Thursday, May 4, 2006

Hero…Nero…Zero’s the Story in Chicago.

[The following column in last week’s The Wanderer, the nation’s oldest national Catholic weekly has caused a great bit of consternation in the Chicago archdiocese, with a search going on for this handful of dissenting authenticist priests. Rest assured, they will never be found. But their views can be duplicated anytime a gathering of authenticist priests come together.

Look for more reports from this coffee klatsch in the country’s liveliest Catholic paper.]

By Thomas F. Roeser

CHICAGO—A small group of authenticist Catholic pastors met for coffee the other day to discuss problems involving the archdiocese. They allowed a mouse to be in the corner—me. I report their conversation with no editorial comment. None is needed. Their names are changed to protect the innocent.

“You know,” said Fr. Philip Reardon, pastor of a church in the far northwest suburbs, “I really get a charge out of the fact that only a hundred or so of the parishes in Illinois—out of more than a thousand—have seen fit to support the advisory proposition for the November ballot that endorses marriage as being between a man and a woman. Wow. Marriage between a man and a woman: That’s really controversial, isn’t it? Some pastors are even kicking people off parish property. Now you will forgive me, but--.”

“We forgive you,” the group chorused.

“But aren’t these pastors still under the Cardinal? And where is he?”

“Well, he signed a letter along with the other bishops supporting the issue,” said Fr. James Schneider, pastor of a parish near DePaul University.

“But that’s the point,” said Fr. Reardon. “Is there any follow-through? When people are forbidden to circulate a petition, where is he? Contrast this when a really important issue comes up.”

“What issue?” asked Fr. Roger Talbott, from the South Side.

“The issue of money, certainly! What happens when there is a financial campaign such as The Cardinal’s Appeal?”

“I know,” said Fr. Schneider. “When there is a financial campaign every pastor is made to understand—every pastor—that he is bound to do everything to cooperate. And if not, his parish—get this: his parish will be fined and taxed, with interest gathered on any delay.”

“Well,” said Fr. Robert Polk, “Cardinal [Francis] George has a problem with liberal priests. When he was appointed, they called him `Francis the Corrector.’ Ever since then, he’s been trying to make amends. “

And why, asked Fr. Reardon. “When he came here he was regarded as a dramatic change from [Cardinal] Bernardin. I wonder. At least we knew what Bernardin was: an un-reconstituted liberal. Remember, we used to have a saying about the last three archbishops before George: hero—that was [Albert Cardinal] Meyer who began as a quiet, sedentary prelate and who was kindled into flame by Vatican II where he wanted to transform its good points into a real apostolate. Only he died very early. Hero!”

“Yes,” said Fr. Talbott, “then he was followed by [John Cardinal] Cody who tried to bring order in this place. A good man he made only one mistake: he tried to impress the liberal priests that he believed in democracy so he started the Priests’ Senate. But he was tough, a great administrator and expected hard work out of the priest troops. The liberals broke him. They called him…”

“Nero,” supplied Fr. Reardon. “Imagine that! That’s hero and

Nero. You would think he was exactly what the liberals here would want. As auxiliary in New Orleans, he worked for and supported an archbishop who excommunicated Leander Perez, an arch-segregationist and racist. He was a detail-conscious administrator. He originated and strengthened a commitment to inner-city schools, worth about $15 million a year. Forty-five schools went on a subsidy at that time some of which are continuing to this day. He got health insurance for his priests so after they retired they wouldn’t be charity patients at Catholic hospitals. He gave priests car insurance so we could make our rounds. And he started a program of care for priests who were chemically dependent, seeing they were helped financially, spiritually to fight off the addiction.”

“He was tough, like a good father,” said Fr. Talbott.

“Yeah, and this is what they [liberal dissident priests] did to him. Because he was a stickler for administrative detail, they mounted what really was a political putsch. They floated rumors in newspapers—guess who helped do that?...”

Everyone nodded: a liberal novelist priest with a newspaper column who had a vendetta against Cody came to mind.

“…rumors that Cody had diverted archdiocesan insurance business to a relative. The rumors became so prevalent that the U. S. Attorney opened an investigation of his finances. Cody was nearing 75, was in ill-health and his health failed as he tried to fend off his attackers. The attacks against him were never proven. Indeed the office concluded it was entirely possible that the disbursements in question came from the Cardinal’s private funds.”

“But,” said Father Polk, “it shows the extent to which the liberals will go. Rule or ruin.”

Hero…Nero… The next archbishop was Joseph Bernardin. At the outset, he didn’t please the coterie of liberal priests much. They began by calling him …

“…a Zero,” said Fr. Reardon. “But then he wised up and their liberal hero. Super hero.”

“He supported liberal policies with his pastoral letters on the liturgy, ministry and health care; he emerged as a key figure in an “American Catholic church, seen as fighting Roman authoritarianism,” said Fr. Ray Carley, who had been listening quietly all the while. “That’s what made him a hero to the incendiary left here.”

He “really pleased the libs when he crafted the `Seamless garment’ idea that equated pro-life with nuclear freeze and anti-capital punishment,” said Fr. Dudley Malone, “which made Walter Mondale two -out-of-three pro-life and Reagan one-out-of-three. But the big deal for them was when he went to Jerusalem for an address at Hebrew University. Imagine! He goes with Jewish rabbis, civic leaders and a full complement of media and traces what he called anti-Judaic interpretations of the New Testament which he said were additions made in the first centuries of Christian history.”

“…A specious theory,” said Fr. Malone, “but it made him a hero to the dissident liberal priests here. To some others it appeared that he was apologizing for Christ’s words during the confrontation in the gospel of St. John which he implied was addressed falsely to all Jews. Not so: scripture scholars say Christ was addressing a sub-set of Jews. By raising the possibility that the Gospel was twisted, he seemed to be doubting the inerrancy of the Gospel itself. But this pleased the libs.”

“He died at the height of his popularity with the liberals,” said Fr. Polk. “So by liberal history we’ve had Hero, Nero, Super-Hero. What will George be?”

“Too early to tell,” Fr. Malone said. “Even after eight years. He’s undoubtedly the brightest from the standpoint of academics: two doctorates, one in philosophy, one in theology. You wouldn’t catch him making the same pop gesture that Bernardin did, with specious reasoning, about the Gospel of John. I like the way he puts things: clearly and in line with the authentic teaching of the Church. But on policy matters, it’s not the same. ”

“But then,” said Fr. Polk, “he went to Rome last Fall to argue with the Vatican about delaying the release of the document on admitting homosexuals to the seminaries. He didn’t want it to appear that gays were being blamed for the pedophile scandal. If that isn’t reminiscent of Bernardin I don’t know what is.”

“Yet, there he is fighting the gay-rights special interest legislation in the Illinois General Assembly,” said Fr. Carley. “That would indicate to me that he’s pretty forthright and courageous on issues others duck. But the whole pedophilia business and the way it was handled bothers me. He’s an enigma.”

“Explain,” said Fr. Malone.

“The official report seems to make a big deal out of the August 25th arrest of [Fr. Dan] McCormack and the Cardinal wasn’t notified of it until three days later. But so what? We’re told by the Cardinal that there was not enough evidence to prosecute him—they couldn’t even learn the names of the victims. I remember reading in the paper that McCormack pleaded 5th amendment. So here you are the Cardinal and not only has one of your priests been arrested but he is refusing to give testimony. And as dutiful supporters of the Cardinal we’re telling people that the flaw in the system is the State which cannot reveal the names. But by September 15th you have two allegations against McCormack. I have a question to ask.”


“Is that when McCormack was sent to that flaky facility in Maryland? Who sent him? Who paid for it? When did he come back? When did the Review Board make the so-called interim recommendation—before or after Maryland? Conceivably it could be that all of that was finished by October and still no one outside of a few priests and secretaries knows anything about McCormack including the Cardinal. A hurricane of activities and accusations swirling around one of his priests and he is unaware of it until the end of January when they arrest him again.”

“I have another question,” said Fr. Malone. “I noticed that the report mentioned McCormack’s sexual past from 1988 to 1989 at Niles [Niles College Seminary] where there were three allegations of sexual improprieties. The report indicates the seminary received information regarding these allegations in 1992, despite the fact that there was nothing in his file because—and I quote--`it was lost or removed.’ It’s always reported in the passive mode. I would like to know where this information came from and how it got to the people who wrote the official report. Did Fr. [John] Canary, then the rector of Mundelein seminary remember it and give it to the people who wrote the report? Or is there a Deep Throat who told the Report people about these three incidents. What else does Deep Throat know?”

“And why after that,” said Fr. Polk, “does Fr. Canary get promoted—not just kicked upstairs—promoted to Vicar General of the Archdiocese.”

“I’ll tell you one thing,” said Fr. Malone. “believe it or not, I felt more secure with Bernardin. Bernardin was straight out a liberal; he didn’t like authenticists but you knew where you stood. And it was easier to work that way. Why did I feel more secure with Bernardin at the helm? Perhaps because both he and I knew what the other was about. We were clear about each other, where we stood. Can you tell me one thing that distances this Cardinal from his predecessor? I cannot. Has Loyola been warned [about pro-gay rights activities and pro-abort speakers]? Has DePaul been served notice [about instituting Gay Studies in the official curriculum]? Has AGLO been closed down [Archdiocesan Gay-Lesbian Organization]? Has Jimmy Lago been sacked [the lay chancellor who ran the show during the pedophile scandal and who is now, the media have been informed, will continue to run the show.]

‘But remember,” said Fr. Carley, “that the Cardinal does not have jurisdiction over Loyola and DePaul which are Order schools.”

“But,” said Fr. Malone, “he is the archbishop, he is the Cardinal and he does have the bully pulpit doesn’t he? He could flat-out draw the distinction between what real Catholic education should be and the junk they have at Loyola and DePaul. Not so. Every time I hear him before a group that has liberals and conservatives in it, he parses his sentences with so many qualifications they mean absolutely nothing. Ambiguity is his style. He’s elevated it to a fine art. He’s a university professor; that’s about all you can say. All the while the rebels are running the show. Can you believe one of them even ran around his neighboring suburbs lining up pastors to nix the Marriage amendment? And he gets away with it. Well, is that subsidiarity, the principle that churches should be run by pastors? Or is it anarchy?”

“No,” said Fr. Carley. “It’s downright weakness and abdication of leadership. When he came here, he pledged `unity.’ `Unity’: just like Christ preached, right? But all things considered, he has a better theology and philosophy than Bernardin but doesn’t do anything about it. They say that after a guy becomes a bishop there’s a solemn investiture where surgery is performed to remove the spine and guts. That’s true here. Not everywhere.”

“All of us will have to leave our parishes after our term limits are completed,” said Fr. Malone. “That’s the rule that was set up by the liberals—under Cody, interestingly enough. Now who is given a pass on term limits and allowed to serve in perpetuity? Fr. Pfleger of St. Sabina’s who has said that if he has to leave, he’ll start his own religion! And he’s still there—still there because while Pfleger is white, his congregation is black and they put on Hallelujah! Performances during Mass. Also Al Sharpton comes there to speak from the pulpit. Not a word against this from the chancery. Pfleger’s a sacred cow because he’s got downtown scared that the blacks will rebel if he’s transferred. And on the other side of town, [Fr.] Jack Wall, pastor of Old St. Patrick’s—where Mayor Daley goes—is there for life because Wall’s got clout, raises tons of money from Democratic and liberal fat cats. It gets me down. Should we be discouraged?”

No, they agreed. “Think of Fabian Bruskewitz [the bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska].”

“Good,” said Fr. Malone. “I will. Every time I get down I’ll keep Bruskewitz in mind. I wonder if he’s got an opening in Lincoln?”

“How about for five?” said Fr. Carley.


  1. That's what I am told.

    What are some others?

  2. What is an "authenticist"?

  3. I would define authenticist as a high degree of orthodoxy in performance. One generally would be montaine, if not ultrmontaine to be an authenticist, given the level of orthodoxy in the hierarchy. Vatican II, with its interpretative versions of orthodoxy throws authenticism into a bit of confusion as there are many claims as to being "authentic to Vatican II" or the "spirit of Vatican II" that were purely interpretative of the document itself.

    Cardinal Bernadin also turned authenticsm on its ear, with a non-traditional hierarchy being resisted by authenticist priests. So, individual priests may have been holding a more orthodox and traditional stance than the hierarchy itself, making the Authenticists.