the mess left by some predecessors who turned a blind eye to sexual abuse, Blaire was betrayed by priests on his watch. Dean McFalls left after announcing he had fathered a child. Lawrence McGovern was charged with sexual harassment after allegedly sending sexually explicit photos of himself to a gardener and firing him when his advances were rejected.

The shame is their own, but Blaire no doubt is weighed down by their sins, by their behavior that further erodes trust in the church, a church that the bishop loves.

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