From the March, 1990 issue of
On Thursday, June 22, 1989, a small delegation from Chicago was waiting at the airport in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for the arrival of Edouard Cardinal Gagnon, Prefect for the Sacred Congregation of Family, one of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the central administration of the Roman Catholic Church. His eminence had come to South Dakota to attend a Marian Congress sponsored by the Rev. Robert Fox. His purpose was to encourage those who were sensible in promoting devotion to the message of Fatima His eminence had already had problems with a fellow Canadian priest of dubious standing in the Church who had organized, among other things, a letter writing campaign urging the Pope to consecrate Russia properly, i.e., as this priest though it should be done. As part of his campaign, the priest published the cardinal’s private phone number in Rome, resulting in, Gagnon was to say later on, hysterical phone calls in the middle of the night from women sobbing into the phone asking Gagnon why the pope was ignoring the Blessed Mother’s wishes. It was the type of psychic and spiritual degeneration that can occur in the wake of even authentic apparitions, especially when orchestrated by someone who knew all the right buttons to push.
But Fatima was the last thing on the mind of the delegation from Chicago. They had problems which affected them more immediately. The Rev. John O’Connor, O.P., for example, had recently had his priestly faculties suspended by the superior of his province, the Rev. Donald J. Goergen, O.P. O’Connor had produced a series of tapes for the New Jersey-based casette apostolate, Keep the Faith, on a variety of subjects, including rock music and private revelations. He had become, in fact, their most requested speaker and his tapes sold even better than those of Fulton J. Sheen. Howard Walsh, president of Keep the Faith, claimed that O’Connor’s "Rosary Crusade: The World’s Last Great Hope," was the most widely distributed tape of all time. Now the suspended priest claimed in a series of tapes of both the audio and video variety that his province, which included priests like the Vatican-censured Matthew Fox and the uncensured Richard Woods, author of the dubious Another Kind of Love, was run by a ring of homosexuals. He then went on to claim that his provincial, Father Goergen was a practicing homosexual. Over the course of the months following his suspension, O’Connor’s charges became progressively more extreme. In addition to claiming that homosexuals were running the province, O’Connor claimed that the priory at River Forest was being run as a homosexual bordello to keep local priests off the streets and to prevent them from contracting AIDS. By November 2, 1989, O’Connor was implicating the Superior General of the entire order in aeonspiracy against him as well as the ordinary of Chicago, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. "A prominent Catholic layman who just returned from a business trip to the Vatican," O’Connor wrote in his open letter dated November 2, 1989, "told me that it is known all over Rome that Cardinal Bernardine [sic] is a practicing homosexual..."
The order, for its part, responded by claiming that O’Connor was "crazy." According to Provincial Goergen, O’Connor was slandering fellow priests, and that intolerable situation had to be stopped. Provincial Goergen dismissed the charges O’Connor had made against him but became especially incensed about the charges O’Connor was making against other Dominicans. O’Connor accused one in particular of being a communist who had set out to infiltrate the order over 40 years ago. "My earnest judgment," wrote one Dominican in response to the charges, "is that Father O’Connor is not well-balanced. "The priest then recounted the story of a classmate of his who happened to meet O’Connor at the priory and inquired how he was only to be "greeted with steaming insults."
Of the charges against Goergen, the priest writes,
"I am sure that the charges against the Provincial, Father Goergen, which Father O’Connor makes, are slanderous. Even though Father Goergen is more liberal than I in certain matters of morality, and perhaps more tolerant of homosexual mores, I believe he struggles to represent the Catholic faith. Now I admit that he failed in The Sexual Celibate, a book written when he was younger. For some Catholics, the matter of sexual morality was then, as now, a troubling matter. But to accuse him of moral turpitude, as Father O’Connor does, is surely a grievous failure, for It has no foundation. I know that homosexual activity is mortally sinful and personally harmful to a participant’s psyche. I can never condone its practice. I am not here trying to cover the failures of anyone. But I am sure that Father O’Connor’s attacks on Father Goergen, even apart from being a fundamental and serious failure in charity, are without foundation."
No one, however, was claiming that Father O’Connor’s companion on the trip to South Dakota was crazy. David Dillon was a Chicago lawyer, who with his wife, Mary Ellen Nash, of the influential Chicago family, had their own law firm with offices in the Loop downtown. Dillon wanted to talk to Gagnon, who, perhaps because of his position as head of the Congregation on the Family has the reputation of lending a sympathetic ear to distressed parents, about a different but related matter. This time It was not priestly homosexuality but priestly pedophilia that was the issue. Dillon claimed that over a period of two years, from 1986 to 1988, his son had been subjected to "sexual, physical, and psychological abuse" by a Chicago priest and former nun who was principal of the Catholic school he attended. As a result of the abuse the child suffered a torn urethra and had to wear a back brace for the rest of his life. Dillon also related to Gagnon that a sexual harassment lawsuit had also been filed against the priest in question as a result of behavior at a previous parish, but that nothing had been done by the archdiocese in the matter. As a result of this alleged negligence and negligence across the board on the part of the American bishops in similar cases in the United States, Dillon wanted Gagnon to arrange an audience with the Pope, wherein he could "personally present this problem to the Holy Father." Dillon was also considering filing a lawsuit against the priest, the principal and the archdiocese and wanted Gagnon’s advice on whether he should proceed.
According to a transcript of the meeting prepared by Dillon and sent to Gagnon on July 10, Gagnon responded by saying that the Holy See was "already aware" of the problem but could do nothing about it because "the American bishops will not obey the Holy Father when he has sought to intervene in matters pertaining to the church in the U.S." "The Church," Gagnon concluded, referring specifically to the United States and Canada, "is in schism." Gagnon continued by saying that many people wanted to meet with the Holy Father and that he can not see them all, and as a result was unlikely to see Dillon. In addition, he told Dillon to "pursue the civil lawsuit... as the proper recourse." Dillon countered by saying that if the Church in this country were in fact in schism, as Gagnon had claimed, then the laity had an "absolute right to be so informed." Gagnon demurred, saying that "there was no purpose to be served" by informing American Catholics of this state of affairs. Gagnon also said that it would be "unfair" to focus national media attention to the problem. Dillon countered by saying that "In view of the refusal of Church authorities to take positive actions in this matter, I believe that maximum national media attention must be focused on it, prior to the September 1989 re-opening of the schools."
Less than two weeks later, on Friday, July 21, 1989, Dillon filed a $7 million civil lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court charging Rev. Robert Lutz, pastor of St. Norbert’s parish in Northbrook and Alice Halpin, principal of the school, with child abuse. The suit also charges, "the Catholic Bishop of Chicago, acorporatlon sole, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin," with negligence. Less than a week after that, Lutz and Halpin responded by denying the allegations and claiming that they were going to file a countersuit charging libel in response. "I categorically and totally deny the charges," Lutz said to the Northbrook Star on July 27. "I can tell you," Halpin added. "that all of the allegations are false and they have been investigated extensively." According to the same artide. "the state’s attorney’s mass molestation unit determined the charges to be unfounded." Halpin brought up the same point in an article in The New World, the Chicago archdiocesan newspaper. "I have it in writing from the DCF’S (Illinois Department of Children and Family Services) that all the allegations are unfounded," she said. The archdiocese through its assistant director of public information claimed that "Several government agencies and the archdiocese have investigated the allegations against the pastor and principal of St. Norbert and have found no basis for these allegations." Then, in the Fall of 1989, a $20 million countersuit was filed against Dillon and his wife.
The "maximum national media attention" did not happen prior to the reopening of the schools in September. That had to wait until November, November 5 to be specific, when a group known as Catholics for an Open Church, Inc., a dummy corporation formed to protect the people involved from a libel suit, held a press conference across the street from the bishops’ meeting in Baltimore. Michael Schwartz, an employee of the Free Congress Foundation, a Washington think-tank headed by right-wing strategist Paul Weyrich, headed the group. The main event at the press conference was not the Dillon case, which was represented only in so far as copies of the lawsuit were given to the press. The main event involved the accusations made against Bishop Joseph Ferrario of Honolulu. A young man using the pseudonym "Damian de Veuster," the name of the priest usually known as Damian the Leper, sat behind a screen and, with his voice electronically altered, accused Ferrario of sexually molesting him as a child. The charges did attract a fair amount of attention in the national press; articles appeared in The Washington Post and the New York Times, but getting papers like that to do an anti-Catholic story is about as difficult as attracting a shark to blood. In spite of the coverage, there was considerable skepticism on the part of the press. A number of papers ran the stories without running the name of the bishop accused. Beyond that, Ferrario held a press conference of his own one hour later denying the charges and saying that they had been investigated and dismissed by Church authorities.
Probably be-cause of Ferrario’s denial and the skeptical reaction of the press, "Damian" returned and revealed his true identity, which he had initially concealed because some members of his family, "don’t know what I’ve gone through." He also revealed that he was suffering from AIDS. So in the final analysis it was the word of a 30-year-old homosexual with AIDS against the Bishop of Honolulu, who claimed that he had been cleared by the Vatican. Why Schwartz would chose to launch a nationally reported campaign on such tenuous evidence is anyone’s guess. He was, however, distinctly nervous about the prospect beforehand, as well he might be. A number of Catholic periodicals, including Fidelity, had seen the material, which had been in circulation for years. No one had reported on it, presumably because it was prima fide one man’s word against another. The same coalition that launched the charges against Ferrario was as of early 1990 mulling over the idea of administering a lie detector test in the presence of the apostolic pronuncio. Whether that comes to pass or not, the effect on the bishops was overwhelmingly negative. Schwartz ended the press conference by announcing that he was sending a letter to the pope, requesting with "the greatest urgency, that Bishop Ferrario be suspended immediately from the exercise of his priestly and episcopal functions, pending a full investigation of these charges."
As one might have suspected, Ferrario is still Bishop of Honolulu. According to one source, the Vatican was as appalled at the press conference as the American bishops were. And in retrospect, it’s hard to Imagine any other reaction on their part. It’s hard to imagine that Rome would suspend a bishop on the word of a man behind a screen with an electronically camouflaged voice. It’s hard to imagine a time when Rome would have acted in such a manner. Certainly it is not going to act that way now when accusing public figures of homosexuality is a newly-developed strategy of the homosexual movement. In the June 1989 issue of the New York Native, a homosexual paper, ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), the same group which disrupted Cardinal O’Connor’s mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in late 1989, discussed the strategy of ‘dragging out of the closet gay public figures who support anti-gay causes," as away of intimidating them into supporting the homosexual political agenda.
Less than six months after the article appeared, Father Bruce Ritter was accused of sexual misconduct by a homosexual who was involved in Covenant House’s Rights of Passage Program. On December 12, 1989, the New York Post ran a story reporting the charges of the young man, who gave his name as Timothy Warner. Covenant House making use of details in the various stories published was able to unearth the real name of Ritter’s accuser, Kevin Lee Kite, as well as his age, which was not 19 or 20 as he had claimed but 26, putting him over the age limit of 21 which Covenant House set for its programs. John Kells, the Covenant House spokesman who found out the man’s identity, then contacted his father, who came to New York and denounced his son as a "chronic liar" and someone who had "a long history of hurting people who tried to help him." Father Ritter, who admitted traveling with the young man and sharing a room with him but denied all charges of impropriety, was described as feeling "a lot better" after hearing the father’s testimony. Since then, two more homosexuals have come forward and accused Ritter of having sex with them, and Ritter has stepped down as head of Covenant House at the request of his order. Whether the men are connected with ACT-UP or other militant homosexual organizations is as of this writing not clear; however, the frequency of the incidents, and the fact that ACT-UP did mention one Catholic bishop in the above-mentioned article were enough to raise suspicions, and those suspicions were enough to further undermine any credibility that was left to Damian De Veuster after the Baltimore press conference.
The publicity campaign mentioned by Dillon in his letter to Gagnon continued apace, however. If not on a national level, then certainly in Chicago, by picking up an unlikely ally In the person of Andrew Greeley, sociologist and sex novelist. On November 4, 1989 a Greeley column on the "Double Standard on Celibacy" appeared in the Sunday Sun Times. In it, Greeley cited an article in The Washington Post which "suggested that between 20 percent and 40 percent of the Roman Catholic priests in America are gay" and that "2 percent of American priests are attracted to children." Greeley went on to lament "the transformation of the priesthood into a homosexual profession" and ended his piece by accusing the American hierarchy of "tolerating a double standard on celibacy and, because of stupidity and cowardice, permitting the priesthood to become heavily, perhaps mostly gay."
Shortly after the article appeared, Dillon contacted Greeley and told him his story. As a result of that contact, another Greeley column appeared in the Sun Times, this time on December 17, which mentioned the Dillon case specifically, although not byname. "I received," Greeley writes,
another reaction to my column from a parent in the Chicago area who wrote that his child had been sexually and physically abused. The letter continued, "I want to congratulate you on our courage in making a public statement on the corruption extant within the Catholic clergy. I have researched this problem both locally and nationally and now know the rampant nature both of homosexuality and pedophilia.
Greeley then quoted archdiocesan lawyer James Seritella, who spoke at a symposium on the issue by referring to parents in child abuse cases as "the enemy." Greeley went on to suggest that Seritella be fired. "If the cardinal will not fire him," Greeley wrote, "then Rome should appoint a bishop who will fire him." In a matter of a few short weeks, Greeley’s strictures against the hierarchy in general became focused on one man, the cardinal archbishop of Chicago, to the point of calling for his ouster, evoking in the process an eerie sense of deja vu.
Ten years ago, Father Greeley was calling for the ouster of Bernardin’s predecessor John Cardinal Cody. The language was harsher ten years ago, but the thrust was the same - the cardinal had to go. Was history repeating itself? Was there now a plot to get Bernardin? Greeley told Dillon that he would use his influence at the Sun Times to get articles favorable to Dillon’s side In the case published there. For those who were familiar with the famous, or infamous, "Plot to Get Cody" the similarities were nothing short of astounding. Even more astounding is the fact that Greeley predicted in print that this was the way things were going to happen. In the paperback edition of Confessions of a Parish Priest, the priest’s autobiography, (Pocket Books, 1987), Greeley writes:
It is not unlikely, in my judgment that sexuality, indeed perverse sexuality, will be to the Bemardin Archdiocese of Chicago what financial corruption was to the Cody Archdiocese of Chicago. I hasten to add that I do not question the Cardinal’s own sexual orientation. (Some who do not know him but are aware of the prevalence of it in Chicago do have their doubts.) From the years during which I knew him well (or thought I did), I would say that he is at least as heterosexual as I am and enjoys women as much as I do. The difficulty is his apparent unwillingness to face a terribly serious crisis and act decisively on it.
The passage is a masterpiece of innuendo, insinuating suspicions into the mind of the reader in the very fact of denying them. Greeley assures us that he is not questioning the cardinal’s sexual orientation; only those who don’t know him have their doubts. Then Greeley goes on to hint that he doesn’t really know him either, which must mean that he has his doubts as well. And what exactly does it mean to say that the cardinal is "at least as heterosexual" as Father Greeley? Just how heterosexual is he? After reading this masterpiece of smear, one comes away with the sense that the cardinal has something to hide, that Greeley knows more than he is telling, but that if pressed on the issue he could just as easily deny everything. It is a technique Greeley has used before.
In a tape sent to Jim Andrews of the publishing firm of Andrews and McMeel, the company that had commissioned him to write the book that was eventually published as The Making of the Popes 1978, Greeley talks about how he has "finally found out how to get rid of John Cody":
It is the easiest thing in the world. One simply starts spreading the rumor that he is going to go, and in the crazy world of the Vatican, that kind of rumor is tantamount to concrete results. Indeed, if the rumor is repeated often enough, long enough and far enough, it becomes truth.
That excerpt along with equally revealing passages appeared in a sensational story published by the Chicago Lawyer In October 1981 about a plot involving Father Greeley, then Archbishop Joseph Bernardin, and then Apostolic Delegate Jean Jadot to have Cardinal Cody removed from his post as archbishop of Chicago. Rob Warden, editor of Chicago Lawyer and the man who wrote the story, is not a Catholic and had no particular interest in writing about the Church. However, he has a nose for a big story, and this was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, to come out of Chicago in the ‘80s. Warden’s story was the sensational follow-up to the equally sensation story that had appeared a week before in the Chicago Sun-Times that Cody was under federal grand jury investigation. Warden, who had met with the principal investigators assigned to the story, was convinced that Greeley was behind the federal grand jury investigation.
"Before we did [‘The Plot to Get Cody’]," Warden remembered years later, "we did a story on a guy named Frank Wallace who had been falsely accused of being a Nazi, and the undertone of that coverage was how could the Anti-defamation League so influence the federal prosecutor’s office that they would go off on a tangent like this and do something stupid, like charge this poor innocent man and ruin his life? Which is what they did. And so I had sort of viewed this the same way. Can Andrew Greeley walk into the federal prosecutor’s office and can Andrew Greeley orchestrate this scenario that can get the U.S. attorney’s office to investigate the cardinal archbishop of Chicago? And the answer, to my astonishment, is yes. There were enough steps in furtherance of what he called a conspiracy and a plot."
In a tape made on October 30, 1977, Greeley gave the full dimensions of the plot, whose purpose was not merely to get Cody out but to replace him with Bernardin, who was In turn to help Greeley "rig" the next papal conclave and elect a suitably "liberal" pope. The rigging of the election was also to have the salutary side effect, from Greeley’s point of view, of promoting his books. "Also," Greeley says,
...let me suggest that one of the points that is important for a conspiracy is getting Joe Bernardin into the College of Cardinals. Getting Joe Bemardin Into the college is getting our conspiracy into the college.. There is no one I know of who is as astute In the whole cotton-picking Church than [sic] Joe. We got to get Joe into the College of Cardinals. Then, you see, if we get Joe in, the story [of the conclave] can be told. I mean, we won’t have to worry about stealing stuff. Joe’s going to provide it for us - all of it. In fact, he could become part of the conspiracy. Hell, he was the one, after all, that suggested I start writing articles before the book. The New York Times article, which was the beginning of the conspiracy, was his suggestion.
Now, gentlepersons, you say, "How the hell can we get Joe Bemardin into the College of Cardinals?" I will tell you how we get him in. We get him to become archbishop of Chicago.
After the Chicago Lawyer article documenting the plot against Cody appeared in September 1981, Greeley issued a statement in which he characterized the tapes as "moods, feelings, fantasies and emotions of the moment; the things I would like to have seen happen in my late night sleep musings in a hotel in Rome. They also represent my own imagination and no one else’s. They were dreams of many years ago which patently did not materialize."
Greeley, however, spoke too soon. On July 10, 1982 Joseph Bernardin was named archbishop of Chicago, an event which left Rob Warden "stunned" since "the veracity of the article and the quotes had never been questioned. "The purpose of Greeley’s disclaimer and of subsequent negotiations between Greeley’s lawyers at Mayer, Brown and Platt was to disentangle Bernardin from the conspiracy. Greeley’s lawyers offered Warden immunity from possible future suits if he would leave Bernardin out of the story. Warden, now convinced that the story was true, decided to leave Bernardin in. More recently, Eugene Kennedy published a pro-Bernardin account of the affair in his biography of Bernardin (Cardinal Bernardin: Easing Conflicts and Battling for the Soul of American Catholicism, Bonus Books, 1990) in which he claims that Bernardin "was innocent of any involvement in such papal conclave machinations" (216), a statement in clear contradiction to the evidence in the transcripts. According to Warden, the only part of the transcripts he deliberately omitted from his account was Greeley’s reference to Cardinal Lorscheider of Brazil as "a spic who is an ethnic German." Warden did this, he said later, to be "gentlemanly."
In trying to explain why the press, with one notable exception, John Conroy’s article in the Chicago Reader, never followed up on the story, especially when Bernardin arrived in town as seventh archbishop of Chicago, Warden related a conversation he had with a former Jesuit priest who was religion editor of a local paper. "Gee, you strip this of the rhetoric," the ex-priest said, "and what Greeley was trying to do was an admirable thing. He wants to liberalize the Church. That’s our goal." "This," Warden added by way of explanation, "is the goal of Bernardin, Hesburgh, and a lot of liberal Catholics." Since it is congruent with the goals of the media, the media don’t press the cardinal on the issue.
After saying on his tape of November 15, 1975 that he was going to spread rumors at the Vatican concerning Cody’s imminent demise, Greeley then paid a visit to Sebastiano Cardinal Baggio, prefect for the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and then another visit to then Father, now Monsignor, Richard Malone. Of the latter meeting, Greeley said, "I began to plant my rumor with Malone that Cody is already replaced and just waiting for the announcement. We’ll see how far the rumor spreads." On November 20, 1975, just five days after the idea first occurred to Greeley, he and Malone met with Bishop Ernest Primeau, director of Villa Stritch, the place where bishops and cardinals from the United States stay when they’re in Rome. During the course of the meeting, again according to Greeley’s own tapes,
...Malone mentioned to Primeau that I had claimed to have heard from Baggio that Cody was finished. I promptly piped up and said, "Oh, no, I didn’t say it was Baggio." Now all I had to do is say, "Look, it wasn’t Baggio," and that, of course, confirmed their suspicions it was.
Greeley concludes the incident by saying, "Now, given sufficient time, energy and unscrupulousness, all of which I don’t have, I could just stay here and finish the man just by continuing to spread the rumor. The Greeley/Bernardin plot remains one of the most bizarre and least explained episodes in recent Catholic history. On November 23, 1975, Greeley had dinner with the then-Catholic theologian Hans Kueng, during which "Kueng and I decided ... that in the Immortal words of Richard J. Daley, 'Wegodda organize da voters.’ We decided that if anyone is going to rig the next papal election, it just might as well be us."The next day Greeley resolved to get in contact with Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., the president of the University of Notre Dame to enlist his help in the matter. "One of the first things I’ll do when I get back is to call Hesburgh and say, ‘Ted, you want in on the wiring of the papal enclave?"’
The chain of events which was eventually described in the article published in the Chicago Lawyer by Rob Warden did not, however, begin with him. Two other writers who had failed to get their stories published began work on the story over a year before Warden’s account came out. Both writers had one thing in common: Andrew Greeley.
In March of 1980 Carlton Sherwood had just completed what was to become a Pulitzer-prize winning series on the shady financial dealings of a Polish-based group of monks who had solicited funds to build a shrine to Our Lady of Czestochowa, north of Philadelphia. Sherwood’s editor at the Gannett News Service suggested a story on John Cardinal Cody, the beleaguered ordinary of Chicago. When Sherwood protested that he didn’t know were to begin, the editor gave him a Tucson Arizona phone number. The number belonged to Andrew Greeley.
In March of 1980 Sherwood visited Greeley in Tucson and was told a story about shady archdiocesan finances and that the cardinal had a woman friend. As a result of the meeting Sherwood decided to take on the story and made plans to go to Chicago. Greeley at the time was in the middle of writing The Cardinal Sins, the book that would be his first best seller.
During that same March, Greeley had had another journalist visitor as well. James Winters, then the young managing editor of Notre Dame Magazine had spent four days interviewing Greeley in Tucson for a profile he was planning to write on the author priest. Winters got on well with Greeley, so well in fact that Greeley gave the young journalist a list of people to interview and permission to enter Greeley’s archives at Rosary College in Chicago. When Winters opened the archives on July 7, 1980 he found, according to John Conroy’s account published in the Chicago Reader, "18 cardboard file boxes" which included transcripts of daily memos and diary entries made during trips to Rome while engaged in research on the book which eventually was published as The Making of the Popes 1978. In addition to the excerpts which were eventually published in the Chicago Lawyer a little over a year later, the material included a report by Greeley of lunch in Rome with then Archbishop Bernardin of Cincinnati. Bernardin said that Archbishop Jean Jadot, apostolic delegate to the United States had compiled a dossier on Cody but was unable to remove Cody from Chicago because Cody had influential friends in Rome. As a result of that conversation, Greeley concluded that "only the worst kind of public scandal" would remove Cody from office. This he felt could be orchestrated through a newspaper expose if "we turn an investigative reporter loose on the archdiocese of Chicago, a really good one mind you, maybe some sonofabitch from out of town, and tell him to blow the whole thing wide open..."
Sensing that he was now on to a major story, Winters contacted James Andrews of the Universal Press Syndicate and Archbishop Bernardin of Cincinnati, telling the latter that he wanted to interview him about the plot to rig the papal election. On July 29, 1980 Greeley received calls from both Bernardin and Andrews informing him of Winters’ intentions. When Greeley called Rosary College, he was informed that Winters had been given the key to the Xerox machine, something which "struck more terror in my heart," he was to say later on.
Greeley then instructed his lawyer to write to Winters telling him he had no right to the materials in the archives and that he should return them immediately. Winters responded by saying that the confidentiality of the documents had ceased the moment they had been placed in the Rosary College archives. Faced with an Impasse, Greeley drove to South Bend In early August of 1980 and had dinner with the then president of Notre Dame Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., who pressured Winters to return the material to Greeley. According to Winters’ account of his meeting with Hesburgh, Hesburgh handed him a column, one that was never published, In which Greeley resigned from the priesthood be-cause of the damage he had done to his family and friends. Eventually Winters agreed to return the material to Rosary College - much to the relief of Hesburgh and Greeley. He did not tell them, however, that he had retained copies of what he had borrowed.
In early August, Canton Sherwood got a call from Andrew Greeley Informing him that the story that Winters was planning to do based on the material from the Greeley archives at Rosary College would ruin the Investigation on Cody. Greeley encouraged Sherwood to talk to Winters, who received a call from Sherwood and agreed to meet with him at South Bend’s airport early the next morning. During the course of the conversation, Winters revealed what he found In the tapes, Including Greeley’s desire to "turn an investigative reporter loose on the archdiocese of Chicago." Whereupon Sherwood said, "That is me. I’m Greeley’s hired gun. I’m Greeley’s investigative reporter."
Suddenly with the meeting of Sherwood and Winters, the complexion of the story changed. Now, it seemed, Sherwood was no longer involved in exposing a story of financial and possibly sexual corruption. He was part of the story himself. He was being used by a priest to bring down his archbishop. But there was more to it than that The priest was evidently in league with other members of the hierarchy, specifically Archblshops Bernardin and Jadot. During the course of their conversation, Winters told Sherwood that "Deep Purple," the person to whom Greeley dedicated The Making of the Popes 1978 was in fact Archbishop Bernardin. Greeley was evidently not alone in his plotting to bring down Cody. As a result of what he learned in his meeting with Winters at the South Bend airport, Sherwood decided to confront Bernardin. In August of 1980, he flew to Cincinnati.
In his recently published biography of Cardinal Bernardin, Eugene Kennedy does his best to place the blame for the conspiracy on Greeley’s shoulders. Describing Sherwood’s getting wind of Greeley’s machinations as a result of his meeting with Winters, Kennedy writes that "A fragile balloon of accusation, with Bernardin’s name painted on its side, had rapidly been pumped full of air heated by paranoia and sent floating down the Ohio River toward Cincinnati," an account which is neither accurate history nor accurate geography. Kennedy then gives his version of the meeting between Bemardin and Sherwood:
When Bernardin was told a few days later, that a reporter had called, asking to speak to "Deep Purple," it was natural for him to wonder if that strange moment of engulfment by the fevered Roman plotting had not arrived sooner than he had thought. He would not panic, he reminded himself, but neither would he postpone the confrontation with the Inquiring media for which he had already prepared himself. He accepted the call, and recognizing Sherwood as the reporter who had investigated the mercenary Pennsylvania monks, agreed to meet with him at his local motel Bernardin drove himself to the meeting place, determined to put an end to any notion that he had participated in the chimera of conclave manipulation
Sherwood, relishing the moment in which he expected to uncover the truth about Bemardin’s role in the plot to get Cody, dealt aggressively with the somewhat uneasy but resolute archbishop. "I want to know everything," Sherwood said, lighting a cigarette flipping open his notebook and settling Into his chair as slyly confident as the television detective Columbo (194-5).
Bernardin, according to Kennedy’s version of the meeting, faced the cocky reporter down; he "stood more, forget it, he might just as well tell the whole firm with the truth as he knew it." He
…faced the complex accusations with equanimity and the confidence born of his understanding that he was speaking the truth. He closed the door of the motel room more at peace with himself. The ghost of the Greeley papers had broken into his life and he had withstood the specter as effectively as possible. Inside the room, Sherwood poured himself a drink. "damn it," he said of the meeting later, "I didn’t get a thing out of him" (196).
There is not a footnote in Kennedy’s book, so it is difficult to know what Kennedy is using for sources; however, we know that Kennedy is aware of John Conroy’s already mentioned account in the Chicago Reader because he cites Conroy by name 10 pages before the above account of the meeting between Sherwood and Bernardin. Kennedy however gives the reader no idea that an alternate version of the meeting is available, nor where the reader can find that version. Kennedy also fails to explain why Cardinal Bernardin would accept a phone call for "Deep Purple" if he were not in fact that person. Given Sherwood’s account of the meeting as told to Conroy, it is not hard to understand why Kennedy would rather that the reader not know where to get a copy. According to Sherwood’s account, the meeting went somewhat differently than the way described by Kennedy. "I flew to Cincinnati," Sherwood recounts,
...checked into the Holiday Inn, called Bishop Bemardin. I was told he wasn’t there. I said, ‘Well, give him this message. I want to talk to Deep Purple." Three minutes later, Bernardin called back. He said, "What is it?" I told him who I was, and he knew of me be-cause of the Pulitzer - I had raised bloody hell with the Catholic Church with the stories I had done. I said, "I want to talk to ya, I want to talk to ya about Deep Purple, I want to talk to ya about this whole thing." I said, "Do you want me to come to your residence?" and he said, "No, no, no, no no." He says, "I’ll come out to you." It was a hot day, it was 85 degrees, I had to have the door open of my room. And he came dressed in an overcoat and civilian clothes and sunglasses and a hat, like some kind of character out of a spy book. Anyway, he sat down and we had an hour-and-a-half, two hour conversation. I said, "I want to know what the story is here with the Greeley tapes. I want to know what your involvement is with the Vatican investigations of Cody, and I want to know everything." And he got real pale, and he gave this long speech about how he was resigned to the fact that if he had to remain bishop of Cincinnati for the rest of his life, he was going to be happy with that. He didn’t give a damn about his career in the Vatican anyway.
So what he did, he sat there and gave me a half-hour, 45-minute confession. He led off the confession saying that even though he had been friendly with Greeley in 1974, 1975, and Greeley thought that he was very close friends with him; that he was ordered by the Vatican to befriend Greeley for two reasons: to keep a close rein on him - because Greeley caused Cody a whole bunch of grief in the early ‘70s, mid ‘70s, writing columns - and also to feed Greeley certain Information to get out publicly. And he hated Greeley’s guts, couldn’t stand him, but he was under instruction from Rome. The apostolic delegate from Washington, which is like the Vatican ambassador, is a guy named Jean Jadot at the time, and he was taking his orders from Jadot and he [Bernardin] said that he also helped compile two dossiers on Cody at various times, one in 1976,1 think, and the other in 1978, and that he did indeed feed Greeley, he was Deep Purple, he fed Greeley all his information. And he confirmed that the Vatican had warned Cody "One more scandal and it’s out the door,"
Bernardin in response to a request from Conroy confirmed that the meeting took place; however, added that "The statements attributed to me are grossly distorted and do not merit credibility." However, he, like his biographer, fails to explain why he would take a call asking for Deep Purple, and further why he would agree to a meeting of this sort in the first place. But beyond that, what else would the bishop and the reporter have talked about during their meeting? Greeley has subsequently issued what his press agent June Rosner has described as a "private memorandum" on the Kennedy biography in which he accuses Kennedy of lying at various points. Rosner refused to send a copy of the memorandum to Fidelity, nor would Greeley agree to an interview. Greeley has issued no statement on the Conroy article or on Sherwood’s account of his meeting with Bernardin.
Shortly after his meeting with Bernardin, Sherwood called Greeley and relayed what had transpired. According to Sherwood’s account, Greeley was "devastated." The Information "really brought him to his knees," according to Sherwood.
He started moaning, couldn’t believe it. After that, he got really pissed. It turns out, as I suspected and Bernardin confirmed, Greeley was being used, we were all being used. I was being used to get the Sun-Times on the story. Greeley was being used by Bernardin and the Vatican to get me or somebody else on the story to get the Sun-Times on the story.
Sherwood’s account in the Conway article is the most plausible explanation of one of the major turnabouts in the whole story, namely, Greeley’s 180 degree turnabout in his relations with Bernardin. During the mid to late ‘70s Bernardin was in Greeley’s words "the great man himself." By the time Greeley gets around to writing his autobiography, roughly 10 years later. The relationship has cooled considerably. In Confessions of A Parish Priest, Greeley writes that he had learned two lessons - "never trust priests, and never trust bishops. Unfortunately for me, one of the bishops I had learned to distrust during the priesthood study later cultivated my friendship, and I began to trust him again. Then he be-came archbishop of Chicago and I realized I had swung on a curve ball twice" (295). According to Greeley’s interpretation of the relationship, he was to be rehabilitated as a priest under the Bernardin administration in Chicago. "Archbishop Bernardin," he relates again in his autobiography, "once said to me, when he knew he was going to be archbishop of Chicago that he would not be able to make me part of his administrative structure but that he would see I became an honored and respected member of the Archdiocese." By the time Greeley wrote these lines the only emotion left to feel was that the rehabilitation wasn’t going to happen, certainly not under Bernardin anyway.
Kennedy, as he does so often in his biography, gives an account of the affair whose main purpose is to absolve Cardinal Bernardin of any wrongdoing in the matter.
"Greeley," the Gannet reporter said at the time, "had grown increasingly bitter at Bernardin for what he somehow construed as the archbishop’s ongoing betrayal of him. Everything was really Bernardin’s fault because of the way the prelate had seemed to befriend him when he was really monitoring him."
The passage is significant for a number of reasons. Like the rest of Kennedy’s book is is calculated to put Bernardin in the best possible light, but even in doing that it reveals a, shall we say, duplicitous side to the cardinal. Greeley clearly felt that then Archbishop Bernardin had taken an interest In him and in his work and was clearly flattered by the attention. Bernardin, however, had, it seems, other motives, according to even Kennedy’s version of the story. The befriending was really a screen behind which Bernardin could "monitor" the controversial priest from Chicago. Bernardin, even according to the fawning interpretation rendered by Kennedy was functioning as a double agent. Again, Sherwood’s account seems the most plausible; Bernardin was using Greeley. Once Greeley found out about it, he was, to use Sherwood’s word, "pissed." It’s hard to feel much sympathy for someone as Machiavellian as Andrew Greeley, but one can at least understand how he could feel used, even if he in the process was using others to attain his own ends. It reminds one of the account Solzhenitsyn gave of Stalin’s reaction to Hitler invading Russia. Stalin was stunned. Hitler was the only person he ever trusted.
Kennedy, as one has come to expect, puts his own spin on the story of the break between Greeley and Bernardin. in describing the aftermath of the publication of "The Plot to Get Cody" in the Chicago Lawyer, Kennedy writes,
In one of the double agent roles that Sherwood relished, he was back in touch with the priest writer shortly after Greeley returned to the United States in the third week of October. Greeley, as Sherwood later related to John Conroy. had already embraced the Gannet investigator’s conspiracy theory. "After that," Sherwood said of the priest, "he got really pissed.... Greeley was being used, we were all being used. I was being used to get the Sun-Times on the story. Greeley was being used by Bernardin and the Vatican to get me or somebody else on the story to get the Sun-Times on the story."
The quote, of course, is the one already cited from Conroy’s Chicago Reader article. Kennedy, however, has shifted the time the incident occurred from August of 1980, which is the date Conroy and Sherwood give, to October of ’81, which was after the whole story had broken. Assuming that there is something more at work here than sloppy scholarship, why would Kennedy want to change the date when Greeley "embraced the Gannet investigator’s conspiracy theory"?
The change may have to do with Greeley’s first big selling novel, The Cardinal Sins, probably the most crucial document In the whole Bernardin! Greeley saga In his autobiography, Greeley says flatly, "in the summer of 19791 wrote The Cardinal Sins." In his account, Conroy writes that "Sherwood met Greeley In Tucson In late March 1980. At that time Greeley was either working on or finished with The Cardinal Sins The novel, however, wasn’t published until the Spring of 1981, which means that even If It had been written in ‘79, It could have been revised following Greeley’s disillusionment with Bernardin, which occurred, according to the Conroy scenario In August of 1980. According to the time frame in Conroy’s scenario, which Is more believable than Kennedy’s, Greeley could have changed the novel to suit his new found disillusionment with Bernardin; whereas according to the Kennedy scenario, this was not possible. The Kennedy version allows an exculpation of Bernardin In away that the Sherwood version does not. But exculpation from what?
The Cardinal Sins is a thinly-veiled roman a clef priest buddy novel about the lives of two priests. Kevin Brennan and Patrick Donahue grow up together, go to the seminary together and later become priests together in the same archdiocese. Kevin, unlike Father Greeley, studies psychology Instead of sociology, but after that the similarities begin to pile up. "I’m convinced," says the fictional Fr. Brennan soundings a lot like the priest who wrote the novel, "that in the years ahead a bishop will need trained social scientists on his staff." Father Brennan also finds success In the publishing world. In describing his first book, "a huge success," Fr. Brennan tells us:
"I’d found a new vocation that brought money, acclaim, a national audience, and animosity from my fellow clergy." "Clerical reviewers," Fr. Brennan writes, adopting the whiny tone one often finds In Fr. Greeley, "tore my books apart, mostly through personal attacks on me, though the secular reviewers though they were fine" (216). At another point in the novel, Fr. Brennan writes that "I wrote too many books, made too much money, was not part of the parish structure, and was known to be anathema to the cardinal."
The cardinal in question is Cardinal O’Neil. Like Cardinal Cody, O’Neil is the sixth archbishop of Chicago. The similarities, however, don’t end there. Like the stories that Greeley had been feeding to Sherwood and the reporters at the Sun-Times, Cardinal O’Neil has a woman friend. "Her name," one of the characters tells an incredulous Father Brennan,
...is Margaret Johnson. They’ve been together for twenty-five years. She’s been In every diocese where he’s been. Claims to be a cousin, but there’s no real blood relationship. He owns a real-estate business with her son. She’s got an apartment over on the drive. They talk on the phone very day He’s with her almost every night.
The fictional Margaret Johnson, who In addition to the above also had a home in Florida, has a lot in common with the real-life Helen Dolan Wilson, who was linked with Cody in the Sun-Times expose. According to Gene Mustain, the man who wrote the expose,
Helen Wilson spent a lot of time up here in Chicago and allegedly worked for the church, lived In Lake Point Tower; probably the most expensive apartment building In Chicago at the time. Had a lotta jewels, lotta furs, took a lot of European vacations, had fancy cars and kids In college, and lived quite well. Had a home In Boca Raton Florida, apartment In Chicago, apartment In Saint Louis. A woman who had never worked In any other job besides secretary to her church, for which she was never paid more than a few thousand dollars a year.
Andrew Greeley not only knew the information; he was the source of the Information, at least as far as Canton Sherwood was concerned, and he spent his time egging on both Sherwood and the Sun-Times by claiming that the one was going to get the scoop on the other. Carlton Sherwood claims "that Father Greeley would call periodically and tell him what the Sun-Times was doing: You’re gonna have to get movin,’ he’d say, ‘because they’ve got the Boca Raton stuff.’ Or ‘they got Mrs. Wilson down pat."’
In the end the allegations of sexual impropriety were never substantiated, and reporter Mustain of the Sun-Times expressed some regret that this angle of the story received the publicity that It did. But by the time Mustain was expressing regrets, Cody was dead, the grand jury had been called off, and the story was pretty much history.
Cardinal O’Neil, like Cardinal Cody, was also accused of financial malfeasance. In The Cardinal Sins, O’NeIl "lost four million dollars last year from the funds of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops" which prompted the IRS to Investigate. Greeley claimed that Cody had lost around the same amount of money by Investing in the Penn Central railroad just before it went bankrupt. According to Greeley’s fictional version of the Chicago archdiocese, the O’Neil/Cody character was vulnerable to blackmail because of his relationship with the Johnson/Wilson woman. "I’m sure," one priest tells Brennan, "there’s money being stolen right from under his eyes."
In order to save the diocese from financial malfeasance and staunch the flow of money into Mafia coffers, Father Brennan, not unlike Father Greeley, involves himself in a plot to topple the cardinal. He first goes to Archbishop Raffaelo Crespi, who in name at least resembles Archbishop Pio Laghi the current Pro Nuncio. His appearance differs, however. Crespi, unlike Laghi, is "a short fat man.... His squat figure, dark skin, and low forehead made me think of the stereotype of the Mob hit man." (In his autobiography Greeley accuses the press of anti-Italian bigotry in scrutinizing the finances of 1984 vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.) Needless to say, Crespi refuses to take Brennan’s allegations seriously. "Why," he wonders, "should I take a discredited priest like you seriously?" This causes Brennan to take his case higher up In the organization. He flies to Rome and meets with Archbishop Giovanni Benelli, who is described as "the chief of staff of Paul VI." Benelli reassuringly tells Greeley that "Crespi is a fool" and that they are aware of the situation In Chicago, including "the drunken driving arrest" involving O’Neil and his girlfriend. But in exasperation Benelli adds that nothing can be done because "His holiness was terribly hurt when Pius XII sent him to Milan. He is most reluctant to do the same thing to anyone else." But after Brennan blows up at him claiming that "millions of dollars are stolen, lives are ruined, and Chicago is turned into an ecclesiastical wasteland," Benelli relents and obligingly asks Father Brennan what he should do. "First of all," Brennan replies as If he has been waiting for the question all along, "appoint Bishop Donahue as visitator for finances."
So as a result of the convenient death of Cardinal O’Neil and Father Greeley’s (I mean Fr. Brennan’s) machinations, his friend Patrick Donahue Is appointed as seventh archbishop of Chicago, which Is coincidentally also the position that Cardinal Bernardin occupied In the history of the archdiocese as well. Patrick Donahue, we are told, "came to Chicago like a warm southwest wind at the end of a bitter winter." He was a "handsome, progressive, charming, democratic archbishop." At another point he tells one of the characters that "I’m a damn good archbishop... . One of the best In the country." And then Greeley goes on to inform us what he means by good: "You couldn’t find a more democratic, responsible, progressive diocese in the world."
The advent of Cardinal Donahue, however, does not mean smooth sailing for the king-maker and eminence grise, Father Brennan, who gets called down to the chancery office for a chat with the new archbishop. ‘What do you think of the new Chicago?" the liberal Cardinal Donahue wants to know. "Public accountability for funds, merit promotion, democratic decision-making, consultation with the laity, spiritual renewal. Can you name a better post-Vatican Council, diocese In the country’?" Brennan, however, is unimpressed. He, like Father Greeley, is working at a psychological research institute "Independent of the university." Like Father Greeley, Rather Brennan is the victim of anti-Catholic "bigotry" at the hands of the University of Chicago, and now he just wants to be left alone writing books and doing research where "I get grants larger than the archdiocese could imagine." Donahue, however, reacting to pressure, wants Brennan to quit writing and come and work for him. "You don’t give me much choice, Kevin. I’m going to have to order you to leave the research Institute and come on my staff. I will issue that order in the name of holy obedience."
In order to give orders like this, one has to deal from a position of strength, but it seems that the democratic cardinal has one important weakness. He, in the words of one of the novel’s characters, has "never been able to keep his pants zipped." At an-other point, the cardinal confesses, "I’m probably more of a homosexual than anything else" (288), and Father Brennan Is In the fortunate position of knowing the details and being ready to make use of them to maintain his position of financial and professional independence in the archdiocese. Father Brennan, In other words, threatens Bishop Donahue with blackmail.
"Kevin." "the seventh archbishop of Chicago sputters, "how dare you -"
"S--t, Pat," the Greeley character responds,
I dare anything." I finished the port and rose from my chair. "I don’t want anything from you. Just leave me and my work alone, that’s all. Don’t bother me and I won’t go after you. But try messing with me once more and your entire dossier will be on Benelli’s desk quicker than you can say ’red hat."’
"Dossier?" he said.
"Every single love affair of yours, from Stanley Kokoleck and the waitress in Mundelein on down. All in elaborate detail."
The cardinal is, of course, completely unmanned by the threat of blackmail, for even if the dossier is nonexistent, the actions Brennan describes are not.
"You wouldn’t, you couldn’t," Donahue mutters, "now a hollow shell." But Fr. Brennan would and could and leaves the office with the threat still open:
‘You better be the best damn archbishop in this country," he tells Donahue, "even after this public relations honeymoon of yours is over. If you start blowing things, I’ll send my dossier on to the authorities just for the pure hell of it."
So at the heart of The Cardinal Sins one finds not so much the plot against Cody although that is certainly there, but rather the blackmail threat against Cody’s successor. As of 1980 when The Cardinal Sins was being written or at least being readied for publication, Andrew Greeley had a lot in common with Kevin Brennan. Up until he received the call from Carlton Sherwood in August of that year, he could consider himself king-maker in Chicago. Cody was on his way out; the investigation that was going to ruin him was underway. Bernardin was on his way in, and Bernardin had been playing along with Greeley for years now, feeding him inside information as "Deep Purple." But one phone call destroyed all that. After talking to Sherwood, it was clear that Greeley was being used by Bernardin and Jadot. For all Greeley knew Bernardin might have been working for the Vatican too, although there is no evidence to support that thesis, which meant that as soon as he got to Chicago, the double agent Bernardin would turn on Greeley and be the Vatican’s instrument in silencing him.
The threat to Greeley was real enough. Rome wanted him disciplined. Silvio Cardinal Oddi, prefect of the clergy at the time, in fact asked Bernardin, once he became archbishop of Chicago, to do something about Greeley, but nothing happened. From Greeley’s point of view, the simplest way to deal with this impending threat was to make a counter-threat of the sort that got floated in The Cardinal Sins. Since it was a work of fiction, it could be passed off as one more of Greeley’s fantasies, the excuse he gave much less plausibly as the justification for the tapes that Winters discovered at Rosary College. However, as we have already shown, The Cardinal Sins is a very transparent work of fiction. One needn’t be a genius or a literary critic to draw the connections between Greeley’s fictions and real life. In fact, in subsequent works Greeley has encouraged this sort of speculation. In the paperback edition of his autobiography, he says at one point that "Kevin Brennan speaks for me in The Cardinal Sins" when he defends celibacy. "My sister Mary Jule Durkin," he writes at another point in the same book, "claims that lam Kevin Brennan in The Cardinal SIns 20 percent of the time, and I would like to have been Kevin 40 percent of the time." In the hardbound edition of the same book, Greeley describes a conversation he had with Cardinal Bernardin:
When he was still archbishop of Cincinnati, Joseph Bernardin asked me apropos of The Cardinal Sins, first of all, whether Patrick Donahue was based on him. I assured the archbishop he was not the model for Patrick, unless he had been a lot busier than I thought he had.
The passage is not unlike the one we have already quoted in which Greeley claims that "perverse sexuality" will be to the Bernardin Archdiocese what financial corruption was to the Cody Archdiocese. "I hasten to add," Greeley then hastens to add in the former passage, "that I do no question the Cardinal’s own sexual orientation. (Some who do not know him but are aware of the prevalence of it in Chicago do have their doubts.)" Both passages with their qualifying clauses "unless..." "Some who do. . ."are masterpieces of innuendo. Both insinuate the very suspicion they purport to deny.
Even Eugene Kennedy’s rabidly pro-Bernardin biography does little to dispel the uneasy feeling around the blackmail at the heart of The Cardinal Sins. Kennedy cites a "pre-football game president’s luncheon at Notre Dame" during which Father Hesburgh takes a break from talking with Norman Mailer in order to address one priest’s concern that "in Greeley’s novel, The Cardinal Sins, the real villain was not the character loosely based on Cody but rather the sibling figure, the man who in the book became archbishop of Chicago despite his polymorphous perverse sexual activity." In other words, Joe Bernardin, although Kennedy can’t bring himself to mention the name. "Perhaps," the unnamed priest continues, "Father Greeley’s target was Bernardin, the sibling figure - they’re the same age and Joe is scheduled for the job Andy has always wanted -maybe he unconsciously wanted to prevent that all along." Hesburgh, in true presidential fashion, "shook his head grimly" and pronounced Greeley "a loose cannon." "I don’t think anybody takes him seriously," Hesburgh opines.
Kennedy then goes on to lend credence to the belief that Greeley was in fact threatening Bernardin because Bernardin was in fact threatening him.
Twice invoking other Chicagoans as intermediaries, Greeley sent peculiar messages to Bemardin, half threatening him, half denouncing him as only marginally better than Cody." Bernardin could only save himself, he intimated, through cooperating with Sherwood who had the goods on the archbishop from the interview in the summer of 1980. Cooperate, Greeley suggested, and Sherwood would give him what the priest called "source protection" Otherwise, the truth about the Cincinnati archbishop’s conspiracy to use the press would come out. "Don’t ever threaten me again," Greeley wrote in this message from mid-December....
The passage raises more questions than it answers. Did Bernardin in fact threaten Greeley, as the passage indicates? Then, why? What was the threat? Which mid-December are we talking about? If we’re talking about December of 1980, that was before The Cardinal Sins was published, which lends credence to the thesis that Greeley was making a counter-threat in his novel.
The net result of all of the charges and countercharges is that an uneasy truce has descended over the archdiocese of Chicago, broken only by the efforts to dispel the notion that there is any problem at all. Kennedy’s recent book is an example of this. By attempting to prove so strenuously from the outset that Bernardin was simply "an innocent bystander" in the whole affair, he does nothing more than raise our suspicions that the opposite is the case. Eugene Kennedy doth protest too much, and Cardinal Bernardin’s credibility is the chief loser in this exercise in sycophancy.
The result in Chicago is a stand-off. Greeley remains in ecclesiastical limbo. He is denied the recognition he craves; the archdiocese turns down his gifts, but by the same token Bernardin thwarts Rome’s attempts to exert discipline. Greeley gets to say mass and preach at the parish of his buddy Leo Mahon, but without an official assignment from the archdiocese. The scandal continues; Greeley gets to go on writing dirty novels. The situation is pretty much the state of schism as Gagnon described it in his letter to Dave Dillon. And that after all is pretty much the strategy described in Kennedy’s book, and pretty much the strategy that Bernardin has articulated for himself. On December 14, 1987, Bernardin, who was described by the New York Times as "a liberal bishop sometimes seen as being at odds with Cardinal O’Connor," defended the controversial bishops’ document "The Many Faces of AIDS," which permitted instruction in the use of condoms "if presented within the context of Roman Catholic teaching" on marriage. "I’m particularly pleased with the document," Bernardin said, "because in my opinion it brings together two crucial components: it is faithful to the Catholic doctrinal and moral tradition and it is sensitive to the human dimensions of the issue."
The quote is quintessential Bernardin. It epitomizes the man who has made a career out of serving two masters - the folks at home who want the Church to liberalize its views on sex and the folks at the Vatican who expect the bishops to hold the line on matters of doctrine and discipline. This is not to say the two camps are so easily delineated -there are, for example, plenty of people in Chicago who want the cardinal to hold the line just as much as the Vatican does - but for a man who defines himself as the great placator -though not in those terms, of course -the example will suffice.
Kennedy’s adulatory account of how Bernardin handled the Humanae Vitae crisis orchestrated by Fr. Charles Curran from his base in the theology department at Catholic University in 1968 describes the same strategy in slightly different terms. "Bernardin," Kennedy writes,
...aware of the explosive nature of the Washington situation, succeeded, within a day, of getting the telephonic approval of the body of American bishops for a restrained statement that underscored the authority of the pope while respecting the consciences of believers.
Conscience, as with dissenters in general, becomes a code word in Kennedy-ese for laxity in matters sexual. At one particularly hilarious point in his biography, Kennedy describes the short and unhappy ecclesiastical career of then auxiliary bishop of Minneapolis - St. Paul, James V Shannon. "The sensitive Shannon," Kennedy tells us, "chose the difficult path of conscience." To the uninitiated a word of explanation is necessary. What Kennedy means to say is that the bishop jumped ship and ran off with some woman after dissenting - for purely theoretical reasons, of course - from the Church’s teaching on birth control and sexuality in general as set forth in Humanae Vitae. According to Kennedy, of course, the Church was to blame because it met this "sensitive" fellow’s "misgivings about the birth control issue" with a "medieval response that doomed his ecclesiastical future." Why does Kennedy give such a skewed and defensive rendering of what became - among priests if not bishops - an all too common response to the Zeitgeist of the ‘60s? Well, it turns out that Kennedy "chose the difficult path of conscience" as well. Kennedy was formerly a Maryknoll priest who jumped ship to marry a former Maryknoll nun.
"Bernardin," Kennedy continues describing his handling of the crisis, "was deeply concerned about the maintenance of the pope’s teaching authority. He would do everything he could to support it but he was keenly aware that forcing public confrontations on an issue as sensitive as birth control might diminish rather than enhance that authority." As a result Bernardin decided to find "some sensible compromise" which would "respect both papal authority and the integrity of dissenting priests and scholars." According to Kennedy, Bernardin is the author of what one might call the American solution to the clamoring for sexual revolution within the Church. Bernardin, the great placator and consensus builder, created the ideal solution according to which both sides got what they wanted - sort of. The Vatican would have the consolation of one orthodox pronouncement after another coming from the American bishops. The dissenters on the other hand would know that nothing would ever be done to stop them in their dissent. Or as Kennedy puts it,
The American bishops repeatedly pledged their loyalty to the pope but dealt with birth control, as they do to this day, as a pastoral rather than a disciplinary matter. The issue gradually moved away from being a test of public authority in the church to being the proper concern of the theologically informed individual.
Well, as the subsequent history of Father Curran showed, things didn’t quite work out that way, and it’s not hard to understand why. The path of tacit acceptance was an option that had to more with the expedience of certain American bishops, put in uncomfortable positions but who liked even less the discomfort of taking a clear stand, than with the demands of the Vatican or the feelings of Father Curran for that matter. Just before he was stripped of his credentials as a Catholic theologian, Curran was claiming that almost 20 years of uneasy silence and inaction in his case on the part of the American bishops was tantamount to tacit approval on their part of his theological positions.
The Bernardin position, as sketched out by Kennedy, namely, loyalty to the pope but dealing with birth control as a "pastoral matter," can be seen as either astute or duplicitous depending on your point of view. But no matter which point of view one represents there is always a residual ambiguity associated with the position. Take the question of schism, for example, the issue raised by Cardinal Gagnon. Is the Bernardin solution a way a avoiding schism, as Kennedy seems to indicate in his book, or is it an especially clever way of perpetrating it? On more than one occasion Cardinal Gagnon has criticized American bishops who come to the Vatican and tell the pope not to do anything lest the Church in this country rebel. Is that the strategy of weak people who want to avoid schism or clever people who want to perpetrate it? Each time one tries to answer the question, one is confronted with a radical and impenetrable ambiguity. "Archbishop Bernardin," said Father Carl Modell, someone who worked with him in Cincinnati, "would do what Rome wanted and would never say no directly." Whatever the motivation behind it, the strategy is especially suitable to someone who feels inclined to play the double agent.
So, for example, to give one more example of this sort of strategy in action, there was the long and laborious consultation on the laity in preparation for the synod of 1987. The culmination of the interminable information gathering sessions was a secret meeting at St. Mary’s College outside South Bend where the bishops discussed their strategy. Cardinal Bernardin urged caution in urging for women’s ordination. So the group instead agreed to ask for altar girls. "We can say whatever we want," Bernardin said, according to the account of one participant, "but then there are the consequences: look what happened to John Quinn in 1980." Quinn at the synod on the family had asked for a change in the Church’s teaching on birth control and then in the face of the uproar his request created said that that wasn’t really what he meant at all. Bernardin argued for the acceptance of altar girls in his language group at the synod, but when it became clear that the issue wasn’t going to pass, quietly withdrew, leaving the less agile, people like Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, holding the bag (See "The Synod on the Laity Just Says NO to Altar Girls," Fidelity, December 1987, p. 32ff.).
The handling of the altar girl situation in Chicago was similar. The ambiguity persists. Bernardin stated that the Church prohibited the use of altar girls, but the number of parishes using them increased from four to over a hundred under his administration. It was clear that the pastors who initiated the practice could do so with impunity. Was this a way of forestalling a break with the Church over an issue of minor significance? Or was it a sign that Church discipline had broken down and the Church in Chicago was pretty much on its own. Was it a shrewd tactical move to avoid schism or was it a sign that the schism had already taken place?
The same questions surround Bernardin’s handling of the Call to Action conference in ‘76. The conference, which was sponsored by the catholic bishops as part of the country’s bicentennial celebration, was organized while Bernardin was president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. It purported to be a broad-based consultation, "the first time lay persons of all types sat down with scholars, bishops, and theologians to plan for the U.S. Church’s future." The results of this "broad-based" consultation were similar to the consultation on the laity and on the pastoral on women. The broad base got cut off by those in charge of the microphones and those who summarized the resolutions of the committees. The results were predictable. Only those with an axe to grind against the Church got heard. As a result, the "21 month consultative process" decided that the Church wanted "ordination of women, married priests, remarried divorced Catholics spared excommunication, determination of conscience in birth control, a national arbitration board to control the bishops, [and] civil rights for gays." The broad base sounded pretty thin by the time the resolutions got formulated.
When it became clear that this was the sort of resolution that was going to be approved by the conference, Bernardin issued a statement criticizing the process, claiming that "special interest groups seemed to play a disproportionate role," and that the domination of these groups resulted in "a process and a number of recommendations which were not representative of the Church In this country and which paid too little attention to other legitimate interests and concerns." To many this sounded like a repudiation of the conference. Then a few days later in response to questions from reporters, Bernardin Issued a statement to NC News service saying that he "did not repudiate the conference." The liberal National Catholic Reporter found his handling of the Call to Action dismaying, claiming that "Bernardin’s critics accused him of ‘foot dragging,"’ citing "Bernardin’s statements after the conference which many interpreted as criticism to blunt Detroit’s impact" and "his selection of the task force, acknowledged as scarcely in sympathy with ‘Call to Action."’ The task force Included figures like Cardinal Carberry of St. Louis and Cardinal Krol of Philadelphia, who left the Call to Action meeting before it was over, claiming that it had been take over by "rebels."
Thirteen years after the conference, Kennedy quotes Bernardin assaying, "I had to try to bring the whole thing together by avoiding selling out the Call to Action while making its work satisfactory to the Holy See." "Bernardin," Kennedy concludes describing the disappointing denouement to the Call to Action Affair,
succeeded, not without incurring criticism for himself and generalizing enormous and, in some cases, lasting disappointment in the hearts of some delegates, in defusing the gathering so that both the bishops and Rome could live with It. This was a classic example of Bernardin’s acting in what he considered "the best interests of the church."
Virtually everyone would agree with Kennedy on one point at least: the gesture was "classic" Bernardin. As such, the enigma remains. The ambiguity surrounding both the act and the man remains in its most irreducible form. Whether things remain forever in this present state is something that no one can say for sure right now. By the time this report reaches the press, Bernardin will have given his deposition in the Dillon child abuse case. Whether that turns up any information which will resolve the enigma remains to be seen.
At the end of The Cardinal Sins a dejected Kevin Brennan gives the following description of the now Cardinal Patrick Donahue:
He’s a papier-mâché man, Sister, a walking inkblot. You saw him at the Call to Action meeting In Detroit. He repeated every liberal cliche in the books. Then he went to the bishops’ meeting, helped to torpedo the recommendations of the conference, and got a red hat for a reward.
Three pages later, Cardinal Donahue wonders to the woman he has just had sex with, "How can it be good between us’? I’ve got to live every minute knowing that Kevin can wipe out my career with a flick of his finger." +
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