Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Capital of the World, Capital of Brutta Figura

Spot-on or not, when the New York Daily News picks up Letter #2 with the screaming headline "Egan labels revs sickos: Sez critics molesters," you know it's shaping up to be quite the Wednesday.

Gotham is simmering. Again. Well, more than just simmering.

Just as the fracas over the original, anonymous missive calling for a "no confidence" vote in him was dying down, Cardinal Edward Egan's Monday retort to his priests has thrown the church in the Big Apple into a renewed tumult. Not pretty at all, Romans puzzled at what on earth is going on -- and, intriguingly enough, both the Post and religion writer Gary Stern at the Westchester Journal-News are floating the name of Msgr Charles Kavanagh as the possible target of Egan's wrath.

(OK, one of them.)

A John O'Connor confidant entrusted with the late cardinal's least-favorite thing to do -- i.e. fund-raising -- Kavanagh served as the archdiocese's director of development through the end of O'Connor's tenure until he was suspended on allegations of inappropriate conduct in 2002. As Stern writes on his blog, "Kavanagh openly challenged Egan’s handling of [his] case, wearing his clerical collar in public after being told not to. This past January, the Vatican granted him a church trial. But it has not yet been scheduled."

While the priests largely backlashed at the unsigned letter's tactic, allowing its anonymity to detract from and overshadow its strong critiques of Egan, the mood in the wake of the second letter has now veered toward what we could call a "backlash of the backlash."

All are saddened, all are exasperated and, as one cleric put it, "all wish the thing would go away and all feel for Howie."