In our last post, Why Did Cardinal O’Malley Cover-Up Gay Abuse Scandal?, we shared insider news about Fr. Walter Cuenin’s scandalous actions that got him removed from Brandeis in early 2015, as well as the cover-up by Cardinal O’Malley, other archdiocesan officials, and senior Brandeis officials, Despite the fact that an archdiocesan official confirmed the key points before BCI posted the story, Secretary for Communications, Terry Donilon, has been parsing words to try and deny the story to reporters and also discredit BCI. That’s been his modus operandi for years. Today we’re going to debunk his response and ask readers for help expose this scandalous situation.
First, a quick note about Terry Donilon. He came into his position – where he is paid nearly $200K in salary and benefits – as the result of a rigged search (see BCI post “Sham Search: Terry Donilon” and do read the comments) Ann Carter, then CEO of PR firm Rasky Baerlein, led the “search.” Beyond the obvious conflict of interest of an archdiocesan vendor hiring the person who would manage their services and decide on their continuing employment, the founder and then-Chairman of the firm was Larry Rasky, who had known the Donilon family for years from his political work starting with the Joe Biden campaign back in 1988. Terry needed a job when he left Shaw’s Supermarkets. Resumes of far superior candidates interested in the job never made it to the full search committee. Terry’s is known to be spelling and writing-challenged, and most press releases or statements from him have required the proof-reading and spin of Fr. Bryan Hehir and/or outside PR folks.
Oh, and he also is comfortable deceiving to deflect attention from the truth. Back in 2010, BCI accurately reported about another rigged search months before the outcome of the search was publicly announced. When Terry was asked about the BCI post by a news reporter, he responded, “I have no intention of responding to anonymous and unfounded claims and attacks posted in Boston Catholic Insider.” (See Diocesan Deception from Donilon). The truth was that it was a rigged search, just like the one for Terry’s own job–he just didn’t like that we exposed the truth and moral corruption. He was never able to give one example of an “unfounded claim” on BCI, including the post he complained about. Now onto the Walter Cuenin scandal.
Cuenin did not leave Brandeis because of “health.” He was removed because he took a young man away, plied him with alcohol and molested him. Both Brandeis and the Archdiocese wanted to keep it quiet. Shouldn’t they have been concerned if there were other victims?
Via private emails, we got some additional information from “Truth Teller,” and we were then able to validate enough of the story that we published it. In a phone call on Sept. 11, Fr. Bryan Parrish, episcopal vicar and secretary for parish life, confirmed to another Boston blogger that 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 the restrictions were related to that. He also confirmed that the allegation of sexual misconduct with a Brandeis student reported on Boston blogs (including Conquered by Love) did happen.
After we published the story and reporters started asking questions of Fr. Parrish, they were directed to Terry, who went into damage control mode and issued the following deceptive statement to reporters:
There has been no charge of molestation of a minor or young adult. Fr. Cuenin has faced serious health issues in recent years. It has been our experience with Boston Catholic Insider, an anonymous blog, that the information they distribute is consistently false and misleading as is the case in their September 13, 2018 entry.
For the record, the Archdiocese of Boston is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of children and young people in our parishes and institutions….Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley encourages any person in need of pastoral assistance or support to contact the Archdiocese’s Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach by calling 617-746-5985.
We never said there was a “charge of molestation”–we said all the student wanted was to ensure Cuenin left campus and couldn’t do this again. Terry used the word, “charge,” so he could pretend his response was true. Here’s what we sent back to Terry:
I’d like to clarify what you mean so we can make any required corrections. With regard to the Sept 13 entry, can you share specifically what is inaccurate? Obviously, all of the bullet points are accurate and are well-documented and have been shared with the RCAB previously, so there can’t be any disputing those points. So, your issue is obviously with our saying a student was plied with alcohol and then molested. Your statement says there was no charge of molestation of a minor or young adult. You also have said there was no allegation. We verified the report of the molestation with an archdiocesan official last week before publishing it, so something is not adding up. Hopefully you can clarify exactly what did or did not happen.We know for a fact that Fr. Cuenin’s ministry is restricted, and it’s for a reason more grave than just a minor alcohol problem. We know the expectation is that since he’s in ill health today and wheelchair-bound that it’s highly unlikely he will engage in inappropriate activity with others. We also all know he left Brandeis very abruptly, and for someone so popular on campus with students, faculty, and administration to leave without a farewell party, the reason was gravely serious. Brandeis has had multiple opportunities to tell us our story was inaccurate before it was published and they declined to refute the story.Is the word “molestation” the problem? We’ve now removed it from our post. Would it be more accurate for us to say that there was an incident reported where a student was drinking with Fr. Cuenin, and Fr. Cuenin engaged in inappropriate sexual activity with the student or non-consensual sexual activity with the student? …Lastly, I must say that your comment about BCI publishing consistently false and misleading information rings hollow. Since you’ve been in your job and BCI has been writing our blog, never once has one of your claims that BCI published “false information” proven to be correct. Never once. You’ve said we made “unsubstantiated claims” but invariably that’s because we published the truth and the RCAB simply didn’t like seeing the truth published or the media attention.
Carol McKinley sent this message to him:
Let me predict how this statement will play out:1. Already enraged Catholics will conclude the Archbishop thinks a priest plying someone’s college age child with alcohol to lower resistance to his sexual advance is not molestation. Might want to google “Bill Cosby”2. The victim, who instead of suing or pressing criminal charges, who made the unbelievable sacrifice of agreeing to just letting them get Walter into supervised treatment, is now going to…read the archdiocese is calling him a liar. I don’t think the statutes have run out, but you are going to take the gamble.The likelihood everyone is lying about the allegation is quite low. (and it is an allegation, but Walter’s faculties were stripped and he was ushered off to treatment). But if that is the case, you have a duty to tell us so we will correct and retract errors. This is the Catholic Church you work for and there are Sacramental issues at play, for people who live by them.If stupid PR strategies could fly, this would be a jet. Go back to the bunker and come up with a truthful statement that doesn’t violate the trust of this victim by calling him a liar.
- “Truth Teller” assures us the story is 100% accurate. Out of respect for the victim’s right to privacy, we are not pressuring anyone to speak out publicly, but if the victim forward, both the Archdiocese of Boston and Brandeis will be forced to acknowledge what happened.
- Despite multiple messages sent to various senior administration officials at Brandeis including those involved at the time asking them to confirm or deny the story, they refuse to respond. If this scandalous story was inaccurate, why wouldn’t they just respond and say the story is not true?
- If any reporter asks Fr. Parrish at this point what happened, he’s sending people to Terry Donilon, and Terry is responding with the deceptive statement to deflect attention from what actually happened. He’s parsing words and refusing to acknowledge there was an incident of inappropriate behavior by Cuenin with a student–and that led to his removal from Brandeis.
We see two ways for the impasse to be broken and the full truth to come out, and need your help.
- The victim — even with their name not being released — publicly tells their story to a newspaper. We can direct the victim to any of a variety of publications who would maintain confidentiality, take their testimony and write the story.
- Readers pressure both the Archdiocese of Boston and Brandeis administration to admit what happened. Here’s who to contact:
Archdiocese of Boston:
Terry Donilon, Secretary for Communications
Vicar General Bishop Peter Uglietto
Can you please confirm that the reason for Fr. Walter Cuenin’s removal from his role as Catholic chaplain at Brandeis in January of 2015 was an incident with Fr. Cuenin involving alcohol and inappropriate sexual behavior with a male student? If this description is not completely accurate, please correct whatever is inaccurate to give the correct description of the incident.
And what policies and protections are in place today to ensure that similar incidents don’t happen again to other students?