Welcome outcome, troubling process

While New Yorkers can be gratified to see the U.S.C.C.B. presidency make a turn toward the northeast—and we at America can only be delighted that a friend of the House and contributor has been selected to head the conference (best wishes and congrats, Archbishop Tim Dolan)—I can’t help but feel a little sorry about the shabby treatment experienced by Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas. Surely after a lifetime of service to the church he deserved better than this.

The audacious campaign against him in the weeks leading up to the usually pro forma U.S.C.C.B. election had the disquieting appearance of a classic Lee Atwater/Karl Rovian takedown, as the Tucson bishop was forced suddenly to defend himself against charges of poor oversight decades ago as rector of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Mundelein Seminary. The preposterous argument was that Kicanas would have a difficult time serving as president since he would be distracted by media attention to his 1992 decision to allow a seminarian in his charge, Daniel McCormack, to continue through to ordination. Kicanas’ ably defended himself against these charges, of course only after they had made it into print and done the damage they were intended to do to his reputation and opportunity for U.S.C.C.B. advancement. They appear to be without merit but more to the point, if the criteria for elevation to the U.S.C.C.B. high office will now be an absolutely spotless record on the sex abuse crisis, it may prove difficult to find anyone to stand for presidency in the future.

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And why didn’t such scruples about background emerge before regarding other church figures who had a hand in the McCormack affair? Kicanas is not the only official with much to answer for regarding McCormack, who as a priest molested a number of children unlucky enough to be left in his care. The obvious answer is that Kicanas detractors were flinging whatever mud they could find at a bishop they deemed insufficiently confrontational; the sex abuse material proved the most toxic and “sticky.”

Adding to the hypocrisy and cynicism of the character assassination endured by Kicanas was one of its more surprising sources: the National Catholic Register. One wishes the Register had been equally as aggressive in reporting on the jaw-dropping parade of scandal and pathology within the high offices of its patron, the Legionaries of Christ, and its founder Marcial Marciel, a “priest” who stands alone in the pantheon of clerical depravity. The Registor’s sudden attentiveness to the crisis of the clerical abuse of children is welcome, even as it deployment to degrade Kicanas's candidacy invites skepticism. One looks forward to more institutionally restorative exposés from the Register on the problem in the future.

The bottom line: Kicanas was outmaneuvered and humiliated by folks who thought his pastoral style deficient and social agenda suspect. The gloating and celebration among self-described orthodox media voices and their chortling site visitors only adds to the general unpleasantness. It is hard to know how to respond to these goading displays and partisan strategies that seem directly lifted from political playbooks, but deeply out of place in dialogue with people who are part of one’s own church community.

Kicanas's only true heterodoxy, even in analysis of the people who torpedoed his candidacy, appears to be his position on immigration reform (BTW: that of the U.S. bishops) and his lack of enthusiasm for using the Eucharist as a cudgel. Of course, his actual positions hardly matter to a lot of these folks since “lefty” Catholics such as Kicanas are not part of the “authentic” Catholic church, as they continue to pound down new fenceposts and shovel embattlements around it. Their eagerness for the coming de-evangelization of the American branch of our Catholic family is personally depressing and probably a little heretical. Gerald Kicanas and his good name have become the latest collateral damage in this sorry campaign.

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Aloysia Moss
7 years 5 months ago
"  Blessed are those who suffer persecution for my sake "  .   Bishop Kicanas ' reward is great in heaven .  He did not put his trust in princes .
david power
7 years 5 months ago
I disagree with many parts of this article.The first thing I dislike is the divisive tone of the author.The use of "lefty" is done with a martyr like mentality,what the Italians call buonista.A person who suffers because of their own good.They are unaware that most people vomit at their  self-regard.I agree that Bishop Kicanas can be portrayed too easily as a justified scapegoat.Can you imagine if he had been elected ?,it would have been a kick in the head to every victim of abuse and all those seriously "angry" with what has been going on in the mystical body of Christ.  He is a victim of history and should offer up his sufferings to God as repentance for the sins of his clerical brothers.Maciel has great company.I would argue that Geoghan tops him.Maciel of course had Pope John Paul to calm the waters while Law supplied Geoghan with the fresh blood. BTW St Ignatius celebrated his first Mass in Santa Maria Maggiore. For me the NCR and Zenit are like a redlight.They alert me to danger.I read their sites to know how I should not think.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_n38Zlb1LA
  This should stop a few canonizations in their tracks.
On the other hand we have this http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=8263 which suggests that there is something amiss.

In the past the clergy considered themselves a caste apart.Perhaps unconsciously ,the Church is now trying to portray the "abuses" as a slip.Liberal and conservatives in the clergy are in agreement that the Clergy are special.Read the excellent article  by Eugene Kennedy http://ncronline.org/blogs/bulletins-human-side/overlooked-lives-our-noble-priests ,brilliant but flawed.     
   Bishop Kicanas if he is truly a friend of Jesus will brush this off in an act and continue to serve the Lord.If not he will wallow in the clerical sin of "nobody appreciates me"!  Bishop Kicanas has the grace of repenting for his mistakes ,Maciel and his friends in high places do not have that grace. 
Colleen Baker
7 years 5 months ago
Well stated Mr. Clarke. 
7 years 5 months ago
PS - Bishop Kicanas is no "liberal" by any stretch - he is very supportive of the Latin mass in his diocese and actually lead an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite within the past month for a confirmation mass.  (I am from Tucson)

As good as Kicanas is as a bishop and pastoral man, I think that the conference simply wanted a more direct and outspoken leader at this present time and you really could not ask for someone better than Apb. Dolan in that department!
Winifred Holloway
7 years 5 months ago
I thought in  Benedict's talk before the other cardinals after John Paul's death and just before the conclave that he was lobbying to be pope.  A humble librarian?  I don't think so.
7 years 5 months ago
Excellent analysis.  I share the sense of depression about the divisive attitudes of some fellow Catholics, expressed yesterday on my blog (called Sense of the Faithful):  http://pegconway.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/bishop-election-aftermath/
7 years 5 months ago
David, I am not sure your analogy is correct; while there are certainly climbers in any group, the highest of the hierarchy is a man who wished only to be the librarian at the Vatican.  Benedict is a humble servant and I am sure that many more Benedicts exist in that grouping.

After all this is no longer the Church of the papal states or, say, a Cardinal Richelieu. 

I am not speaking of David here, but many liberal commentators who attack authority seem to forget the nature of our faith and that there is a difference between authority and authoritarianism.  

Modern anti-authority movements of the 60' until today - many based on the denial of divine authority or providence - seem to have infected the left of the Church and clouded their reason...

As Chesterton said: the modern reformer is always right about what is wrong.  He is generally wrong about what it right.

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