On the strange situation of Fr. Walter Cuenin and the Brandeis Univ. Chaplaincy

May 29, 2015

A number of readers have been asking us to share news and commentary about the strange situation of Fr. Walter (“Call me Walter”) Cuenin and what is currently going on with the Catholic chaplaincy at Brandeis University. Cuenin left Brandeis in January on short notice for undisclosed health reasons, and Brandeis is balking at having the Boston Archdiocese appoint a replacement.  To paraphrase Shakespeare, something smells rotten in Denmark.

As BCI readers may recall, last October we called Fr. Cuenin out for flying a GLBTQ banner over the Catholic chapel at Brandeis.   We wrote:

There are so many things wrong with what is going on there, it is tough to express in words. How can a Catholic priest be allowed to promote “gay pride” and gravely sinful, immoral behavior and remain in active ministry?  Imagine a 17 or 18-year-old child away from home for the first time who might be confused about their sexual identity going to talk to Fr. Cuenin for a Catholic perspective–and instead of hearing about how Christ calls them to chastity and holiness, they see the gay pride flag there with a Catholic priest advocating for the gay lifestyle and the sinful, disordered, medically unsafe behaviors that are a part of it.  This crap from Fr. Cuenin has been going on for at least 12-15 years, if not longer. His public testimony to the Mass Legislature in 2002 opposing a ban on “gay marriage” should have gotten him permanently removed from ministry.

We also urged readers to write to various archdiocesan officials to call for his removal. Well, by and by, about 2 months later, in January Fr. Cuenin left Brandeis on short notice for undisclosed health reasons. All that Cuenin has said is he is “in a clinic in Michigan for treatment.”  Cuenin previously left Brandeis temporarily in 2012 to undergo treatment for cancer at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. In the October 9, 2012 issue of the Brandeis Justice, he described the treatment program as a Church-sponsored course for priests “to get them in better shape” and said he hoped to address not only his cancer but also “other psychological and spiritual issues.”  It is unclear whether this year’s permanent departure is related to the health issues of 2012.

This brings us to what Brandeis has been doing to block the filling of the vacant Catholic chaplaincy role with a faithful Catholic priest.

In the original announcement of Fr. Cuenin’s January departure, Brandeis said that Sr. Marie Labolitta would be helping ensure “Services are available this weekend…there will be transportation provided to attend Service in Newton.”  Beside their failure to properly refer to the Catholic Mass, Sr. Marie Labolitta, formerly at Our Lady Help of Christians when Fr. Cuenin was pastor there, is bad news. She is a founder of a non-denominational womens’ spirituality group called “Sacred Threads.”  One look at their website, which promotes a local talk by dissident Joan Chittister, and you know she is problematic. BCI heard that since Cuenin’s departure they have been transporting students to Our Ladys in Newton, even though St. Marys in Waltham and other more orthodox Catholic Churches are much closer to the Brandeis Campus.

Sources tell BCI that in leaving Brandeis, Fr. Cuenin  organized a student “initiative” to change the nature of Chaplaincy. Initially, Brandeis said they would be working with the Boston Archdiocese to fill the role. Fr. Dan Moloney was proposed by the Boston Archdiocese and started saying Masses at Brandeis in early February. But Brandeis said they wanted to consider a new vision for the chaplaincy. We are told that Fr. Moloney was found by the “Cuenin acolytes” to be “inadequately liberal, aka Cuenine” and rejected. He is not longer there, sources also tell us there is no regular Catholic Mass on campus, and students are still being directed to “progressive” Churches that may not be anywhere near Waltham.  We have also heard that Cuenin is still “advising”, aka undermining, the Brandeis Catholic students, even sending them to WomenPriests for Mass. The person coordinating Mass arrangements is Allison Cornelisse, described as “a member of the Brandeis Catholic community.”  A Google search on her name reveals nothing whatsoever about her background, but if she is the one bypassing nearby Catholic churches in Waltham and Newton (St. Marys, St. Charles Borromeo, Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted, Mary Immaculate of Lourdes) that are true to the Catholic faith in favor of churches farther away where the tenor is not so true to the Catholic faith, then we see her as problematic.

As for the search for a new Catholic chaplain, Brandeis said there is a committee working on it–in the context of looking at campus Chaplaincy across religions and faiths.  The faculty chair of that committee is Prof. Wendy Cadge. A brief look at her CV shows a number of articles she has about Buddhism and in support of the gay agenda in churches. (e.g. her chapters in a book Gay Religion, entitled ““Reconciling Congregations Bridging Gay and Straight Communities” and “Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Buddhist Practitioners”).  BCI cannot fathom how a secular college committee of any sort–let alone one set-up like this–would be in a position to set the requirements for a Catholic priest/chaplain. Given this is the way Brandeis seems to be operating, BCI thinks the only thing that could be done for the Catholic students on campus would be for the Boston Archdiocese to appoint an orthodox Catholic student to help coordinate transportation to Masses at nearby parishes faithful to the teachings of the Catholic faith.


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