Thursday, October 20, 2005

Walter's Goose Was Cooked

From the Globe, stunning new developments from Newton

The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, the priest who replaced the Rev. Walter H. Cuenin at Our Lady Help of Christians parish in Newton, revealed at a meeting with parishioners last week that officials of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston asked him in June if he would be interested in replacing the outspoken Cuenin. That was two months before the completion of the financial audit that archdiocesan officials said led them to ask for Cuenin's resignation.

The news outraged parishioners, who say it shows that the audit was never the real reason Cuenin was ousted.

Unbelievable. This rates high on the hubris scale.

A friend of mine in Boston always keeps talking about the archdiocesan "Stupid Committee" there that cooks up wild stuff like this that makes the church look horrrrrrrible on the front pages.

Boston's not the only place with such a body of idiots, theirs is just the longest one running.



Blogger David L Alexander said...

Talk about a "body of idiots"...

For a diocesan priest to be transferred after serving two six-year terms at a parish, and for the end of such a tenure to be anticipated by his colleagues, is hardly a "stunning new development," except to people who spend more time bitching about something than doing their homework about it.

20/10/05 13:03  
Blogger RightJack said...

Whatever might be all the pieces to the Cuenin story, they are not all on the table yet - and may never be.

But David Alexander is correct. A transfer after two six year terms is the norm (although that may be slowed up by the closing of so many parishes in Boston.)

The good news in the story at hand is that Chris Coyne (who would want to be walking in his shoes?) is being very open and candid. He might have easily skirted the question of when he had been approached about the Newton assignment, but he did not.

None of this is to defend the "Stupid Committee" in Boston - they never cease to amaze - just to say that we don't have all the pieces on the game board.

20/10/05 13:16  
Blogger Todd said...

David, what is strange from my experiences in the midwest is that such a clergy assignment wouldn't be made in June with all the rest. Occasionally, a pastor might request an extra year to finish off a debt or a project.

But for the diocese to say that Cuenin was replaced because of financial improprieties, then be outed for falsehood: this is serious stuff, whether the Boston b-crats realize it or not.

That's not to say I necessarily disagree with Cuenin moving on. Actually, it might be good for the parish. But the least the diocese can do is keep quiet about their reasons rather than lie about it.

20/10/05 13:20  
Blogger Fr. John said...

Actually, it would be irresponsible if the archdiocese had not discussed who would replace Cuenin. Such conversations are held all the time, when priests are routinely asked "if the pastorship of Saint x opens, as it eventually will, would you be interested?" That question was probably asked of more than one person. And, at least to me, it seems reasonable to delay a change in pastorship until after an ongoing audit was completed. In my diocese, every parish is audited when there is a change of pastorship.

20/10/05 16:05  
Blogger Dom Dominic said...

The good news in the story at hand is that Chris Coyne (....) is being very open and candid.

WOW! I never though that I would read the four words "Chris, Coyne, open, and candid" without negative modifiers. Do they have ice water in the nether world yet?

I mean no disrespect for Father Coyne at all. I know several of his former students that speak very highly of him. I only write from the perspective that he was the voice of the archdiocese during the height of the scandal in these parts.

I'm not a Roman Catholic, so maybe I have no place commenting, but since most of the children that I baptize, the couples that I marry, the sick that I anoint, and the dead that I bury, were rejected, ignored, or in someway turned out by their Church, I'm going to anyway.

With the way that the Chancery in Boston treats both its clergy and people, it's a wonder that people even care that their church buildings are being closed.

20/10/05 19:43  
Blogger David L Alexander said...

"David, what is strange from my experiences in the midwest is that such a clergy assignment wouldn't be made in June with all the rest. Occasionally, a pastor might request an extra year to finish off a debt or a project."

Todd, the practice of extending a term is not limited to the midwest, and it will often apply to an honest debt. What you have here, is a situation in which a pastor was completely misrepresenting Church teaching and practice (in cases where most priests would have been sent packing a helluva lot sooner), to the point where he gathered around him a following that was prepared to excuse anything, including misappropriation of funds. Remember, the parish finance council (where we probably won't see much "accountability" anytime soon) basically gave Cuenin the go-ahead on all this. Where do you suppose their indulgence would have stopped?

There's no "lying" here. The misuse of funds is not only a violation of canon law, but civil law. Unless people in Boston aren't satisfied at the number of lawyers running around the Chancery already, the offense was sufficient reason to remove him. Whether that was the reason the Boston Globe was looking for or not is irrelevant.

Ultimately, they found a just cause to remove him (which means they weren't lying), one with which Cuenin would not argue (and has not, in fact). That alone cuts down on the paperwork.

Then again, perhaps the people of Boston don't think there's enough of that either.

21/10/05 09:34  
Blogger Todd said...

David, we still do it better in the midwest. A pastor has served his six or twelve years and everybody knows he's moving on. In my current diocese, priests apply about six to nine months in advance for parishes they'd like to serve. There's something of a seniority thing, as experienced and well-regarded pastors get the plums, and everything else falls into line for the second-stringers.

Once the assignments are all set, everybody moves on the same day. If Cuenin was due to move, they should've made it clear twelve months ago, given the guy his farewell tour, then brought in the new pastor.

If this had happened in a midwestern diocese, there would've been grumbling the job was being held until Coyne tidied up his tasks at the chancery.

The whole thing seems to have been needlessly complicated. If Cuenin was moved because his twelve years was up, he should've been shipped out on his anniversary date, not a day later. By bringing in charges of financial impropriety (on which you concede his own parishioners signed off) it raises a needless spectre of scandal and retribution. The diocese doesn't need the bad PR. It was a lead-pipe cinch Cuenin would come out of this smelling like roses unless he was caught in a sex scandal with a minor.

My take: the diocese gets an F for sloppy pastoral transfers and for misunderstanding public relations. The parish gets a D for failing to live up to its billing as a Vatican II faith community. Cuenin's GPA comes out to about a 2.75. Not quite honor roll because of his two flaws: not circumventing the Cult of Walter in his parish, and failing basic finances.

Everybody happy?

21/10/05 10:54  
Blogger David L Alexander said...

"By bringing in charges of financial impropriety (on which you concede his own parishioners signed off) it raises a needless spectre of scandal and retribution."

Todd, I don't suppose actually getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar matters once the cameras start rolling. It's all about spin control. Problem is, at some point, you gotta say, hey, so what with who's watching, and do the right thing. I could blame O'Malley for a lot of things (in which case I'd have to get in line), but not for that.

And by the way, you're talkin' to a born-and-raised Midwesterner here. (Ohio. Cincinnati. Go Bearcats!) I know how it plays in Peoria. Fraud is a crime out there too.

21/10/05 12:05  

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