Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Of Big Houses and Hondas

Well, all hell is breaking loose in Boston. Again.

I spoke with a priest of that long-suffering archdiocese last night who told me of what he called the "massive demoralization" of the presbyterate, compounded in recent days by the departure of the loose cannon Father Walter Cuenin as pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton.

One of my ex-girlfriends was from Newton, but she's an atheist. Oh well.

Back to Cuenin -- who, I must remind some of you, is a Catholic. The story is headlining in Beantown yet again today due to the report that Fr. Chris Coyne, best known as the archdiocesan spokesman of the late 2002 period, has been named to take Walter's place.

As Michael Paulson writes in today's Globe
Cuenin was a frequent target of the most conservative elements of the church locally, who wrote on blogs and in e-mails of their views that he was a heretic who should be ousted from the priesthood. One of the blogs used the headline ''this is fun" on a link to a newspaper story about Cuenin's resignation.

''This is a witch-hunt, not more, not less," said Gisela Morales-Barreto of Newton, a parishioner at Our Lady's for 20 years. ''They were trying to find something against him, and it took them all this time to make it happen. This is their way to punish him and punish us for how outspoken he has been. And now the one thing we have feared all along is happening -- that if Walter will leave us, they will send someone from the other extreme to put the brakes on what this community is all about. Chris Coyne is in the opposite end of what Walter is all about."

Coyne, in a brief telephone interview yesterday, said he understood the concerns of parishioners. ''I think the most important thing, given the present situation, is just to try and listen to people and also to be available to people," he said. ''Over time, I hope to work with them, to continue to build the good faith life and community that is already present at Our Lady's."

Hmm... But the award-winning entry of the day comes from Globe columnist Brian McGrory

That's right: After silently shuffling pedophiles from one town to another to prey on fresh batches of children, the archdiocese is finally cracking down on wayward priests -- for driving Hondas.

Honestly, I want to think nice things about the Catholic Church and its leaders. I want to report that the Boston Archdiocese has turned the proverbial corner, that it understands the horror of its recent past and is looking to make amends with the people who need its ministry most.

I want to write nice things about the hundreds of achingly selfless nuns and priests who feed the hungry and shelter the indigent and guide so many poor souls who inevitably get lost along the way. They do this every single day.

But O'Malley and his insipid advisers, leftovers from Cardinal Bernard F. Law's long reign of incompetence and malevolence, make this somewhere beyond hard.

Then, McGrory uncovers this best nugget of all

Quietly, archdiocesan leaders have warned Catholic Charities not to expect any church contribution to the upcoming budget. That amounts to a million dollars that now goes toward food pantries, homeless shelters, immigrant programs, and the like. Gone.

Still, it comes to my attention that the archdiocese was able to find $687,000 recently to buy a house in West Roxbury on behalf of Richard Bradford, a former Episcopal priest who left his church in a dispute and was ordained as a Catholic priest under Cardinal Law in 1998, despite being married.

Bradford and his wife were apparently displaced when church property was sold to Boston College. One logical option would have been to assign them to one of the little-used rectories in the area. But Terry Donilon, a spokesman for the Boston Archdiocese, said, ''Since he's married, you can't do that."

Why not? Because that's the way it is. Walter Cuenin gets canned for driving a Honda while the church buys a favored priest an expensive new place to live. Any real estate agent will tell you that $687,000 still gets an awful lot of house in West Roxbury.

OK, triple idiocy... Dare anyone say "quadruple"? I guess as long as this Bradford tows the line from the pulpit, it's all good and money is no object.

As O'Malley's appointed co-chairman of the commission to close parishes -- no renegade, he -- said to the Herald about the rationale for removing Cuenin, "Not even my dog believes that story."

Good point.



Blogger Disgusted in DC said...

I've met Father Bradford on several occasions. He is a superior priest in every respect. I'm also surprised by the anti-married priest snark which, I believe, is a disingenuous pose for the sake of bashing the hated Boston Archdiocese. If Father Bradford supported women priests like Father Cunenin, this colummist would leave no stone unturned.

And, by the way, if you want married priests with outstanding credentials with nice Catholic families, the Archdiocese will have to shell out money for housing like this. Something to think about.

27/9/05 10:40  
Blogger Jeff said...


If there were such things as witches, we should have witch hunts. There are such things as unfaithful priests and people who present themselves as Catholic but don't share fundamental elements of Catholic belief. (This is despite the phony idea that anyone who takes communion in a building with a Vatican flag is a Catholic; belief has nothing to do with it.)

If such people are in positions of authority and influential enough for evil--out they go, say I.

No, no. The fact that there is a terrible pedophilia scandal doesn't mean that we tolerate every OTHER kind of wickedness while we deal with that mess.

27/9/05 11:35  
Blogger J. R. P. said...

A GIS for Gisela Morales-Barreto returns, inter alia, that she is a member - indeed, a prominent member - of the 'Voice of the Faithful', as well as the 'Parish Leadership Forum'. A piece of information sadly lacking from the piece. But, that's par for the course in the media.

One wonders how they keep finding the same people to quote, when they need a Archdiocese-bashing quote. I presume the VotF publishes a directory of some kind.

27/9/05 13:38  
Blogger Jimmy Mac said...

The faithful can't be expected to shell out $$ to support married priests. After all, it is our sacred RIGHT to have unrestricted 24/7 access to priests as cheaply as possible. Those married guys who are now priests are a drain on the treasury. The next thing you know, Catholics will be expected to pony up $2.00 per Sunday. No way, mate! That would cut into the money for golf, eating out, gas for the SUV, etc.

This church has always been our CHEAP birthright and, by damn, we are going to keep it that way! Just because all of those virtually free nuns have disappeared from the scene doesn't mean that we actually have to start to pay to support priest's families, too. And the same is true for those lay administrators, married deacons, etc.

This church is going to pot. I'm mad as hell and won't pay one red cent more! A dollar a Sunday was good enough in the past and, by gum, it's good enough for the future.

27/9/05 16:19  
Blogger John Hearn said...

Isn't Roxbury an upper middleclass sort of place? If the housing prices in Boston are anything like they are in LA these days than 680K buys an ordinary two-bedroom house.

As for Fr."Call Me Walter" Cunenin, he has been a ringleader of outright dissent and defiance for years. His sacking is long overdue.

27/9/05 17:17  
Blogger Richard said...

1. If your gonna sack the guy for X, be honest about it. Say that he was sacked for X.

Especially when X is a pretty darned good reason to sack him.

Otherwise it just gives the impression - as Dom Bettinelli pointed out - that the Church only cares about improprieties when their financial in nature.

2. I don't know about snarkiness, but those who favor married priests - and I would not be stunned to learn that Brian McGrory is one of them - had best realize that they come with a price tag. At the risk of being in any agreement with Jimmy Mac, it does seem that some think they have a birthright to an inexpensive clergy.

Then again our clergy has become very expensive of late.

27/9/05 19:22  
Blogger Gyrovagus said...

I hereby nominate John Hearn for the Whispers' "I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL I'M TALKING ABOUT" award for this week:

Isn't Roxbury an upper middleclass sort of place?


Roxbury is the pits of the inner-city, as a matter of fact, coming in a close second to most of Hyde Park.

Yet you solemnly pass judgment on Father Cuenin as someone whose "sacking is long overdue."

Since you didn't know what the hell you were talking about in terms of Boston's sociology, why should we presume you know what the hell you're talking about when it comes to Father Cuenin?

Hell, you couldn't even spell his name correctly!

28/9/05 00:04  

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