Brenkle Story Was Needed

By Doug Ernst
St. Helena Star

October 2, 2008

Questions have been raised in St. Helena over the past few days regarding the Star’s reasons for publishing last week’s front-page article titled “Proven Innocent,” about false allegations leveled against Monsignor John Brenkle.

First, the decision to publish a story of this nature is made only after weighing the plusses and minuses.

The minuses are often daunting. Simply publishing false allegations that have been leveled against a respected man like Father Brenkle risks alienating a segment of our community that honors and literally worships him.

However, the plusses in this case — vindicating an innocent man — seemed to outweigh the negative effects.

When the Santa Rosa Press Democrat first published its Sept. 16 article about an advocacy group’s effort to have Father Brenkle removed from a sex abuse review panel, the full story was not available.

Getting the full story required accessing letters and police documents that became available to the Star only after much digging by Star reporter Jesse Duarte.

Not only did Duarte uncover information disproving allegations against the monsignor, his front-page article also provided the longtime community leader with much-deserved support within the St. Helena community, Father Brenkle told me earlier this week.

When people call to complain about the Star’s decision to report the allegations, I try to explain that proving the innocence of an innocent man is one of the best things newspapers can do.

I ask anyone who doubts that the Star’s article had a positive effect on Father Brenkle to please call him and ask what he thinks about our coverage.

Those who support Father Brenkle should understand that he will likely emerge stronger and more supported than ever, once the community has read the truth and sees him for what he actually is — not what others allege him to be.


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