The old rejoinder, to "not speak ill of the dead", echoed plainly in one ear. In the other, were the voices of those who told me the fine sentiments extolled at the service were as hollow as an empty 44-gallon drum.
Early on in Wednesday's mass, soon after a message of condolence from the Vatican was read to the cathedral, the Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, spoke of the elephant in the room.
"Bishop Bill had to address some terrible truths about the criminal behaviour of some clergy, religious and lay church workers as well as the failures of some past leaders around this country to address those matters adequately," Archbishop Fisher said, referring to Bishop Wright's arrival in Newcastle in 2011.
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As bishop of a diocese that had more than its share of troubles, as a member of the church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council during the Royal Commission and as co-chair of the National Committee for Professional Standards, he dealt with these dark matters with determination.
"He will long be remembered alongside Bishop Geoff Robinson as a champion of survivors, and of church reforms to help the church better respond to these matters."
Not knowing that name, I looked him up.
Bishop Robinson, who died on December 29 last year, called for a church-wide study of clerical sexual abuse back in 2002, saying the church would "only regain its credibility on this issue" through a "truly serious, open and objective study into any and all factors within the church that might in any way contribute to a climate where abuse can occur or be covered up".
Bishop Robinson said that inquiry would have no credibility if the consequences of clerical celibacy were not examined.
Popes Benedict and Francis - and almost 20 years later - Rome is yet to make such a response.
I've been told - accurately or not, I'll probably never know - that the church had to cast a wide net to find a candidate willing to replace Michael Malone as Maitland-Newcastle bishop.
I imagine Bishop Wright, at times, must have wondered what he had let himself in for.
Apart from a running battle with a sceptical public, he had to endure both the first NSW Special Commission of Inquiry and then the full Royal Commission.
I interviewed him in October last year over his response to comments the diocese's Father Bill Burston had made in an ABC church documentary, Revelation, saying he had "had enough of Andrew Nash".
Andrew Nash, as many readers will know, was a Marist Brothers Hamilton pupil who paid the ultimate price of an abuse victim, taking his own life, aged 13 in 1974.
Forty-seven years later, Andrew's tragic death still haunts his ageing but determined mother, Audrey, and others in the family.
Toward the end of the interview, it dawned on me that the bishop was telling me the outcome of an internal church investigation before he had told the Nashes.
Appalled is too strong a word, but only just, and I told him so.
I said my next stop was Audrey's house, and that he would have time to ring her before I got there.
To his credit, he did, but it should not have taken a smart-arse journalist to prompt him into doing the right thing.
Maybe it was an oversight, but it did tend to reinforce what the Nashes were saying: that for all his fine words, Bishop Bill still put the church ahead - and well ahead - of its victims.
Is that fair? I don't know.
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Bishop Wright was a long way from the "kiss my ring" stereotype.
What I do know is that the church represents one side of an almost insurmountable power imbalance, with individual, often damaged, victims, pitted against "the oldest institution in the western world", headquartered in its own country, the Vatican.
For a long time I thought the sheer scale of the abuse scandals would sink the church, but I no longer believe that's the case.
As someone pointed out to me - and as I remarked to a diocesan staffer after the funeral - the church in Australia has other sources of income beyond the diminishing returns from the collection plate.
Government funding for private schools sends billions a year into Catholic coffers.
Yes, that money is paid for a purpose, but with the church claiming more than 750,000 students - or "one in five" children - it can be described as an education and welfare provider, with an ecclesiastical wing.
Bill Wright accepted a poisoned chalice. No two ways about it.
His successor should find a bit more communion wine, and a bit less gall, in his cup.
But I agree with Bishop Robinson.
Until the church genuinely examines its own soul - and opens its clearly enormous vaults of abuse documentation - it cannot complain about its treatment at the hands of others.
At the same time, I think Bishop Bill did his best to juggle the pull on his conscience from one direction, and the loyalty toward his church on the other.
If the Catholics are right, and there is a Hell, and there is a Heaven, we will all pay the proper price - or be rewarded - eventually.
13114 - Lifeline
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