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: 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.


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)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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