In view of Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s public denials about having had knowledge of Cardinal McCarrick’s sexually immoral behavior, Catholics and non-Catholics ought to be aware of how Cardinal O’Malley handled a situation where he did know of a Boston priest’s homosexual abuse of a young man, and where he knew about the priest’s advocacy of the gay agenda for many years before this abuse occurred.
The priest is Fr. Walter Cuenin, and his public advocacy for the gay agenda was well known for 15+ years under both Cardinal Law and Cardinal O’Malley. In his final role in active ministry, he was chaplain at Brandeis Univ. in Waltham, MA. Cuenin departed that position abruptly in January of 2015 without prior notice for what was described at the time as “health reasons.” A tipster at BCI reported on September 8 that the reason for the departure was actually that Cuenin has plied a student with alcohol and made undesired sexual advances on him. Cuenin was removed from ministry and sent for treatment at a clinic in Michigan and has not been heard from since. This scandalous incident was covered-up by both Brandeis and the Archdiocese of Boston. On September 11, an official from the Archdiocese of Boston confirmed that is what actually happened. Here are more details and the full history.
- 1993: Fr. Walter Cuenin was appointed pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton, MA by Cardinal Bernard Law
- From 1999 to 2000, Fr. Cuenin was actively involved in an effort sponsored by Catholic Charities of Boston to create a program called, “Companions” for parents and family of homosexual children that was focused on affirming and supporting the homosexual lifestyle. The opening Mass was held at Our Lady’s in October 1999. Mass was celebrated by Fr. Cuenin and was assisted Fr. John J. White (companion of child-molester Fr. Paul Shanley and co-owner with Fr. Shanley of a gay bed-and-breakfast motel in Palm Springs California) and Fr. Richard Lewandowski (then-pastor of St. Camillas Church in Fitchburg who ran a PFLAG organization at Fitchburg State College and later testified against the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage). Other participants in the event included Charles Connors, president of Boston PFLAG, and Paul Merullo who had to serve 2 years in jail for molesting a youth. Numerous complaints were made to regional bishops, then-Vicar General Bishop Murphy, Cardinal Law and others to try and get the program halted, and it was eventually stopped in late 2000.
- April 2002: Cuenin testified to a MA legislative committee in opposition to a proposed amendment that would have banned gay marriage. He argued that Defense of Marriage Amendment amendment seemed to violate the Catechism of the Catholic Church because homosexual marriage was a human rights issue.
- September 2002: In a New Yorker article entitled, “The Reformer“, Cuenin said gays and lesbians should be allowed a front-row seat at church and not be told that their lives are “basically disordered.”
- June 2004: Cuenin invites parishioners to attend the Gay Pride parade. Complaints to the archdiocese are ignored.
- May 2005: Our Lady’s bulletin runs a notice from their Gay and Lesbian Faith Sharing group invites all parishioners again to Boston’s Gay Pride Parade. Faithful Catholic, Alice Slattery sends letter to Cardinal OMalley and Bishop Lennon to sharing details of Cuenin’s history and begging the Cardinal to intervene. She gets no response.
- September 2005: After years of complaints to both Cardinals Law and O’Malley about Fr. Cuenin’s promotion of homosexuality, he was finally removed as pastor by O’Malley not for his public dissent from Catholic teachings, but rather based on the results of a financial audit that showed improper use of church funds for a leased car and excessive payment of Mass stipends.
- January 2006. Cardinal O’Malley reassigned Cuenin as campus chaplain, at Brandeis University, where he would be allowed to freely counsel students confused about their sexuality. It was widely assumed at the time this move was done to find a permanent role for Cuenin and to quell the furor at Our Lady’s over his departure and anger at his replacement, Fr. Chris Coyne (former spokesman for Cardinal’s Law and O’Malley)
- June 2006: Cuenin was the featured speaker at the Gay Pride interfaith prayer service.
- April 2007: Cuenin speaks in Lexington at Interfaith Forum on topic of “God, Gays, and Faith.” Alice Slattery send another urgent request to Cardinal O’Malley prior to the talk asking him to intervene and stop the talk, but she got no response. She then sent a follow-up letter to Cardinal O’Malley_on April 12 2007 giving more background on Cuenin and also naming other officials and priests from the Archdiocese with past involvement in pushing the gay agenda. She also got not response. (Perhaps the letter was received by Fr. Robert Kickham?!) Alice included a letter published in the local Lexington newspaper saying that “Cuenin doesn’t represent all Catholics.“
- February 2012: Cuenin, in an interview with the New Ways Ministry, said:
“The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage, so I cannot directly say I support it, but I have seen from my experience that for many people it creates a much healthier environment..For example, if you were to go to Provincetown in the summer time, where a lot of gay people go, it’s a radically different place today than it was 20 years ago,’ Cuenin said. ‘They are there with children and married, raising kids, so they go home at night. In other words, it has transformed the whole gay scene.”
- October 2014: Cuenin displayed what he described as an “enormous gay pride” rainbow flag displayed outside the chapel to “recognize Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History Month. In an article in the Brandeis Hoot, he’s described as an “official LGBT ally on campus through his work with Trisk (Brandeis‘ LGBTQ+ student social group). He also continuously makes himself available and accessible to struggling students in his role as a confidential resource.”
- January 2015: Fr. Cuenin left Brandeis abruptly in January of 2015 for “health reasons” and is currently a senior priest in the Archdiocese of Boston. He has been out of the news since his departure from Brandeis.
What actually happened around his departure is for more grave than “health reasons.” BCI is told that Cuenin had taken a Brandeis student on a trip to NY City around Christmas-time, staying in a one-bedroom hotel room with one bed. He plied him with alcohol, and then engaged in non-consensual sexual activity with him. The victim, who prefers to be unidentified, wanted Fr. Cuenin to leave campus so that other students were no longer vulnerable to similar happenings. Brandeis administration loved Fr. Cuenin for his liberal ideology that fit well on campus and because he was a popular figure on campus, and they wanted to keep the matter quiet. So did the Archdiocese of Boston.. Key people from Brandeis involved in the handling of this situation included Andrew Flagel, then senior vice president for students and enrollment, and Jamele Adams, dean of student life. Then-president, Frederick Lawrence was also aware and involved. Cardinal O’Malley knew about this as did Bishop Peter Uglietto, Vicar General, and Fr. Bryan Parrish, episcopal vicar and secretary for parish life and leadership.
Fr. Parrish was asked about this on September 11. Even though the diocesan website shows Cuenin’s status is “Senior Priest” (which means a retired priest in good standing, many of whom offer assistance in parishes), Parrish said Cuenin’s official status with the archdiocese is a “restricted Senior Priest”, which means no ministry is allowed and no church housing is provided. Cuenin has a very public problem with alcohol and Fr. Parrish confirmed he was involved in the incident of molestation at Brandies as reported on BCI and at Conquered by Love. Cuenin is at an alcohol treatment facility similar to a halfway house in very poor health with some level of supervision, and his condition is such that he is not considered a threat to others.
Many questions merit answers from Cardinal O’Malley. Why did he allow a man known as an advocate for homosexual activity to a college campus where he could corrupt young minds and souls? Did he read all of the many letters sent to him, or were they screened by Fr. Kickham? Did he discuss the idea of reassigning Fr. Cuenin to a college campus with his staff and/or head of campus ministry, and if so, what was the recommendation? Why were the circumstances of Cuenin’s actions that led to his departure from Brandeis — namely, sexual molestation of a student – kept quiet? Was this incident reported to the police? How do we know there have not been other victims of Cuenin’s? What keeps Cuenin from going to a park or other place where young people are present and repeating this behavior again?
Cardinal O’Malley is in Rome today meeting with Pope Francis to discuss sexual abuse by clergy. Hopefully following that meeting, he can provide some answers to these questions.