Boston Diocesan Denial and Deception by Donilon

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.

Our post about the scandal originated with this tip from an anonymous reader, “Truth Teller,” on a different post about coddling of homosexual priests, including Fr. Walter Cuenin:

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.
No response from Terry.  So here’s where we sit.
  • “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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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
Work: 617-746-5775
Cell: 401-480-0171
tdonilon@rcab.org

Vicar General Bishop Peter Uglietto
617-746-5619
vicar_general@rcab.org

Brandeis University
Jamele Adams, Dean of Students
781-736-2600
deanofstudentsoffice@brandeis.edu
Ira Jackson, Executive Vice President, Communications and External Relations
781-736-3993
Here’s what you should ask:
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?

If Terry responds back with the canned statement above, call or email him back and ask him to answer the actual question you asked directly with a Yes/No answer.  You might also remind him that his salary is being paid by Catholics like you.
Let us know how you make out.
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15 Responses to Boston Diocesan Denial and Deception by Donilon

  1. Marie says:

    Please send this article to other Catholic bloggers who might have seen this story and tried to follow up. I would also try Church Militant and Roman Catholic Faithful.

  2. Carol says:

    Just to ratify how crystal clear my conversation with Fr. Parrish was – here are my notes from the conversation:

    Me: I’m sure you’ve read what’s alleged about Cuenin’s removal from Brandeis on the blogs, but if not I’ll inform. I note on archdiocesan website Cuenin is ‘senior priest’ which, to the best of my knowledge, requires canonical good standing. I’m calling to find out his ministry status.

    Fr. P: Fr. Cuenin’s current status is a senior priest.

    Me: Oh. Then there are no restrictions on his ministry.

    Fr. P: Yes, there are. Fr. Cuenin had a very public problem with alcohol and the restrictions are related to that.

    Me: Oh. Then information provided to blogs that he was removed from Brandeis because a student alleged Fr. Cuenin initiated an unwanted sexual encounter after intoxicating him , is false.

    Fr. P: No, that’s true.

    Me: Wut? Well then that would be the chief reasons for his restrictions. This is not at all surprising. Each one of us heard McCarrick-like rumors about lovers he was living with and his promiscuous homosexual sex activity for decades. We had a right to this information. These guys need to be cut loose and laicized.

    Fr. P: I’m not sure about that, if they are cut loose, nobody has any supervision over them and it’s much more of a risk. A lot of people believe it’s better the Church retain, treat and supervise to make sure they can never be a threat.

    Me: What do you mean by that? Is he in a lock-down facility?

    Fr. P: Not lock down, more like a supervised half-way house.

    Me: Well, that’s not going to stop him from going down to the local barroom or park.

    Fr. P: Believe me, he is physically incapable do to his health status.

    Me: You mean his health condition leaves him immobile/wheelchair limited:

    Fr. P: Yes.

    The reason I called Fr. Parrish is, he is among a handful of people in the Archdiocese who you can report spiritual malpractice to and he finds out what I’m reporting is true, he actually does something about it. He is a priest who is building broken trust with laity with action – he sees a wrong and tries to right it.

    I cannot believe the stupidity of this tack. Then again, every time Donilon gets his hands on something, respect and trust for the Cardinal is smeared with caca. If he was trying to sabotage the Cardinal, he couldn’t do a better job.

    He couldn’t just come up with a lame statement like ‘true dat, Cuenin violated boundaries’ – like every other bishop with a sex addict on their hands and let it be a story among thousands.

    Oh no, not Terry. Screwing things up to a fare the well is his job security.

  3. I venture to say that many of these cushy jobs in the various dioceses were/are obtained through political connections. They can often get away with saying little to nothing of substance because that’s how the establishment works.

  4. Carol says:

    After McCarrick was outed, didn’t DiNardo usher in the 2018 apology tour by telling us to call our chanceries to share concerns about sexual abusers?

    This is a perfect example of what they are trained to do after we call so it all ends up being a colossal waste of time and trust.

  5. Retired, Old, and Happy says:

    This reveals intrigue about the inner workings of the Pastoral Center. Father Bryan Parrish was probably told by someone with power over him that he should not have spoken negatively about Cuenin. Cuenin was clearly a “favorite” of the System, and Parrish has not upheld this favoritism. If what BCI says is accurate, now Parrish must bow down to Terry Donilon. On paper, the hierarchical system in the Pastoral Center has Donilon beneath Parrish — however now it seems that Parrish has been put beneath Donilon. This is the stuff of a soap opera. Nevertheless, Parrish should be held in high esteem for his courage and honesty.

  6. Marie says:

    Dear Matt Abbott, The Terrence Donilon you talked to is the brother of Obama’s National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon. To say he’s a connected Democrat is an understatement. By the way, it was Terrence Donilon who ran Cardinal O’Malley visit to Rome for the last Papal enclave like a presidential campaign, with regular media briefings:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the-brothers-donilon-ones-boss-is-president-obama-the-others-could-be-pope/2013/03/10/afec9b04-89a6-11e2-98d9-3012c1cd8d1e_story.html?utm_term=.44522ab24cfd

  7. Joe M says:

    I find Terry Donilon’s response very disturbing. If he is a practicing Catholic who believes what the Catholic Church teaches about the sin of homosexual activity, his response would be completely different.

    He should be aghast knowing that a Catholic priest has been promoting homosexuality for decades and leading people to believe this sinful behavior is acceptable. Doesn’t Donilon care about people’s souls being destined to an eternity in the fires of hell? Or does he not believe in hell at all or understand how easy it is for any of us to get to hell?

    He harshly criticized Boston Catholic Insider, but he sounds sympathetic to Fr. Cuenin, the proud homosexual advocate who encouraged thousands of people to commit mortal sin.

    I’m going to write to Donilon and ask him to explain why he won’t ever say anything critical of homosexual activity.

    If the story about the incident were false, why won’t he just come out and say that? His Clintonesque parsing of words validates that the story is true and he’s bending words to try and convince people it’s not. What disgraceful behavior on his part!

  8. Truth Teller says:

    Anyone can see that Donilon is issuing the classic “non-denial denial.” As far as we know no police report was made so by definition there is no “charge.” It is the same kind of weasel wording that had them think they had come up with brilliant avoidance of the McCarrick issue by claiming that the Cardinal did not “personally receive” the letter(s). No one is fooled. In fact, it increases the sense of outrage among the faithful as not only is the diocese once again lying through their teeth, they insult everyone’s intelligence by trying to finesse their way around the truth which is hiding in plain sight.

    • The Justice says:

      Truth Teller, this is the Justice, Brandeis University’s independent student newspaper. Your allegation is an important matter that we hope to cover accurately. If you are willing to share more information with us, please email editor@thejustice.org. We can discuss conditions of anonymity, and we look forward to hearing from you.

    • Truth Teller,
      The “non-denial denial” is maddening. Thanks for calling it out for what it truly is. If you have any other suggestions for how to prove this, please drop us an email privately. And please also feel free to contact the folks at the Brandeis Justice.

  9. Marie says:

    Church Militant just posted the Fr. Walter Cuenin article on its website, including the Donilon controversy. Apparently they’ve been holding it for a few days.

  10. Blissful says:

    Is there a vicious homosexualist network at play now in the Pastoral Center? Seems that Fr. Parrish stood up against this network, and immediately he is squashed. Too bad.

  11. […] what we reported about Fr. Walter Cuenin’s unwelcome advances on a male Brandeis student and Terry Donilon’s “non-denial denial“?  He said there was no charge of molestation (which we knew), and then he said no […]

  12. Marie says:

    Anything new with this? Seems like Donilon succeeded in squashing the story. The bad guys always win in Boston.

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