Friday, October 13, 2006

Update from Brouhaha Central

In the early days of summer, all alone at an out-of-town event, dragging his own bag and with his priest-secretary back at the office, one of the traveling circuit asked Cardinal Edward Egan how he was doing. "I've learned a very important lesson over time," he replied, "I've found there's no use in complaining because, when you try, nobody listens to you."

As if the archbishop of New York couldn't catch a break before, all's far from quiet on the Northern Front. Whether the cardinal's added to the din by scuttling his advice is anyone's guess.

The Westchester Journal-News and New York Daily (the latter featuring words of Neuhaus) got onto The Letter in today's editions; the Post and TV are riding the story's third wave, and word is that the archdiocese has gone into a media blackout.

Among the Brethren, however, the words are flowing -- and, one would think, even more amongst themselves than to a layman scribe. The nutshell: you know things are in a bad way when, without batting an eyelid, even the (relatively) Egan-friendly concede that the picture painted in the incendiary, unsigned text is "accurate." Among the disenchanted, the examples cited are numerous and detailed, just what you'd expect from a storied presbyterate known for its long collective memory. And while there's been some snickering that the motto of the bishop of Providence just happened to find its way into the text -- conspicuously near the unnamed author's use of Egan's official mantra as a means of slamming him -- what you won't hear is anything approaching an answer to the Million-Dollar Question: "Who?!"

(Citing the famous 58, one Bostonian noted that the New Yorkers "have learned well from our mistake....")

Several priests have drawn attention to a curious confluence of events, which one put so: "It may interest you to know that Egan's emergency meeting of the NY Priest Senate is scheduled for 11am Monday morning -- there is a funeral for a very popular NY priest [Msgr Charles Kelly, pastor of Sts John and Mary in Chappaqua] scheduled for Monday at 10am in Westchester. Of course, Egan won't be saying the Mass (his knee this time, but we'd expect another excuse if he hadn't had the surgery) -- but doesn't this prove the point of the letter? Here's a man so thouroughly disconnected from his presbyterate that he doesn't even consider that many members of the Senate were friends with this man and should be (and will be?) at his funeral. PLEASE show me another diocese where this is happening -- whether there's a vote or not, none of us have any confidence in this guy."

And that's from someone I hadn't heard from since well before all this went down....

Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Walsh is slated to celebrate Kelly's funeral, meaning that at least one of the cardinal's five auxiliaries -- all of whom are ex officio members of the Presbyteral Council -- will be absent from the session at 452 Madison. The council's total membership numbers 40 clerics in all.

The second big question, of course, is: how will he handle it? (Journal-News religion scribe Gary Stern, the newly-minted RNA Templeton laureate, muses the same on his blog.) Even before the letter was aired publicly on Wednesday evening, word was out that Egan had "gone bonkers" over the missive, which he first saw on Tuesday.

However, as one Presbyteral Council member observed, "Egan's OK under pressure -- but only after a while." Whether six days constitutes "a while" remains to be seen.

It's been said that the return address on the letters mailed to the New York priests was listed as 1011 First Avenue: the New York Catholic Center, read Chancery.

As convention's gone out the window these days, who knows... it might even be true.

Stay tuned.

AP File/Westchester Journal-News