A New Low: Blame the Dead Guy


Over the weekend Archdiocese of Chicago parishioners received a letter from the man in charge of the Archdiocese, Cardinal Francis George.

In the letter, Chicago Catholics found out that documents about 30 sexually abusive priests will be released this month because of a court proceeding.

Besides the heads up, these Catholics were treated to a new explanation of responsibility in this archdiocese for a priest in this Archdiocese who was arrested in 2005 and 2006 – on Cardinal George’s watch — and who is currently serving a prison term on an abuse conviction.  This priest: Daniel McCormack.

Cardinal George, a prince of the Church, starts his explanation about McCormack with a new approach in finger pointing in this largest crisis in the Roman Catholic Church’s history in the past half millennia.  He blames dead Cardinal Joseph Bernardin for poor vetting of McCormack before his ordination.

There has been plenty to shake your head at in this crisis.

There have been jaw dropping moments.

There have been pitiful and shameful moments for hierarchs.

But this is an absolutely new low.

Will Catholics in this archdiocese and throughout this universal Church – one for all and all for one, after all when the going is good is in this outfit – are Catholics really going to tote home a bulletin with this kind of letter in it or read news stories about it and be passé about the new depths of low to which the Church has sunk?

Are there going to be any voices raised, letters written, phone calls made, faxes sent, tweets sent, Facebook message posted, money withheld with written explanation on envelopes because of this?

Don’t get us wrong. We are not rising up in defense of Joseph Bernardin. We are appalled at the actions of the living and in this instance leave the dead to bury the dead.

Cardinal George was very much alive when Daniel McCormack was arrested in September 2005.  He was also very much the boss in his archdiocese. He was also the principal author of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Charter on the Protection of Children and Young People, the bishops’ response to the Boston eruption of the crisis in 2002. This Cardinal was far from an uninterested bystander or a keep your head down, come along for the ride bishop in the midst of the white heat of the media coverage of the six months between the first of the Boston Globe’s new stories and the convening of the USCCB meeting in Dallas.

This very much alive hierarch in charge had all means of communication at his disposal and every power on earth to get his arrested priest into his office for an explanation, a woodshed experience, and a fine talking to following McCormack’s first arrest in September 2005.

It didn’t happen.

Yet the veneer of hierarchs continues to be venerated, installation ceremonies continue to lavish, adulation continues to flow, as does money.

How can Catholics continue to let this happen?

Where are those fine reading skills and critical analytical skills that Catholic educations provided to the in the pew folks when this kind of letter falls out of their bulletin?

Juxtaposed to the George epistle this weekend with its pre-distribution interviews by the Cardinal, were the news stories that the Vatican will refuse to extradite former Dominican Republic papal nuncio, Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, now believed to be living inside the Vatican City State, to his native Poland to face sexual abuse allegations.

Archbishop Wesoloski is the nuncio who was yanked back to the Vatican on August 21, 2013 after a July meeting of which it is reported the current Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic informed Pope Francis of “rumors” of sexual abuse allegations against Archbishop Wesoloski in the Dominican Republic.  The Dominican Republic has an open investigation going on into the charges but to date Wesoloski has not been charged in the Dominican Republic.

Working the George responsibility theory, Pope Francis could slip the bonds of accountability by simply writing an open letter to Catholics and any and all other interested parties letting them know that this bishop was poorly vetted by a dead man. In this case: Pope John Paul II who ordained him as both priest and bishop.

Then the hopscotch plan of how not to be responsible when you’re in charge could be put into action.

WE urge our readers and in the pew Catholics to consider what Cardinal George does not say in this letter. He does not say that he bounded into either the seminary rector’s office to make sure there was better vetting of seminarians after the Daniel McCormack case, nor does he in his letter “Accountability and Transparency” indicate that he ever thought about let alone did bring up this seminary formation for full throated or even weak discussion at a United States Conference of Bishops’ meeting.

Cardinal George served as the president of the USCCB from 2009-2011. He was not a back bencher in the conference.

The Cardinal also pleads lack of knowledge stemming from lack of communication among the staff within his chancery and what got told to him about sexual abuse.

The problem with this approach is Cardinal George says nothing about how he ran or runs his ship to set a tone that would have made any staff member quake – or at least worry about employment — if he or she had withheld from the Cardinal information regarding a sexually abusing priest.

We are talking here about the rape and sodomy of children and minors. How does a staff not get the boss’ attitude to it – particularly when the boss authors the response of the United States bishops to it?

Cardinal George’s letter also says this in regard to the handling of the Daniel McCormack case “The response, in retrospect, was not always adequate to all the facts, but a mistake is not a cover up.” Not always adequate, indeed.

Given the blame game in the Cardinal’s’ letter and the confluence of the terse no extradition response to Poland, we advise our readers to stay tuned – more tuned in than usual — for the release of the Chicago documents, scheduled to be handled over on January 15 and then made public after victims’ names have been redacted and the United Nations hearing in Geneva on January 16 where the Vatican delegation may be led by Cardinal-elect Pietro Parolin, the new Vatican Secretary of State, to respond to the UN regarding the Vatican’s answers on its performance as a signer of the UN Treaty of the Child. The Vatican to this point has decided to answer the questions based on the 31 children who live inside Fortress Vatican and not the children of the world. The Vatican can retreat to its 108 acre geographic boundaries when it wants to hide – almost like a three year old throwing a blanket over its head and giggling “you can’t see me!”

Just one more item that clanked a bit in the Cardinal George letter: it seems odd to us that a former president of the USCCB would refer to the organization as the National Bishops’ Conference. Seems more like a public relations or a law firm drafter would use this phrase with a note to self to go back and check the organization’s formal title. Sometimes we forget our notes.

We sign off with the hope spring eternal thought that the George letter will have some good effect as a stiffening agent for Catholics spines – or at least a motivator for removing the kick me sign hanging on their backs.

— Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC), KristineWard@hotmail.com


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