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.


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.


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.


  • 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.


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.”


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.


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: 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)> 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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