US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Is the seminary rector responsible for the future abuser? UPDATE

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

UPDATE: Kicanas goes down to NYC's Timothy Dolan, more in the mold of Cardinal George. His connection to McCormack--and Bernardin, I think--hurt him. This is a blow to what is left of the "moderates" in the USCCB. It is also a sign of the power of the conservative Catholic blogosphere, who organized an 11th-hour lobby to defeat Kicanas.

Let me be the Johnny-come-lately to the controversy over the likely election of Gerald Kicanas of Tucson as the next president of the USCCB. The Legion of Christ-published National Catholic Register has a blog post questioning whether, because of his involvement with the notorious case of Daniel McCormack in Chicago, he should be the conference president. Kicanas was rector at Mundelein Seminary when McCormack was a student there, during which time McCormack confessed sexual contact during college (he went to a college seminary) with two other students. (Grant Gallicho at dotCommonweal has a better summary than I could provide.)

Kicanas gave a pretty lengthy response to National Catholic Register's post and he comes offs soundingpretty reasonable. One allegation, that McCormack patted someone’s rear end “over clothing” is kind of random. Even the sex with a fellow college student—which McCormack himself confessed according to Kicanas—isn’t an indicator of a predator. And in Kicanas' defense, he did send McCormack for evaluation about both his alcohol use and his ability to be celibate.

At the same time, it seems to me the story here is that no one believes the bishops themselves have suffered for their failures. So people are quick to point out any point of contact between a bishop and an abuser. Cardinal George is the most recent and most obvious, and he was certainly the one with egg on his face in the McCormack situation. Very few, however, lobbied against his election as conference president. Indeed, he was elected as conference president within 18 months of the McCormack situation going down.

Victim/survivors and their advocates are right to point out that few bishops have suffered any consequences for their at times utter and complete failtures; the McCormack case is particularly harrowing; the local NPR affilitate did a story this morning that is problematic in some respects, but I link to it here so that the horror of what McCormack's victims suffered doesn't become a footnote. I think it possible that they've got the wrong guy in this case; indeed, I think Kicanas may be more an advocate on this matter than George has been.