Doubts About Dolan’s Defense of Dinner

August 15, 2012

Cardinal Dolan has come out with a blog post explaining the decision to invite President Obama to the Al Smith dinner .  We are glad that Cardinal Dolan has at last given an explanation in his own words.  But, his defense still leaves us, along with many Catholics, shaking our heads with doubts about the decision. Below are excerpts from the blog post by Cardinal Dolan, with our commentary inline. We would like to give Cardinal Dolan the benefit of the doubt, but we remain skeptical.

Last week I was out in Anaheim for the annual Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus. It was, as usual, a most uplifting and inspirational event.

In his rousing address to the thousands of delegates, representing 1.8 million knights, Dr. Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight, exhorted us to a renewed sense of faithful citizenship, encouraging us not to be shy about bringing the values of faith to the public square…

He then went on to announce a promising initiative of the Knights of Columbus to foster civility in politics…

[BCI] Where has the civility displayed in recent years by the Knights toward pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage politicians who are also members of the K of C gotten them? Has it changed any hearts, minds or votes of these so-called “Catholic” Knights in elected office who consistently act in defiance of our moral principles? If it was producing some impact, then great–by all means keep at it. But if it is not producing any change, maybe displaying yet more civility towards them is not a winning approach. If the “carrot” approach does not motivate change, then try the stick instead.

For seven decades, the Al Smith Dinner here in New York has been an acclaimed example of such civility in political life. As you may know, every four years, during the presidential election campaign, the Al Smith Dinner is the venue of history, as it is the only time outside of the presidential debates that the two presidential candidates come together, at the invitation of the Al Smith Foundation, through the archbishop of New York, for an evening of positive, upbeat, patriotic, enjoyable civil discourse.  This year, both President Obama and Governor Romney have accepted our invitation. I am grateful to them.

[BCI] With all due respect, so what if the dinner has been an example of civility in political life for seven decades? What became of the civil discourse with candidate Obama 4 years ago at this same dinner? Now his policies that violate our religious freedom and mandate contraceptive coverage could result in the shut-down of Catholic Charities, a beneficiary of the dinner.  We have never had as anti-Catholic a President as we have today, who is working as actively and in as un-civil a manner as Obama to oppose all of our moral principles and religious freedoms. If the dinner now causes scandal by the invitation and presence of Obama or other pro-abortion anti-Catholic politicians, should it continue this way just because it has been held for a while?  

…I am receiving stacks of mail protesting the invitation to President Obama (and by the way, even some objecting to the invitation to Governor Romney).

[BCI] Glad to hear the mail is getting through. In Boston, our mail to the Cardinal does not get through to him at all.

The objections are somewhat heightened this year, since the Catholic community in the United States has rightly expressed vigorous criticism of the President’s support of the abortion license, and his approval of mandates which radically intruded upon Freedom of Religion. We bishops, including yours truly, have been unrelenting in our opposition to these issues, and will continue to be.

[BCI] The objections have been massively heightened this year. We appreciate your vigorous criticism of the President’s support of the abortion license and your criticism of his mandates that radically intrude upon our Freedom of Religion.  Do you plan to be unrelenting in your vigorous criticism of the President’s support for abortion and intrusion on our Freedom of Religion in your public comments at the Al Smith dinner?

So, my correspondents ask, how can you justify inviting the President? Let me try to explain.

For one, an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner is not an award, or the provision of a platform to expound views at odds with the Church. It is an occasion of conversation; it is personal, not partisan.

[BCI] No one has said the invitation to the dinner is an award. But the USCCB, of which Cardinal Dolan is President, has also said we should not honor or give platforms to those who act in defiance of our moral principles, which Obama clearly does. How is it not an honor to be the keynote featured speaker at a nationally-known fundraiser?  How is it not an honor to be the dinner guest of the Cardinal Archbishop of New York and President of the USCCB? And even if Obama does not use this specific dinner as an occasion to expound views at odds with the Church, the dinner by this Catholic organization and hosted by the Catholic Archbishop of NY is still is giving Obama a public platform that suggests support for his actions. The Foundation website says, “Indeed, the occasion has evolved into something of an opportunity for speakers – particularly ones whose mien is typically quite serious – to show, through quips and slightly irreverent humor, that they can poke fun at a political issue, an opponent, or themselves.” This sounds like a platform.  To honor or give a platform to those who act in defiance of our moral principles is contrary to the direction from the USCCB in their 2004 document, Catholics in Political Life.

Two, the purpose of the Al Smith Dinner is to show both our country and our Church at their best: people of faith gathered in an evening of friendship, civility, and patriotism, to help those in need, not to endorse either candidate. Those who started the dinner sixty-seven years ago believed that you can accomplish a lot more by inviting folks of different political loyalties to an uplifting evening, rather than in closing the door to them.

[BCI] Interesting how the spin about the purpose of the Al Smith dinner keeps changing. The Foundation says the dinner is “a living memorial to an uncommon public figure.”  The Foundation also says, in the days before Saturday Night Live, the Al Smith dinner served as a kind of “proving ground for the candidate as entertainer,” as one reporter described it.

Three, the teaching of the Church, so radiant in the Second Vatican Council, is that the posture of the Church towards culture, society, and government is that of engagement and dialogue. In other words, it’s better to invite than to ignore, more effective to talk together than to yell from a distance, more productive to open a door than to shut one. Our recent popes have been examples of this principle, receiving dozens of leaders with whom on some points they have serious disagreements. Thus did our present Holy Father graciously receive our current President of the United States.  And, in the current climate, we bishops have maintained that we are open to dialogue with the administration to try and resolve our differences.  What message would I send if I refused to meet with the President?

[BCI] With all due respect, this seems to be comparing apples and bananas. Recent popes have received leaders who visited the Vatican and asked to meet with the Holy Father.  These one-on-one meetings have taken place in a private audience behind closed doors and are an opportunity to engage in dialogue. Sometimes photos have not been allowed (e.g. with Nancy Pelosi).  The very public Al Smith fundraiser dinner is hardly an opportunity to engage in discourse and dialogue to try and resolve differences with the administration.  Furthermore, by not exercising the option to invite Obama, that does not say you are “refusing to meet with the President.” If the President invites you to the White House to meet with him to discuss how to resolve our serious disagreements, by all means you should accept the invitation and meet with him.

Finally, an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner in no way indicates a slackening in our vigorous promotion of values we Catholic bishops believe to be at the heart of both gospel and American values, particularly the defense of human dignity, fragile life, and religious freedom. In fact, one could make the case that anyone attending the dinner, even the two candidates, would, by the vibrant solidarity of the evening, be reminded that America is at her finest when people, free to exercise their religion, assemble on behalf of poor women and their babies, born and unborn, in a spirit of civility and respect.

[BCI] So the dinner will include Cardinal Dolan vigorously promoting values including the defense of human dignity, fragile life, and religious freedom? Does anyone really believe that Obama will come away believing that America is at her finest when people, free to exercise their religion in ways that the President is actively taking away from us, assemble on behalf of poor women and their unborn babies that Obama uses taxpayer dollars to kill in the womb? Did attending the dinner in 2008 as a presidential candidate change Obama and make him more supportive of Catholic moral principles? If what we have seen since then from Obama is a reflection of what he got from the 2008 dinner, can we take any more?

Some have told me the invitation is a scandal. That charge weighs on me, as it would on any person of faith, but especially a pastor, who longs to give good example, never bad. So, I apologize if I have given such scandal. I suppose it’s a case of prudential judgment: would I give more scandal by inviting the two candidates, or by not inviting them?

[BCI] We appreciate that you have come to see that the invitation is seen by many faithful Catholics as a scandal, and we also appreciate your apology.   There was not scandal in past years when pro-abortion candidates were not invited to the dinner, so it seems that you have indeed given more scandal by inviting the two candidates. The question now is, what do you plan to do since you have given such scandal to the country?

No matter what you might think of this particular decision, might I ask your prayers for me and my brother bishops and priests who are faced with making these decisions, so that we will be wise and faithful shepherds as God calls us to be?

[BCI] You have our prayers.

In the end, I’m encouraged by the example of Jesus, who was blistered by his critics for dining with those some considered sinners; and by the recognition that, if I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I’d be taking all my meals alone.

[BCI] With all due respect, this example of Jesus, who dined with sinners in private to try to convert them is being used once again to compare apples and oranges. Judie Brown, of the American Life League, put it well in this column, What Would Jesus Do?

While it is true that Jesus dined with sinners, it was for the purpose of converting their hearts, of teaching them His laws, and of inspiring them to change sinful behaviors. President Obama has been invited to dine with Cardinal Dolan and others, but the goals of this dinner are not the same goals Jesus held. Today’s commentary addresses this and explains why we are beseeching the cardinal to have his own change of heart. 

Immediately after we launched the No Dinner for Obama campaign, a concerned Catholic wrote to us and said:

      Did not Jesus Himself dine with, seek the company of, and take audience with sinners, tax collectors, rabbis, and Pharisees who all believed and preached falsities? Who are we to stray from His example? Who are we to discriminate against a leader of many instead of dining with him, and trying to convince him of the true word of Jesus Christ?

My initial reaction was to feel sorrow for this fellow because he was sincerely trying to excuse the public embrace by members of the hierarchy of a man who has done nothing to advance any precept of the natural law. Obama is not confused about what he is doing to the Church. His actions are, and have been, intentional.

Furthermore, as author and columnist Phil Lawler wrote recently,

      When Jesus sat with tax collectors, the dinners were private. They were not “photo ops” for political candidates. The Lord could speak directly to the hearts of his dining companions, and convert them. Remember, St. Matthew left the tax-collecting business to follow Christ. Does anyone believe that after the Al Smith Dinner, Obama will decide to rescind the contraceptive mandate?

Following the dinner, America will see front-page photos and stories that feature Cardinal Dolan sitting with Obama, laughing and having a great time. Such images send a message to America that all is well between the leader of the United States of America and the leader of the American Catholic Church.

I am not sure who will be the most gravely scandalized by the photo op, but the point is that Obama is a danger to freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and all that we hold dear as Christians in America. Our campaign is not a campaign of discrimination or negativity, it is an effort to follow Christ’s admonition to his disciples (Luke 17: 1-2): “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”

We are all called to be faithful, and sometimes that means making difficult decisions or taking unpopular actions in order to defend Christ and His Church. This is not a time for squeamishness or half-hearted attempts to uphold a tradition which, in the case of the Al Smith Dinner, needs to be broken.

[BCI] BCI thinks Cardinal Dolan faces any of several choices to eliminate the scandal created by the 2012 Al Smith Dinner:

  1. Uninvite President Obama
  2. Cancel the dinner
  3. Continue with the dinner as planned, but Cardinal Dolan mitigates the damage and scandal by not personally attending–and the media is banned from the dinner, with no photo opps or cameras permitted

What do you think?


Boston Archdiocese Punts on Religious Freedom Lawsuit

May 22, 2012

On Monday, May 21, Cardinal Dolan, President of the USCCB, applauded 43 dioceses, hospitals, schools and church agencies for filing 12 lawsuits around the nation saying the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contraception coverage mandate violates religious freedom.

The Boston Archdiocese was not one of those dioceses.

St. Anthony of Padua said, “Actions speak louder than words” and the actions of Cardinal O’Malley make it  increasingly obvious that our Cardinal is lacking in courage.

Here is an excerpt from the AP report on the news:

NEW YORK – Roman Catholic dioceses, schools, and other groups sued the Obama administration Monday in eight states and the District of Columbia over a federal mandate that most employers provide workers free birth control as part of their health insurance.

The 12 federal lawsuits represent the largest push against the mandate since President Obama announced the policy in January. Among the 43 groups suing are the University of Notre Dame, the Archdioceses of Washington and New York, the Michigan Catholic Conference, and the Catholic University of America.

“We have tried negotiation with the administration and legislation with the Congress, and we’ll keep at it, but there’s still no fix,’’ said New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.’’

The suits bring the total number of cases now pending over the mandate to more than 30.

The Archdiocese of Boston did not join the effort, although it supports the legal challenges. “There is no need for every single diocese or other Catholic organization to sue,’’ Terrence Donilon, archdiocese spokesman, said in a statement. “The various plaintiffs reflect a broad cross-section of Catholic institutions, and together they represent the wide variety of issues, impacts, economic consequences, and divergent facts that exist among Catholic organizations nationwide.’’

In other words, while the Archdioceses of New York, Washington and St. Louis; the Dioceses of Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Rockville Centre, Springfield, Ill., Erie (PA), Jackson and Biloxi (Miss.) and others, along with the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic University of America; and Our Sunday Visitor dig in and fight the battle (see here for list), the Boston Archdiocese will sit back and do nothing.  All the plaintiffs are being represented pro bono by the law firm Jones Day, so the out-of-pocket cost to Boston would be zero.

BCI literally is almost speechless upon hearing that Boston is bailing. Several times in recent months Cardinal O’Malley has called publicly for courage. Now he fails to demonstrate it via his actions.

September 2011 at diocesan Red Mass for lawyers and jurists: “We are called upon to defend the gospel of life with courage and resolve…Your very profession invests in all of you a great responsibility to ensure that all laws are just.”

November 2011 at the “ad limina” visit to Rome: Here is most of the CNS story reporting on this:

Bishops from northeastern US begin ‘ad limina’ visits with prayer

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Praying together at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul and meeting Pope Benedict XVI should be a moment for bishops to reconfirm and strengthen their faith, said Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston.

In his homily, the cardinal told his fellow bishops that after Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, “Peter flees. He’s trying to follow the Lord at a safe distance, something we all try to do at one time or another. But Peter discovers it’s impossible; you can only follow the Lord up close.”

“Jesus doesn’t ask Peter if he’s excelled in his intellectual prowess or his organization skills or his fundraising capacity or his Myers-Briggs score. Jesus only asks, ‘Do you love me?’” he said.

Peter’s love for the Lord brought him to Rome, the cardinal said, but — according to legend — as persecution grew Peter decided to flee again. Leaving the city, he saw the risen Lord and asked him, “Quo vadis?” (“Where are you going?”), and Jesus replied he was going to Rome to be crucified again. Peter renewed his faith and returned to the city where he met a martyr’s death.

“Each of us has gone through a ‘quo vadis’ moment or two in our vocation as bishops,” the cardinal said. “Hopefully, our being together at the tomb of Peter and close to Benedict will renew us in our generosity, courage and faith in following Jesus up close so that we can say with all our hearts what Peter said, ‘Lord you know all things. You know that I love you.’”

The comment by Terry Donilon suggests that Cardinal O’Malley and the Boston Archdiocese are, like Peter, fleeing and trying to keep a safe distance from this crucial issue. Apparently, the hope for renewal of courage nearby the tomb of Peter from last November has already worn off.  More and more, when the Cardinal calls upon the Catholic faithful to have courage, the words ring hollow because he fails to match his actions with his words.

We close today with a quote sent by a reader from Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  That is what is happening in Boston on this issue. We hope and pray that those who have the courage to fight will prevail, and those currently lacking the courage to fight will realize they are allowing evil to triumph and will change their ways.


2010 Year in Review

January 2, 2011

With it still being New Years weekend, we would like to take this final opportunity to look back on the year that just closed.  Our frame of reference is mostly through the lens of the blog, mostly from after the blog started (AB), though we will share a few things from before the blog (BB).

The main events and themes revealed this past year were deception by the highest levels in the archdiocesan leadership, a reorganization of the Cardinal’s cabinet, continued  dismantling of the archdiocese (exemplified by the selloff of Caritas Christi), more Pastoral Center layoffs, major financial difficulties for 40% of parishes that are running a deficit, increased spending by the Pastoral Center on six-figure salaries, fiscal mismanagement, and a continued decline in weekly Mass attendance.  In the face of these problems, we saw an even more visible display of the episcopal leadership vacuum filled by powerbroker Jack Connors, Fr. Bryan Hehir, and Chancellor Jim McDonough, some attempts at evangelization, and the emergence of this blog, Boston Catholic Insider, dedicated to sharing the goings-on and exposing corruption in the archdiocese.

Below is a list of our top events of 2010. (If we missed any big ones, please let us know).  There is no priority order—they are just events we think are reflective of the past year and suggestive of what is to come in the future.

  • Boston Archdiocese sells off the Caritas Christi hospital system to Cerberus, a private equity firm whose name is the same name as the 3-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades.  (click on picture to zoom/enlarge). External spin was that the sale was necessary to maintain long-term financial health of the hospitals, even though Caritas had announced a financial turn-around months before the deal was  brokered which supposedly marked a foundation for long-term fiscal health with no acquisition.  Cardinal O’Malley, Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson, and Fr. Bryan Hehir all publicly deceive the archdiocese with statements that the Catholic identity of the hospitals would be maintained forever, when in fact, the agreement allows Cerberus to drop  the Catholic identity for a $25 million payment after 3 years if deemed “burdensome” by them.  (Themes: deception, influence by Jack Connors and Fr. Bryan Hehir, conflicts of interest, dismantling the diocese, episcopal leadership vacuum).
  • Archdiocese reduces staff by 10% in June 2010, mostly by laying off low-level, long-time dedicated employees.  No people making six-figure salaries were affected.  Six-figure salaried employees who had previously taken a 5-10% pay cut to help balance the budget had their salaries increased back to previous levels. (Themes: fiscal mismanagement, poor get poorer while rich get richer, leadership vacuum)
  • Pastor of St. Pauls in Hingham (Fr. James Rafferty) rejects admission to the parish school for a child of lesbian parents. He is thrown under the bus for his decision by Jack Connors, the Catholic Schools Foundation, and schools superintendent Mary Grassa O’Neill (click on picture to enlarge). An admissions policy is drafted and advanced in approval processes amongst school principals and clergy which deceptively uses words of Pope Benedict XVI out of context as basis for the policy and rejects canonical principles of subsidiarity that would allow pastors/parishes to make such decisions themselves. (Theme: deception, influence by Jack Connors and Fr. Bryan Hehir, episcopal leadership vacuum)
  • 40% of Boston archdiocesan parishes are in the red and cannot pay their bills. Publicly disclosed figures put weekly Mass attendance at about 17%, and we hear the number has actually dropped to more like around 12%.  Pastoral planning process advances to combine multiple church buildings into parishes.   (Theme: continued decline of the diocese)
  • 5 closed parishes maintain protest vigils, after final canonical appeals were exhausted in 2010, and in some cases more than six years after they were ordered closed.  For vigil parishes, no one has the guts to simply block people from entering the churches and thereby end the vigils. Cost to the archdiocese to maintain all closed parishes is more than $1.5 million per year.  (Themes: fiscal mismanagement, episcopal leadership vacuum)
  • Powerbroker Jack Connors and Chancellor Jim McDonough reorganized the Cardinal’s cabinet (starting in the winter of 2010 through summer and fall) pushing out the previous Secretary for Institutional Advancement, Scot Landry, from that role. Their vision was, and is, to forsake the “widows mite” in fund-raising and instead go after primarily deep-pocketed donors.  (Themes: influence and consolidation of power by Jack Connors and Jim McDonough, episcopal leadership vacuum)
  • New Development Chief, Kathleen Driscoll, was named after a “sham search” where the Cardinal, Jack Connors, and Vicar General  Fr. Richard Erikson formed a search committee and told everyone in the archdiocese a real search was underway, when in reality, Ms. Driscoll had been identified as the choice before the search was ever announced.  The new fund-raising entity puts all fund-raising under the control of Jack Connors’ former Hill Holliday exec,  Driscoll, leaving the Cardinal and archdiocese further beholden to Connors’ agenda.  In sports, one might call the sham search analagous to a “head fake”—namely where a player moves their head one way to fake a change in direction. Outside of sports, one might call the explanation given internally by the Vicar General—that there were two parallel tracks to the search, one a public search that never took place and the other an internal search—either a “deception” or an outright “lie.”  (Themes: deception, influence and consolidation of power by Jack Connors, conflict of interest, cronyism, dismantling the diocese, episcopal leadership vacuum)
  • Boston Catholic Insider blog launches June 23, 2010. Chancellor’s decision to block archdiocesan access to the blog resulted in greatly increased public visibility for the blog, including articles in the Boston Globe and by the Associated Press. Communications chief, Terry Donilon, complained about “unfounded claims” on the blog, but never identified even one such claim.  By the end of 2010, the blog had 100 posts, 1,330 comments, and 150,000 pages viewed by 91,000 unique visitors from around the world.  With 80+% of traffic coming from the greater Boston area,  we estimate that about 3X more Boston-area people have read the Boston Catholic Insider blog than regularly read the archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot.  The blog publishes an Open Letter to Cardinal O’Malley and archdicoesan leaders on August 23 (and updated September 15) asking for action on a number of issues.  Perhaps coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, the following have happened in follow-up of that open letter regarding issues in the letter.
  • Excessive Compensation in Six-Figure Salaries: Compensation Committee formed by Archdiocesan Finance Council
  • Whistleblower Policy:  About 4 years after auditors recommended the archdiocese create an anonymous whistleblower policy, the Chancellor finally did something.  He has hired Ethicspoint to host the system and the policy is nearing implementation, albeit with flawed processes around it that would make the policy ineffective if implemented as planned. (Stay tuned for more on that).
  • Names of Finance Council and Committee Members: Were anonymous for past 2 years, but now posted publicly.
  • Names of Trustees for Clergy Retirement Fund: Were finally disclosed to the clergy.  We are still awaiting the names of the trustees for the lay retirement fund six months after we asked.
  • Search for New Development Chief:  No change in direction was made after the blog started reporting on the “sham search.”  After we reported for months on the sham search, the Archdiocese confirmed it with the announcement of Kathleen Driscoll, further hurting their own credibility
  • Search for Mass Catholic Conference executive director: at least a head of the search committee, Bishop Coleman, of Fall River, was beyond criticism when the search was announced.  However, other members of the search committee have raised concerns about ties to Fr. Bryan Hehir, Jack Connors, and an agenda other than the advancement of Catholic teachings in public policy, thus the search is considered tainted.
  • Priest Appreciation: In conjunction with the Priest Appreciation Dinner, the blog launched a priest “shout out” where writers thanked more than 75 archdiocesan and religious order priests for their ministry.
  • U.S.C.C.B President Election: On a national level, Boston Catholic Insider took a short-lived detour from matters of Boston governance and corruption and contributed in at least some way to the public dialogue and derailing of the candidacy of Tucson bishop Gerald Kicanas for USCCB President.  Our “Red Alert” campaign enabled Catholics to voice objections to his candidacy directly to bishops based on past handling of allegations of sexual improprieties .  The AP, USA Today, America Magazine, Commonweal, and other national publications all reported on how Catholic bloggers had urged readers to send protest faxes and leave messages for bishops at the hotel where they are meeting.  America Magazine said, “e-mails and faxes to the bishops were apparently piling up in the bishop’s Baltimore hotel rooms.”  We cannot claim anything about BCI’s impact on the election beyond merely saying we contributed to the dialogue and played some role in enabling people to communicate their concerns with their bishops.   This last point being said, the Kicanas effort does show the demand on the part of Catholics for some vehicle to communicate with their bishops, and the impact which is possible when such vehicles exist.   This is not the last campaign you will see from BCI!
  • Cardinal O’Malley went to Dublin to serve on an apostolic visitation to Ireland in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in that country.  He told people “I am here to listen.”  (We hope we hear the same words expressed from him in Boston soon). Cardinal Seans’ blog, by the “first blogging Cardinal” evolves almost entirely into a photojournal of the Cardinal’s travels and meetings with friends and family members, portraying a bishop increasingly removed from teaching, sanctifying, and governing in Boston. (Theme: episcopal leadership vacuum)
  • Lay pension plan frozen: for about 10,000 church secretaries, parochial school teachers, and other lay employees.  Chancellor tells Boston Globe that archdiocesan employees had not had pay raises for 4 years, a statement contradicted by the reality of diocesan annual reports and many employees who indeed received cost of living increases as recently as the 2007-2008 fiscal year. (Themes: deception, fiscal mismanagement)
  • On the evangelistic  front, the archdiocese launched “The Light is On For You” to make confession available to Catholics on Wednesday evenings in Lent and most recently in Advent.  Feedback has been positive.  In addition, a new effort to reach out to fallen-away Catholics, “Catholics Come Home” will be coming to Boston in 2011. (Theme: evangelization)
  • On the vocations front, St. Johns Seminary is prospering despite the other problems in the archdiocese.  In fact, they are reaching capacity to accommodate full-time students and need more space—space the seminary once owned and which a Vatican visitation committee had recommended not be sold or given away, but which was sold anyway by the Cardinal and Chancellor James McDonough to raise money for the archdiocese.  (theme: episcopal leadership vacuum)

The Boston Catholic Insider blog has enjoyed some very proud moments and also weathered our share of criticism.  Amidst ups and downs, we are told that we have finally given a voice to those whose complaints were going unheard and who viewed there as being little hope of recovering the Catholic Church that many people have known and loved in Boston.  One person recently wrote and said the following:

“The blog has brought to reality my longtime desire to enable this particular Church to know the truth…without being traumatized into still another heartache.  The blog has pulled back the curtain with good will, good humor and, most importantly, superb documentation.  No hearts were broken to produce this blog!  (OK, maybe a couple of frowns cracked around #66, but that was to be expected.)

The abuse crisis, and to a lesser extent the parish closings and the pension mess (both lay and clergy) have resulted in some people punishing themselves by separation from their sacraments.  They wanted to slam the door on the people who broke their hearts, but instead they slammed themselves out.  The blog is allowing a difficult truth to be understood, and most importantly, allowing people to think how to go about addressing it. They aren’t storming out of the Church — they are storming into the conversation.

Congratulations on six remarkably strong months, with few hiccups!

We feel very good about what the blog has accomplished in the past six months.  Now, onward and upwards to the challenges and opportunities of 2011!


NEWSFLASH: US Bishops Elect NYC Archbishop Dolan as President

November 16, 2010

Congratulations to Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York City!  Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville was elected Vice President.  Here is the news, straight off the Associated Press.

US bishops elect NYC archbishop as head in upset

(AP) – 31 minutes ago

BALTIMORE (AP) — In an upset, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan elected president Tuesday of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, defeating a vice president who had been widely expected to win the job.

It is the first time since the 1960s that a sitting vice president was on the ballot for president and lost. It follows protests by some conservative Catholics against the vice president, Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas.

Dolan received 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Kicanas on the third round of balloting. Kicanas has served as vice president for a three-year term which ends this week.

Dolan’s surprise victory comes at a time when church leaders are divided over how best to uphold Roman Catholic orthodoxy.

A growing number of bishops have taken a more aggressive approach, publicly denying Holy Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, warning Catholic voters they should never vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights under any circumstances and reining in prominent dissenters in their dioceses.

Kicanas has not denied Communion to any Catholic politicians and rejected calls to punish the president of the University of Notre Dame for honoring President Barack Obama, who supports abortion rights. Kicanas instead urged bishops and Catholic university presidents to start a discussion about their differences.

Partly because of Kicanas’ approach, he was pilloried in the days leading up to the vote by conservative Catholic bloggers, who urged readers to send protest faxes and leave messages for bishops at the hotel where they are meeting.

Dolan also does not outright deny the sacrament to dissenting Catholic lawmakers, but he is seen as an outspoken defender of church orthodoxy in a style favored by many theological conservatives.

We take exception to their labeling of “some conservative Catholics”  and the originally worded “right-wing Catholic bloggers” if they are referring to us in that category.  [UPDATE: the AP changed the original wording from "right-wing" to "conservative."]  More accurately, we think they should have said, “It follows protests against the vice president Tuscon Bishop Gerald Kicanas by a groundswell of Catholics from across the country who proudly accept and endorse the teachings of the Catholic Church and want to see those teachings upheld in the public square.”

Whispers in the Loggia called this election a “seismic shift.”

Overturning a half-century of tradition for the bench, the result represents a seismic shift for the leadership of the nation’s largest religious body, and a mandate for a continuance of the outspoken, high-profile leadership shown by Cardinal Francis George over his game-changing tenure at the conference’s helm.

To all who wrote to their bishops and urged them to not vote for Bishop Kicanas, you should be commended for standing up and voicing your views to your pastors!

And to those who wrote about or covered this issue, including Tim Drake at the National Catholic Register, Michael Voris at RealCatholicTV and others, kudos for getting the story out!

And of course, thanks to all readers who wrote  supportive of our modest efforts with this blog to make a difference.  The pundits and conventional wisdom all said the election of Kicanas was basically a foregone conclusion.  Your prayers and efforts–and the intervention of the Holy Spirit–prove that the conventional wisdom need not always prevail.

We will be back tomorrow with more on Boston governance.


NEWSFLASH: GLBT Rainbow Sash Group wants Kicanas as USCCB President

November 15, 2010

The heated debate over tomorrow’s election of a new USCCB president continues [note, we had the date wrong and have corrected it now].  Below are the highlights of the past 24 hours.  But first, if you still want to tell your bishop to vote against Kicanas, even if you filled in our form before, we suggest you pick up the phone today and call the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront where they are staying. Or you can send a fax (see below)

The phone number is 410-385-3000.  Just ask the person at the front desk to leave a message for [ "First name, Last name."]  (Yes, Catholic protocol says to also use their proper title such as Cardinal/Archbishop/Bishop, but the hotel is thinking last name and room number, not proper place in the church hierarchy]  Give your name, and say, “Please do NOT vote for Bishop Kicanas in Tuesday’s election for USCCB president.”  Say it is important to get this message to him today. (Note: Cardinal Sean O’Malley is not in Baltimore–he is in Dublin, Ireland).

Now onto the highlights of the past 24 hours.

1) The gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender Rainbow Sash group that calls itself “Catholic” endorsed Bishop Kicanas for the new USCCB President If they are saying to vote “yes” then we think that pretty well confirms that the bishops should vote “no.”  Here are a few excerpts from their statement:

It is appropriate for the only LGBT Catholic Organization in the United States active within the parishes of the Church, and visible about that activity to add its voice to the Bishops election process for its next President. We understand Bishop Kicanas understands that Bishops are privately changing their position because input is bubbling up from the pews of our parishes in support of such issues as Gay Marriage, and Pro Choice….The Rainbow Sash Movement believes it is critical that Bishop Kicanas be elected to the Presidency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to set the tone, and be a reasonable public voice and face for the country’s Catholic bishops.

Here is the perspective of Catholic columnist, Matt Abbott, on their endorsement of Kicanas. Need we say more?

2) SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) is opposing Kicanas and is urging Catholics to call George and other church officials to protest Kicanas’ expected appointment.

We question why they would want to pick someone who has a history of covering up for a child molester and someone who failed to warn parents about his problems,” said Barbara Blaine of SNAP.

3) The blog hears through well-placed sources that the reason Bishop Kicanas may have not disputed the “smoking guy” 2007 Chicago Sun Times news report directly to the newspaper at the time–the article which is now widely cited with Kicanas’ quotes–is because the newspaper reporter tape-recorded the interview, as is typically done with the knowledge of the interviewee.  It seems that the published article might, coincidentally, not be inaccurate or out of context, as Kicanas claimed last week.

NPR has also now weighed it.  You may want to visit the comments section of their website and share your thoughts.

What normally is a relatively sleepy election has gotten a fair amount of attention.

Meanwhile, our RedAlert is still open.  It is now faxing letters to 30 metropolitan bishops at the Marriott. If you filled it out before, go ahead and fill it out once again to send a fax to the hotel.

Whomever is elected to the USCCB presidency will be the spokesperson during the next General Election in the U.S. and set the tone for what issues American Catholics ought to consider when voting.  This is very important!

Keep praying today and this evening that God’s will be done.  A Rosary between now and tomorrow mid-day would be a great idea.


USCCB Election Alert: Bishop Kicanas Responds

November 13, 2010

Today we bring to you the next exciting episode in the drama over Bishop Gerald Kicanas’ candidacy for President of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.  (For regular Boston Catholic Insider readers who are uninterested in this topic and just care about the governance issues in Boston, we are not abandoning you. Feel free to skip today’s post–we will return to local Boston issues shortly).

To cut to the chase, we are keeping active our “RED ALERT,” as the election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 16.

In our first posts, we shared with you published comments by Bishop Kicanas describing how he, as rector of Mundelein Seminary in the 1990s, heard 3 allegations of sexual improprieties by Daniel McCormack while McCormack was a seminarian at Mundelein, but still approved ordaining him a priest.  Bishop Kicanas looked back in hindsight after McCormack had been arrested and defrocked for a string of child abuse incidents and was quoted in the Chicago Sun Times saying, “It would have been grossly unfair not to have ordained him…There was a sense that his activity was part of the developmental process…I was more concerned about his drinking.”

On Friday, after the Catholic blogosphere across the country had been erupting over this issue, Bishop Kicanas responded to the National Catholic Register defending his handling of the McCormack case.  He said, “At no time while McCormack was a seminarian at Mundelein did I receive any allegation of pedophilia or child molestation against him.”  In his response, Kicanas did acknowledge there were reports of consensual homosexual activity, which apparently took place only after McCormack had been drinking.

Readers are justifiably now asking us what we make of this.  Short answer: Bishop Kicanas’ comments back to the Register have both cleared a few things up and have also highlighted a few holes and inconsistencies.  Thus, we are maintaining the Red Alert.  We continue to urge people to contact their bishops and ask them to vote for a candidate who comes without this scandal, and who can clearly be a true icon of Jesus Christ and shepherd of souls.

Now for the longer answer.  Warning—this is long.  We got some new information today from readers in another part of the country that we decided to share with you. So, if you dislike long blog posts, you may want to quit now.

As one commenter at Catholic Culture put it, Bishop Kicanas’ responses are “legalistically worded, non-answer answers…It was only after he was backed into the corner by the interviewer that he actually answered the real question. Yes, there were demonstrable reasons not to ordain this person. And, no, they were NOT primarily related to alcohol consumption.”

Below we share a timeline and then the inconsistencies and holes.

1. TIMELINE

With the new information we received, we felt we needed to map out a short timeline for the jailed and defrocked, Daniel McCormack, in  order to figure out what happened when.  Oddly, no one else has done this in covering the current Kicanas situation. The events of 1992 and his time in the seminary are what we tried to piece together.  This all comes from published news accounts (references are listed at end of post)

1968 Daniel McCormack is born (Oct. 28, 1968)
1982 Graduated from St. Mary Star of the Sea School
1982-1986 Attended high school at Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary South
1986 Graduated from Archbishop Quigley
1986-1994 Attended Niles College of Loyola University (where he majored in American and African-American history) and University of St. Mary of the Lake-Mundelein Seminary, where he received a master’s degree in divinity.
1992 In spring quarter of 1992, Mundelein seminary officials learned of three separate allegations of sexual misconduct by McCormack during his time at Niles College and St. Mary of the Lake. (This is according to a subsequent archdiocesan audit and described in Cardinal George’s lengthy deposition).  No records of the allegations were found in his files, but the Vice Rector wrote a memo to this effect at the time.  Two involved “sexual misconduct with his peers” in the college seminary, and the other involved a minor. McCormack was counseled for alcohol abuse at the seminary.
1994 McCormack is ordained
1994-1997 Assigned to St. Ailbe Catholic Church in Chicago
1997 Joined faculty at St. Joseph Seminary of Loyola University.  Also serves as sacramental minister at Holy Family church
1999 First reported incident occurs.  In October of 1999, a 4th grader who was interested in being an altar boy reported to the school principal that McCormack had asked him to pull down his pants so he could be measured. When the principal confronted McCormack about the incident, he told her he had “used poor judgment,” she said. The boy’s mother ultimately asked that the matter not be pursued.
2000 Named pastor at St. Agatha.  Also taught algebra and coached basketball at Our Lady of the Westside School.
2001-2005 Allegedly abused a young boy from Sept. 1, 2001, through Jan. 31, 2005. (The boy was 13-years-old when the abuse was reported publicly in January of 2006, making him about 8 or 9-years-old when the abuse started). McCormack was the boy’s basketball coach and that the alleged abuse occurred in the church’s rectory “two or three times a month after school.”
2003 Allegedly abused an 8-year-old boy when he was alone with the priest after Mass (Dec. 1 and Dec. 24, 2003).  The incident was reported by the boy’s mother in August of 2005.
2005 Arrested on August 30, but not charged with a crime; ordered to not be alone with children.
2006 Arrested (January) and charged with two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a victim younger than 13, dating back to 2001.
2007 (July) Pleaded guilty to five felony counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was also defrocked in 2007.

2. 2007 USCCB ELECTION

On Monday, November 12, 2007, Cardinal Francis George was elected President of the USCCB and Bishop Kicanas was elected Vice President.

On Tuesday, November 13, 2007, Kicanas was interviewed by the Chicago Sun Times after being elected Vice President.

On Wednesday, November 15, 2007, this Sun Times article was published:  “Bishop: I Was More Worried About Priest’s Drinking” which quotes Bishop Kicanis saying he knew about three reports of “sexual improprieties” against then-seminarian McCormack yet still approved his ordination.

U.S. Bishops are trying mightily at their assembly in Baltimore this week to portray the scandals as largely a problem of the past.  The McCormack case exposed the Archdiocese of Chicago’s recent failures when allegations surfaced before the priest’s 2006 arrest.

Mundelein officials learned in 1992 about sexual accusations against McCormack involving two adult males and a minor.  The incidents began in 1988 when McCormack was at the seminary school known as Niles College, according to archdiocesan reports.

“there was a sense that his activity was part of the developmental process and that he had learned from the experience,” Kicanas said.  “I was more concerned about his drinking.  We sent him to counseling for that.”

The archdiocese’s vicar general, the Rev. John Canary, who worked at Mundelein at the time, recently told the Sun Times that McCormack should never have been ordained.

3. KICANAS RESPONSE HOLES AND INCONSISTENCIES

  • Issues with the published Sun Times article? There is no evidence that Bishop Kicanas refuted any of the details of that 2007 Sun Times  article at the time with the reporter or with the newspaper.  Now he says he verbally told Tucson reporters about the issues with the Sun Times article?  That is like someone telling Boston Catholic Insider they were misquoted on Whispers in the Loggia–and 3 years ago.  If there was something inaccurate on such a significant and sensitive matter, why did he not he tell the Sun Times directly at the time and formally demand a retraction or correction when the article was originally published?  Now, 3 years later, he is taking exception to how he was quoted and saying the quote was put in a context that is not accurate.
  • Incident with a minor? According to Kicanas, While McCormack was at Mundelein, another seminarian told his counselor that when they were in Mexico studying Spanish, McCormack had been in a bar drinking and as they left the bar, McCormack had in public patted a person on the behind over clothing. Kicanas says there was no indication of a sexual act or intention.  OK.  But if we accept that this was just an innocent friendly pat on the butt, a) Why was the other seminarian sufficiently concerned that he told a counselor and the thing escalated to the rector and b) Why did Cardinal George refer to it in his legal deposition as an incident of “sexual misconduct” with a minor—one of 3 “sexual misconduct” incidents that George said should have kept him from being ordained?
  • Did not read Cardinal George’s deposition? Kikanas was asked “Can you explain what is documented in the deposition of Cardinal Francis George and the subsequent news stories that cite that you were made aware of three incidents involving Daniel McCormack while he was a seminarian?”  He responded, “I have not read nor do I know any details about the Cardinal’s deposition.” He did not read Cardinal George’s deposition?!  If you were a bishop and your name was mentioned in the legal deposition for a set of child sexual abuse cases that was published publicly amidst much media attention, and those mentioned in the deposition might have faced criminal charges, would you not peruse that document or have someone on your staff review it to see what was said about you?  Here is what the deposition says:

 

Attorney: And this is a Sun-Times article quoting a number of folks, among them, Bishop Kicanas, K-I-C-A-N-A-S. And it states referring to McCormack and his seminary days, quote, it would have been grossly unfair not to or — have ordained him meaning Father McCormack.   Based on your review of the memo you received and as reflected in the Defenbaugh report, do you agree with Kicanas’s assertion?

Cardinal George: No.

Attorney: He should never have been ordained, should he, based on that — based on that memo you reviewed?

Cardinal George: He would not have been ordained now and he should never have been ordained then.

Attorney: The last paragraph of this document states there was a sense — and this is quoting Kicanas — there was a sense that his activity was part of the developmental process and that he had learned from the experience. Kicanas said, quote, I was more concerned about his drinking. We sent him to counseling for that. It’s correct to say that that memo that you reviewed and those documents regarding McCormack’s seminary years belie the assertion made by Bishop Kicanas?

MR. KLENK: I would object to the extent that this deals with any report from a mental health advocate or he’s done an analysis. I don’t want him to do that because we are precluded by law, as you know, from getting into that sort of information.

MR. ANDERSON: I think you can answer, Cardinal.

THE WITNESS: This is a memo based upon report and the memo does say that his problem is drinking.

BY MR. ANDERSON:

Attorney: It also says that he had sexually abused at least one minor –

Cardinal George: Yes.

Attorney: — and had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct

Cardinal George:  Absolutely.

Attorney:. — with others –

Cardinal George:  That’s –

Attorney:. — while in seminary?

Cardinal George:  But — and that’s why he should have never been ordained. I agree with you, sir.

Attorney:. And so he was not only a problem drinker, he was a pedophile?

Cardinal George:  I believe you’re correct, sir

  • Meaningless statement about endorsements? Bishop Kicanas said in response to the Register, “Furthermore, McCormack was evaluated, as was every seminarian, each of his four years by faculty and students who were given the opportunity to endorse or not endorse his continuing in the seminary. No student, nor faculty, nor anyone, ever negatively commented on McCormack in all the endorsements he received.”  This says nothing.  It is nice to know that his peers and faculty members were given the chance to comment on him each year.  But, isn’t an “endorsement” a statement of support?  So, it no doubt goes without saying that no one would “negatively comment” on someone in what is described as an “endorsement.”

4. YET MORE BEYOND THIS ISSUE

As if this whole situation does not cast a sufficiently long shadow over the candidacy of Bishop Kicanas, there is more that other bloggers and Catholic writers have to say. We are out of time and space to write about them, so you can read about what other people are saying about Bishop Kicanas here:

American Papist, “The Kicanas Conundrum” (Thomas Peters) and reprinted at LifeSiteNews

SperoForum,Bishop Kicanas the next USCCB president? I hope not (Matt Abbott)

Renew America, “A Catholic bishop’s interview confuses the already confused (Barbara Kralis)

As a matter of general interest, Rocco Palmo’s piece, “The Making of the President” at Whispers in the Loggia may be of interest.

SUMMARY

Apologies for the length.  This has turned into much more than a blog post–it is more like a chapter in a book.  In summary, here is what we have and seem to all agree on:

  • Somewhere between when Daniel McCormack was 18 to 23 years-old, he engaged in 3 incidents described as “sexual improprieties.”  Two were with other male college seminarians, one is described as being with a minor. These became known to seminary officials in spring of 1992 when McCormack was 23.
  • Bishop Kicanas apparently knew about McCormack’s drinking issues and all 3 sexual impropriety incidents in the seminary and concluded there was no reason to not ordain him at in 1994, when McCormack would have been 25-years-old. Both the former Vice Rector (who documented these issues in a memo) and Cardinal George (who read that memo later) concluded the opposite—that based on this information they would have not ordained McCormack.
  • Bishop Kicanas was quoted in 2007 as saying whatever improper activity took place that he knew of was part of the “developmental process” and he was more concerned about McCormack’s drinking.  Now he says there are inaccuracies in that 2007 Sun Times article and he was quoted out of context.  But he waited 3 years to tell this to the public, and only at the time when he is facing election as president of the USCCB.
  • Bishop Kicanas never says exactly what about the Sun Times article is inaccurate.  (Kind of like the Archdiocese of Boston says there are “unfounded claims” on this blog but 3 months later, fails to document a single one).

The anonymous blogger, Diogenes, at Catholic Culture puts it well:

At the time, he was not a certified abuser. But was he troubled?  The Register correspondent, Tim Drake, poses the obvious question in an interesting way: You said, “I was more concerned about his drinking.” You were more concerned about his drinking than what? Your statement seems to indicate that there were other problems/issues, more than just McCormack’s drinking.

No response.

Finally, after roughly 1,000 words, Bishop Kicanas divulges the information that there were concerns about McCormack’s behavior. There were reports of—can you guess?—consensual homosexual activity, which apparently took place only after McCormack had been drinking. Thus the rector was concerned about the young man’s alcohol consumption. But there was never a hint that McCormack would be unfit for the priesthood, because—let’s hear it one more time–

While he was at Mundelein, no allegation or report or concern of sexual abuse was ever made against McCormack.

We close with a comment from a reader:

Bishop Kicanas, if what has been said is true, should not be elected because his actions have already been a moral, spiritual and pastoral disaster for souls under his care and, along with the actions of priest violators and some other bishops, a moral, spiritual and pastoral disaster for many of the souls of those violated and their families, Catholics on the sidelines and the whole Church….our main campaign at this critical moment ought to be a call for a president who could initiate a return to the propagation of real, not fake, Catholicism. Also, we need a president who will address head-on the issue of the millions of souls in danger due to the fact that they have been spiritually neglected in the wake of the “clergy sex abuse scandal” as well as by the catechetical nightmare that for decades and probably longer has co-existed with the diabolical attempt to destroy the priesthood.

And I’m not sure that we need the USCCB in its present form anyway. But let’s get a president who will be primarily a shepherd of souls in imitation of Christ.

Amen to that.

The election is Tuesday.  Let us all offer a Rosary and our Sunday Masses that God’s will be done.


RED ALERT: Take Action Today on USCCB Election

November 12, 2010

As we wrote yesterday, in just 4 days  our U.S. bishops meet in Baltimore to elect a new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Unfortunately, the lead candidate for the new national leader–namely the current Vice President of the USCCB, Bishop Gerald Kicanas–is known to have enabled a priest convicted of child sexual abuse who is now defrocked and jailed.

We think this election is important enough for the future and credibility of the Catholic Church that we are asking everyone reading to go on “Red Alert.” That means, you should click the graphic to the right and sign a short letter that is being emailed to about 30 of the leading provincial bishops in the U.S. along with the U.S. Papal Nuncio, Bishop Kicanas, and outgoing USCCB President.

In short, the lead candidate, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tuscon, was rector of a seminary in the 1990′s where he approved ordaining a seminarian even after receiving 3 allegations of sexual improprieties, including abuse of a minor.  After that ordained priest went on to abuse as many as 23 boys and was jailed and defrocked, in 2007 Bishop Kicanas looked back in hindsight and was quoted in the Chicago Sun Times as saying “It would have been grossly unfair not to have ordained him…There was a sense that his activity was part of the developmental process…I was more concerned about his drinking.”

Here is the letter we have posted at the new website www.usccbelection.com.

Your Excellency,

I am writing to respectfully ask that you vote for a candidate other than Bishop Gerald Kicanas for the new president of the USCCB.

Many bishops may not be aware that Bishop Kicanas was rector of Mundelein Seminary in 1992 when he approved ordaining a seminarian, Daniel McCormack, despite knowing about three cases of homosexual “sexual improprieties” including one with a minor. Fr. McCormack went on to abuse 23 children and was defrocked and jailed.

After McCormack’s history of child sexual abuse was known, in 2007 Bishop Kicanas was quoted in the Chicago Sun Times saying, “It would have been grossly unfair not to have ordained him. There was a sense that his activity was part of the developmental process and that he had learned from the experience. I was more concerned about his drinking. We sent him to counseling for that.”

In view of this information, I feel his comments and actions represent a moral, spiritual and pastoral disaster for souls under his care, people affected by sexual abuse, and the whole Catholic Church. Beyond that grave scandal, electing Bishop Kicanas as USCCB president would also seriously harm the credibility and fund-raising ability of the U.S. bishops and Catholic Church.

I respectfully request that you vote for as president a candidate who will be first and foremost a shepherd of souls in imitation of Christ, and that Bishop Kicanas also voluntarily withdraw his name from consideration.

Yours in Christ

To sign the letter, just click on the graphic to the right, fill in the blanks with your name and contact information, click “send the letter,” confirm your information is correct, and click submit.  It will take less than one minute.  For more information, see our post from yesterday.

Please forward this to friends and relatives, and please also contact your local bishop and leave a message saying you want them to NOT vote for Bishop Kicanas. If  you do not know how to reach your local diocese, click here for a map and contact info.

ps. Much appreciation to one of the other Boston Catholic blogs and to Simon R. for the invaluable help and quick turn-around with campaign technical infrastructure.


RED ALERT: Sex abuse lurks behind upcoming USCCB election

November 11, 2010

Sunday November 14 UPDATE: for those reading this post on November 14, you can take action by either clicking on the RedAlert graphic, or even better, by calling the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel where your bishop is staying right now (phone: 410-385-3000) to leave him a short message.  “Please do not vote for Bishop Kicanas for USCCB President.”

If you have not yet read our pieces on diocesan deception in the hiring of the new development chief and in Catholic school admission policies, please do check those out.  Now for even more very urgent and time-sensitive news.

This is impossible to do in a short post.  Please take 2 minutes to read the whole piece today.Your help is urgently needed. Click on the RedAlert button to the right to sign the letter to the U.S. Bishops.

In about 5 days,  our U.S. bishops meet in Baltimore to elect a new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Unfortunately, the lead candidate for the new national leader–namely the current Vice President of the USCCB–is a bishop known to have enabled a priest convicted of child sexual abuse who is now defrocked and jailed.

We think this election is important enough for the future and credibility of the Catholic Church in the U.S. that everyone reading in Boston–and in other parts of the country–should be on “Red Alert.”

In short, the lead candidate, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tuscon, was rector of a seminary in the 1990′s where he approved ordaining a seminarian even after receiving 3 allegations of sexual abuse.  After that ordained priest went on to abuse as many as 23 boys and was jailed and defrocked, in 2007 Bishop Kicanas looked back in hindsight and was quoted in the Chicago Sun Times as saying “It would have been grossly unfair not to have ordained him…There was a sense that his activity was part of the developmental process…I was more concerned about his drinking.”

We are not making this up.

Here are a few excerpts from articles published elsewhere that may leave you with your jaw on the ground. Once you pick your jaw up from the ground, we will tell you what you can do to help.

From WBEZ Chicago’s recent piece, “Sex abuse lurks behind Catholic election“,

The nation’s Catholic bishops will choose a new leader next month [now this weekend]…If the election goes as expected, it’ll provide ammunition to people who argue there’s no accountability for bishops who protect abusers.

Daniel McCormack went to prison in 2007 for abusing boys when he was pastor of St. Agatha’s, a parish in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood. To learn more about McCormack, I sat down with a father whose son attended the Catholic school next to the parish.

The father says his boy started acting out around age 11 after joining a basketball team McCormack coached. “You would try to get to the bottom of it but there was no real way to figure out what was going on,” he says.

The father didn’t find out what was going on until recently. His son’s now 20. “He was, like, ‘Dad, there’s something I want to talk to you about,’ ” he says.

The father says McCormack was fondling his son at basketball practice. The abuse didn’t stop there.  “He would have the children doing tasks around the building,” he says. “He’d pay them.”

“There was one incident specifically,” the father continues. “It had started raining. My son was out in the yard, doing some yard work. He had gotten muddy. After getting done with what he was told to do, out in the yard, he went inside. Dan told my son to get out of the clothes: ‘Go and take a shower.’ As my son was getting out of the shower, he would bend him over…” [It gets worse but we will stop here].

The man says McCormack abused his son for more than three years…

The father says he’s never heard of Gerald Kicanas, now a bishop of Tuscon, Arizona. Kicanas helped get McCormack’s career off the ground in the early 1990s. Kicanas was rector of an archdiocese seminary where McCormack studied.

Here’s what happened: Kicanas received reports about three McCormack sexual-misconduct cases, one involving a minor. But Kicanas still approved McCormack for ordination.

“How do you do these things in the name of God?” the father asks.

I tell him how the Chicago archdiocese assigned McCormack to various parishes. McCormack attracted more accusations, but Cardinal Francis George promoted him in 2005 to help oversee other West Side churches.

Around that time, Chicago police arrested McCormack on suspicion of child molestation but released him without charges….It wasn’t until McCormack’s second arrest—more than four months after the first—that George finally yanked him.

But George’s peers still elected him president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2007. And who did the bishops elect as vice president? Kicanas, the man who approved McCormack’s ordination in the first place.

Now U.S. bishops are getting ready to elect a president to succeed George. If they stick with tradition, they’ll elevate the vice president—Bishop Kicanas, the former rector of the seminary McCormack attended.

From the National Catholic Register’s November 11 article, “Elections Do Matter: Especially Among Bishops

As a hierarchical body, the Catholic Church doesn’t often have elections, but when it does, they’re important.

If the USCCB goes with reigning practice, they’ll choose current vice president Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas. His selection, however, is not a foregone conclusion. There are a host of other names included among those being considered…

Whether or not Bishop Kicanas is elected, will be next week’s story. If he isn’t elected, the story will be why the bishops parted with recent practice. If he is elected, the story will be how the bishops treat their own, and the message the bishops are sending to society about their willingness to prevent sexual abuse. If Bishop Kicanas is elected it’s likely to strain the USCCB’s credibility.

The bishops, and their spokesmen, can repeat over and over that this gathering is not about the sexual abuse crisis, but if the media makes it about sexual abuse – and one can be sure that it will – then whether or not it’s on the official agenda, it will be the topic foremost on the minds of American Catholics.

To give some indication of what’s likely to follow Bishop Kicanas’ election, one only has to look at a couple of stories that have already been reported – one from Spero News, and the other from WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio. Bishop Kicanas’ election is a potential powder keg.

In his story, “Sex Abuse Lurks Behind Catholic Election,” Chip Mitchell tells the horrific story of Father Daniel McCormack, who molested at least 23 boys. The story demonstrates that Bishop Kicanas, while rector of Chicago’s Mundelein Seminary, was aware of accusations of sexual misconduct against McCormack, but chose to ordain him anyway.

Asked about it, Bishop Kicanas essentially said that he would do it again.

“It would have been grossly unfair not to have ordained him,” Bishop Kicanas said shortly after being elected as vice president of the USCCB, in a quote that appears in the deposition of Cardinal Francis George. “There was a sense that his activity was part of the developmental process and that he had learned from the experience,” continued Bishop Kicanas. “I was more concerned about his drinking. We sent him to counseling for that.”

The Spero story goes even further. In “Catholic Bishops to Elect Enabler of Child Molester as National Leader,” writer Mary Ann Kreitzer goes so far as to say that Bishop Kicanas’ election is “fitting” for what she describes as that “vile bureaucracy.”

If these are the two stories that have been written prior to the election, what can we expect following the election, and for the next three years?

While the bishops may not have a good mechanism for fraternal correction within their ranks, one mechanism that bishops do have a great deal of control over is whom they elect as their leader.

The WBEZ Chicago piece went on to say the following about the justification offered for the prior treatment of McCormack–namely, that the Church used to take the advice of lawyers and psychologists in earlier decades, and that has now changed:

A church audit found U.S. bishops received fewer clergy sex-abuse accusations in 2009 than in any year since 2004. Most of the alleged incidents happened decades earlier.

But that’s why McCormack stands out. He was abusing the North Lawndale boys just five years ago. And just three years ago, a newspaper quoted Bishop Kicanas saying he was right to allow McCormack’s ordination.

Here is the newspaper article from the Chicago Sun-Times, dated November 14, 2007, “Bishop: I Was More Worried About Priest’s Drinking” which quotes Bishop Kicanis saying he knew about three reports of “sexual improprieties” against then-seminarian McCormack yet still approved his ordination.  The same article quotes the Vicar General for the Archdiocese of Chicago (who also worked at Mundelein at the time) as saying McDormack should never have been ordained.

One reader, “Objective Observer”  recently commenting on a previous post here observed:

“…his election would erode all credibility of the whole USCCB. The PR disaster that would follow would be stunning for the damage it would do. It’s all the USCCB would get done for the foreseeable future… constantly let a story that got ahead of them beat them down.”

We hope and pray that all bishops who will be in Baltimore are aware of the background of Bishop Kicanis.  The mainstream media is not covering this story.  Why?  No doubt because they are waiting to inflict the PR disaster that Objective Observer suggested could occur.

Maybe some well-intentioned, solid bishops are genuinely busy doing God’s work and are unaware, so they could vote with incomplete information. We see it as part of our responsibility as faithful Catholics to keep them informed of our concerns. The Code of Canon law supports that viewpoint.

What can you do?  Several things:

  1. We have now launched our campaign to let Catholics email their bishops–in a courteous and respectful manner–to simply let them know about this background.  We are emailing primarily the ordinaries of 32 Catholic Dioceses in the U.S. Hundreds of people have sent messages already.  Click on the RedAlert button to the right to send a message.
  2. If you are in Boston and have a way of speaking with or emailing Cardinal Sean O’Malley, or our auxiliary Bishops Hennessey, Kennedy, Uglietto, Dooher, Edyvean, and Allué, please send them this blog post and ask them to vote for a candidate other than Bishop Kicanis for the good of the Catholic Church in the U.S.  We hope they already know about this, but just want to be on the safe side.  (If you have direct email addresses for these bishops, please send them to us at <bostoncatholicinsider(at)gmail.com> or post to comments).  If you don’t know how to reach a bishop, call or email your pastor and ask him to pass it on up the hierarchical food-chain.
  3. If you are in another part of the country, don’t wait on us.  Call the Baltimore Marriott (410-385-3000) and leave a message to not vote for Bishop Kicanas.
  4. Send this blog post to your favorite Catholic blogger and mainstream media outlet in whatever part of the country in which you live, and ask them to write about this.
  5. Pray.  If you are not a regular prayer of the Rosary, please try offering one each day from today through the election, which is expected to take place either Sunday or Monday.  If you can make it to Mass today, Friday, or Saturday, offer that Mass intention as well.

We will have more on to share this evening or Friday morning.


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