Monday, July 23, 2018

Where Fr. Phillips is Going; What Fr. Phillips Created

Where Fr. Phillips is going

As we reported a few days ago, Fr. Frank Phillips, founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius and pastor of the church for thirty years, will be moving to St. Louis on the orders of Fr. Gene Szarek, the provincial superior of the Congregation of the Resurrection, with which Fr. Phillips was originally ordained.

Fr. Szarek is an accomplished letter signer.

The Resurrectionists are an international order with headquarters in Rome. Here in the American Midwest they have a seminary in St. Louis and a substantial presence in Chicago.

Indeed, on the Ministries page of their website they list St. John Cantius as one of their parishes.

They should take that down.

How do the Resurrectionists present themselves? Here is their Mission page:


Liberation of society, solidarity, unjust structures.

The paschal dynamic.

I've heard that people spoke that way once.

But I have no reason to doubt the Congregation contains some good priests.

Fr. Phillips is one of them.

By contrast, here is the Home page of the newly redesigned website of the Canons Regular:


And here is the first part of their mission statement:
The members of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius seek personal sanctity by imitating Christ in radical opposition to the values of this world. They wish to “Restore the Sacred” in the Church, in the world and in their own lives in pursuit not only of their own sanctification, but also the salvation and sanctification of all.
Radical opposition to the values of this world.

If that's not cutting-edge, nothing is.

Fr. Phillips is about to begin temporary residence in a place that is a sort of stale relic of an earlier century after being at the center of "where the action is" for thirty years.

And it was that center because he made it so. He created all of it, with the help and grace of God.

This is another reason why Fr. Phillips' "exile" fills me with sympathy and sadness.

What did Fr. Szarek create?

As you can see, the "Where Fr. Phillips is Going" images, below, are the three featured photographs on the "Mission" page of the Resurrectionists.

The "What Fr. Phillips created" images are taken from the substantial Flicker album at the new Canons site.

Are the following comparisons fair?

Of course not. Cantius has better photographers.

Where Fr. Phillips is Going:


What Fr. Phillips Created:




Where Fr. Phillips is Going:



What Fr. Phillips Created:







Where Fr. Phillips is Going:



What Fr. Phillips Created:





Friday, July 20, 2018

Fr. Phillips to Live at Resurrectionist Facility in St. Louis

Fr. Frank Phillips
On March 17 of this year it was announced that Fr. Frank Phillips, pastor of St. John Cantius in Chicago and founder and superior of the associated order, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, had been removed from public ministry (and thus from his positions as pastor and superior) by Cardinal Blase Cupich, allegedly based on "credible accusations of improper conduct involving adult males." (The more precise nature of these charges as well as the identities of the accusers has never been officially stated or released.) On June 23, after an investigation by the Congregation of the Resurrection ("Resurrectionists") - where Fr. Phillips was ordained and with whom he was also still a member - the archdiocese of Chicago declined to reinstate Fr. Phillips and confirmed that his faculties for ministry would remain withdrawn. Though neither the investigation report itself nor any other details were publicly released, it is known that part of the recent decision was made against the recommendation of Resurrectionist Provincial Fr. Gene Szarek, based on the report and the results of the investigation. The contents of the report were said to have "exonerated" Fr. Phillips.

At the request of his superior, Fr. Szarek, Fr. Phillips has now relocated to St. Louis where he will presumably be living in a Resurrectionist facility. Today, Protect our Priests, the independent St. John Cantius parishioners group, published this letter from Fr. Phillips:


July 18, 2018

Dear Protect Our Priests:

From the founding of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, I have instructed the men how to live the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. One of those vows, obedience, may especially challenge Religious because it is difficult to submit your will to a superior.

As you know, the Canons are requested not to have contact with me, which is difficult for them and for me as their Founder. Also, I have been asked by my superior to relocate to St. Louis. I am requested to do this not under formal obedience but willingly in the virtue of obedience. Is this difficult? Yes, it is.

The great saints were always obedient to their superiors, and their examples help to sustain me now. We need only look to St. Padre Pio to see the extent of his lived obedience. If I could not or would not listen to my superior, how could I then expect the Canons, as their Founder, to be obedient to their superior?

What does the future hold for me? I am not certain. What does the future hold for the Canons? Time will tell. I feel confident that they will be blessed with vocations for their dedication to the restoration of the sacred in obedience.

I thank everyone who has supported the Protect Our Priests initiative with prayers, sacrifices, Masses, and contributions. May St. John Cantius, our heavenly patron, extend his blessing to all of you. Please keep the Canons and me in your prayers as well as all priests who find themselves in similar situations.

Rev. C. Frank Phillips, CR

Some Cantius parishioners initially interpreted the letter negatively in the sense that it makes it seem as if Fr. Phillips is "giving up."

I don't share this view.

Disobeying a superior concerning a request that is not obviously immoral or illicit would arguably make one a rogue priest. And that is decidedly not what Fr. Phillips had in mind when he wrote in his earlier letter: "I am free to continue in my calling to serve God in all other geographical locations on the planet."

Fr. Phillips is not Fr. Pfleger.   

Also, Fr. Phillips has to live somewhere, and staying with the Resurrectionists at this time is perfectly logical. If Fr. Szarek had not betrayed his old friend (to speak frankly about his role in this), it is reasonable to assume that Fr. Phillips might also have been invited to St. Louis, though obviously in a happier atmosphere.

Any communication from Fr. Phillips would naturally raise the spirits of parishioners. But I think it fair to say that the current mood is mixed. 

Virtually all believe Fr. Phillips to be innocent. Emotions now include praise for Fr. Phillips and his "obedience" as well as anger against the accusers (whose identities are now known to many) and the archdiocese. Many want a fight. Some advise caution. But I think almost all are, to use a word I heard a number of times in just the last hour, heartsick.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Funny and Touching Video of Young British Boy: "I Want Donald Trump to Come!"


While the haters here spew venom about military coups and impeachment, and the haters there launch silly balloons and hold slow-motion dance-in protests, one little boy has different ideas.

He just wants to meet Donald Trump.



H/t Bare Naked Islam from the Daily Mail.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

1775: "New England militia men screamed, 'No king, no pope' as they charged into British lines."

Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill by John Trumbull

For the record, I do not believe that the U.S. Constitution is an evil or anti-Catholic document, nor do I think that, say, swearing an oath to uphold it, and doing so, is wrong from a Catholic point of view.

And for this Catholic, I think Independence Day is worth celebrating, not just commemorating but celebrating.

For a contrary take on the constitution, see Justice Scalia: A man of “true faith and allegiance” by Louie Verrecchio. I have great respect for Verrecchio and his arguments, but I think he is wrong on this one.

I won't defend my own view, here. But I will say that it's not based on the documents of Vatican II or any similar nonsense. And I wouldn't call myself an "Americanist" Catholic, at least as I understand the definition.

In any case, there's absolutely no question that for faithful Catholics, wherever they come down on the "rightness" of the American Revolution or the founding era in general, the history of the Revolution and Catholicism is unquestionably mixed, to put it mildly.

Which in some ways is curious. After all, we were fighting the British, who had a bloody record of persecuting Catholics and attempting to destroy the Catholic Church in England.

Queen Elizabeth was a monster.

Two years ago, for Independence Day, Hillsdale College professor Bradley Birzer wrote a fascinating piece on 10 Things You Should Know about Catholics and the American Founding. Getting the history right on the founding is not anti-American, nor even anti-founding. But getting the history right, for anything, of course, is always important and often fascinating:
1. With the exception of Maryland—but only for a bit—each of the English colonies along the North American coastline despised and feared Roman Catholics as well as Catholicism. For most English Protestants, whether Reformed and Presbyterian or low-Church Anglican, Catholicism represented the corruption of the Christian faith. Catholics, far from being the brethren of Protestants, were the worst enemies—far worse than pagans or even Muslims. Why? Because Catholics, in the eyes of those Protestants, should have known better; that is, they should have seen the errors of their Catholic ways. In many respects, it was a case of nearness creating division. In New England, beginning in the 1640s, no citizen could enter a church on a Sunday morning without bearing both a bible and a firearm. When service ended, the men of the congregation secured the area before allowing women and children to leave the church, just in case Catholics might be out raiding that day. Even as late as the American Revolution, New England militia men screamed, “No king, no pope” as they charged into enemy lines.
2. Protestants, however, were rarely tolerant of even other Protestants; Calvinists, for example, often hated Baptists as much as they did Catholics. Far from the “land of the free” that our textbooks usually portray, colonies sought not religious freedom and liberty, but rather religious autonomy. That is, they wanted freedom to worship as they saw fit, but they certainly did not believe that other sects should have the same rights. In this, the first century and a half of American colonization (with only a very few exceptions) were defined by a whole variety of intolerances. Because the frontier was huge, however, such tolerances could be alleviated—at least as long as you were willing to move west, away from the respectable folks. From the 1600s through 1774, America was really a sea of intolerance with islands of tolerance. Your freedom was essentially the freedom to choose which intolerance you liked best.
3. Of the 13 original colonies, only Pennsylvania and Maryland offered anything that we might today recognize as religious toleration. Maryland, for an almost 30-year-long period prior to 1689, might very well have been the most tolerant place in the world when it came to religion. To enforce its religious toleration, however, it traded its freedom of speech. Society protected the diversity of religious communities by forbidding 1) blasphemy against the Holy Trinity; 2) mocking of Mary or any of the saints; and 3) referring to any Christian sect by a derogatory name. When radicals seized the provincial government in 1689, however, they undid all laws of religious toleration, demanding that every resident of Maryland honor the Church of England as the established Church. The new government of 1689, which lasted until 1774, for all intents and purposes outlawed Roman Catholicism, double-taxing Catholics, forbidding the education of Catholic children, and actually permanently removing children in danger of being “raised in a Catholic fashion” from their birth parents.
Read the rest, here.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Fr. Phillips Case: What Will the Archdiocese do Now?

Fr. Frank Phillips, Cardinal Raymond Burke and Deacon Kevin Mann, SJC in Rome, 2013

On March 17 of this year it was announced that Fr. Frank Phillips, pastor of St. John Cantius in Chicago and founder and superior of the associated order, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, had been removed from public ministry (and thus from his positions as pastor and superior) by Cardinal Blase Cupich, allegedly based on "credible accusations of improper conduct involving adult males." (The more precise nature of these charges as well as the identities of the accusers has never been officially stated or released.) On June 23, after an investigation by the Congregation of the Resurrection ("Resurrectionists") - where Fr. Phillips was ordained and with whom he was also still a member - the archdiocese of Chicago declined to reinstate Fr. Phillips and confirmed that his faculties for ministry would remain withdrawn. Though neither the investigation report itself nor any other details were publicly released, it is known that part of the recent decision was made against the recommendation of Resurrectionist Provincial Fr. Gene Szarek, based on the report and the results of the investigation. The contents of the report were said to have "exonerated" Fr. Phillips.

Yesterday (June 29), Fr. Phillips released a statement professing his innocence in strong and unambiguous terms:
I assure you I have done nothing that would scandalize the faithful.
[T]he Review Board returned its finding of no criminal violation, civil violation, or canonical violation in my case.
The Review Board found me innocent of the accusations which I have vehemently denied.
Notably, his statement seemed to directly contradict one of the claims in a letter, signed by the provincial superior of the Resurrectionists Fr. Gene Szarek, released only a few hours before:
The reports that an Independent Review Board exonerated Fr. Phillips are without foundation.
Another contrast was also notable. In that same letter we read:
Father Phillips will receive support and care by the Congregation of the Resurrection.
A previous letter, signed by Fr. Szarek but written by or under the authority of Cardinal Cupich read:
[Fr. Phillips] will be receiving support and will reside at a Resurrectionist facility away from your parish.
This almost made it sound like Fr. Phillips would be living out the rest of his life as a quasi-prisoner or "well-cared for" patient, unable to communicate with the Canons and perhaps having only limited interaction with the outside world, much as he had lived for much of the past three months during the process surrounding the investigation.

But this is not really the picture we get from Fr. Phillips. He begins by deferentially citing the Resurrectionists:
I am returning to serve God in any capacity under the direction of the Provincial of the Congregation of the Resurrection to build up the Kingdom of God.
But then he goes on:
I am currently in Rome engaged in consultations with the Congregation of the Resurrection and other church leaders. I have heard there is a misunderstanding concerning my status. Currently, by decree of Cardinal Cupich my faculties are suspended only in the Archdiocese of Chicago. I am free to continue in my calling to serve God in all other geographical locations on the planet. Therefore, I will continue to say mass for you daily and petition for reconciliation with the Cardinal.
Engaged with consultations with other church leaders.

All other geographical locations on the planet.

Continue to petition for reconciliation with the Cardinal.

I do not know precisely what those things mean beyond the obvious implications of the claims themselves. But they do not sound like the words of a man about to meekly enter into enforced seclusion.

I should add that while Fr. Phillips obviously appears to have some enemies, he also, as an enormously successful and outgoing pastor and superior who worked very hard to cultivate good relationships with many on all "ideological" sides over thirty years, has many friends in the Church, in Chicago and outside, including, I assume, Rome.

As far as I know, the press release from Fr. Phillips did not technically contradict any statements from the Chicago archdiocese, unless we count the claim that the allegations were ever "credible" in the first place. This is for the simple reason that though the archdiocese has taken clear actions in this case, it has said very little, or at least very little of substance. Instead it has preferred to speak in vague terms - the original and so far only charge made against Fr. Phillips was "improper conduct involving adult men" - drop hints or make insinuations - "There are standards for behavior," "other information," "other factors", etc. - or use others - Fr. Szarek - to do its speaking for it.

One might be forgiven for suspecting that in an archdiocese long known for a scandalous level of homosexual behavior among priests and seminarians, someone might be banking on people assuming from the vagueness and ambiguity of things that Fr. Phillips was a homosexual (not in and of itself a violation of canon law, etc.). But they would surely also know that there is no credible evidence in the report or anywhere else, nor has there ever been in the previous thirty-years, to suggest that.

The most charitable explanation for the behavior of the archdiocese in all this is that it acted swiftly to avoid scandal amidst the scandal-of-the-month atmosphere within the current Church. Even so, it appears to have gone way too far in its almost frantic attempts to circumvent the usual standards of due process and transparency in order to ram through a pre-determined result. And it took something that arguably could have been resolved much more easily - a fair investigation leading to a dismissal of the not credible charges - and instead created something much bigger.

The faithful have been scandalized. But Fr. Phillips did not scandalize them.

The archdiocese did.

Leaving aside the motivations, personalities and politics of all concerned, the case was a botch.

Things are moving quite quickly now. Last night a secondary source told me that one of the accusers had already privately "recanted". This is unconfirmed. But that one or more might recant - or at least clarify their actions or charges in a way that would be favorable towards Fr. Phillips - in the near future would not surprise anyone with knowledge of the case. (Though I should add that given the nature of the evidence and the testimony given about all of the players, recantations, while welcome, would hardly be necessary, at least for Fr. Phillips.)

The credibility of the archdiocese is already quite low in this matter - consider the embarrassing contrast between its recent public statements and the actual text of the votum from the Resurrectionists, for example - and further developments will almost certainly not make it look any better.

No one would want to see a cover-up or white-wash involving a guilty man (as we unfortunately have witnessed so often in the contemporary Church). But neither would any one want to see (or think they see) a Cardinal destroying the reputation of an innocent man and damaging or destroying one of the most thriving and beloved parishes in Chicago out of (it might seem) sheer stubbornness or pettiness.

Cardinal Cupich would establish or re-establish much credibility with everyone by changing course now. A favorable solution to this, avoiding any additional embarrassment for the archdiocese, is still possible.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Fr. Phillips Press Release: "The Review Board found me innocent of the accusations which I have vehemently denied."


A few minutes ago, Fr. Frank Phillips, pastor of St. John Cantius for thirty years and founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, released this statement through the offices of his lawyer, Stephen Komie:



Press Release 
From Fr. Frank Phillips 
June 29, 2018 - Chicago 
I wish to express my thanks to Father Gene Szarek, Provincial Superior of the Congregation of the Resurrection, for providing an independent Review Board to examine the accusations against me. Thank you to the members of the Review Board who spent hours listening to the accusers as well as individuals who gave testimony of the facts and on behalf of my character. I assure you I have done nothing that would scandalize the faithful. 
My prayers were answered when the Review Board returned its finding of no criminal violation, civil violation, or canonical violation in my case. The Review Board found me innocent of the accusations which I have vehemently denied. I am returning to serve God in any capacity under the direction of the Provincial of the Congregation of the Resurrection to build up the Kingdom of God. 
I want to express my appreciation and gratitude to all those who called me, sent me letters, made phone calls, and spoke publicly in my defense. To all those who supported me, please rest assured that I remember you daily in my prayers and my heart has swelled with knowing that you stood by me in the difficult times I have just experienced. I will always stand by you. 
I am currently in Rome engaged in consultations with the Congregation of the Resurrection and other church leaders. I have heard there is a misunderstanding concerning my status. Currently, by decree of Cardinal Cupich my faculties are suspended only in the Archdiocese of Chicago. I am free to continue in my calling to serve God in all other geographical locations on the planet. Therefore, I will continue to say mass for you daily and petition for reconciliation with the Cardinal. 
Lastly, I want to express my appreciation, gratitude, and thanksgiving for my lawyer Stephen Komie who guided me through the process. As we walked together he provided counsel and advice which allowed me to stay the course, keep my head up, and seek my prayers for justice.

It was Cardinal Cupich (not Fr. Szarek) Who Wrote the Letter Condemning Fr. Phillips

Cardinal Cupich

On March 17 of this year it was announced that Fr. Frank Phillips, pastor of St. John Cantius in Chicago and founder and superior of the associated order, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, had been removed from public ministry (and thus from his positions as pastor and superior) by Cardinal Blase Cupich, allegedly based on "credible accusations of improper conduct involving adult males." (The more precise nature of these charges as well as the identities of the accusers has never been officially stated or released.) On June 23, after an investigation by the Congregation of the Resurrection ("Resurrectionists") - where Fr. Phillips was ordained and with whom he was also still a member - the archdiocese of Chicago declined to reinstate Fr. Phillips and confirmed that his faculties for ministry would remain withdrawn. Though neither the investigation report itself nor any other details were publicly released, it is known that part of the recent decision was made against the recommendation of Resurrectionist Provincial Fr. Gene Szarek, based on the report and the results of the investigation. The contents of the report were said to have "exonerated" Fr. Phillips. For recent posts on the story, see here, here, here and here.

A source inside the religious hierarchy has confirmed that it was Cardinal Cupich, and not Fr. Szarek, who wrote the recent letter to parishioners of St. John Cantius announcing that Fr. Phillips would not be allowed to return to public ministry. Mahound's Paradise has seen documentary evidence establishing the truth of this.

The letter, signed by Fr. Gene Szarek, the provincial superior of the Congregation of the Resurrection (the "Resurrectionists") and containing the Resurrectionist seal, appeared in the St. John Cantius Bulletin last weekend and can also be found on their website:



[Edit: As far as I can tell, the letter now seems to have been taken down from the site.]

The source was careful to use these words, "[the letter] was constructed in concert with Cardinal Cupich" but then added, "Other 'news' on the internet claiming [Fr. Szarek's] authority is 'fake news.'"

I think it's fair to say, at least in colloquial words: the Cardinal wrote the letter.

This will perhaps not come as a shock to many. But it's another confirmed example of the archdiocese's distinctive (to put it politely) modus operandi in the entire Fr. Phillips affair.

The reasons for the recent severe actions against Fr. Phillips - exactly what he was charged with or alleged to have done - have still not been revealed by the archdiocese. And there is no indication that it is currently inclined to ever do so.

Some have said that it is up to Fr. Phillips to set the record straight. It is reasonable to expect that he will try to do so. But it's a funny burden of proof.

Any general declaration of innocence will still arguably leave a cloud, while any specific statement may have an embarrassing effect - "I DIDN'T beat my wife" or "It's true that I may have beaten my dog but not my wife" - and could still be vulnerable to the charge of not referencing the sinister sounding "other information" hinted at by the archdiocese.

Or so the archdiocese obviously believes.

UPDATE (2:20 PM CST): A "follow-up" letter signed by Fr. Szarek has just been posted on the St. John Cantius website (it appears to be only in "thumb" format - I hope you can read it):
It's notable (and logical) that the letter does not deny the claim of the above post. But it does seem to deny the recent reports that Fr. Phillips had been "exonerated" by the review board. But "exonerated" or "not exonerated" from what? I will only suggest that, as has so often been the case in this matter, ambiguity is once again being well made use of. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

EXCLUSIVE: Text of the Votum on Fr. Phillips - Why is the Archdiocese Misrepresenting It?

How things used to be: Fr. Phillips and the late Cardinal George

On March 17 of this year it was announced that Fr. Frank Phillips, pastor of St. John Cantius in Chicago and founder and superior of the associated order, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, had been removed from public ministry (and thus from his positions as pastor and superior) by Cardinal Blase Cupich, allegedly based on "credible accusations of improper conduct involving adult males." (The more precise nature of these charges as well as the identities of the accusers has never been officially stated or released.) On June 23, after an investigation by the Congregation of the Resurrection ("Resurrectionists") - where Fr. Phillips was ordained and with whom he was also still a member - the archdiocese of Chicago declined to reinstate Fr. Phillips and confirmed that his faculties for ministry would remain withdrawn. Though neither the investigation report itself nor any other details were publicly released, it is known that part of the recent decision was made against the recommendation of Resurrectionist Provincial Fr. Gene Szarek, based on the report and the results of the investigation. The contents of the report were said to have "exonerated" Fr. Phillips.

What did Fr. Szarek of the Resurrectionists recommend? Did the investigation exonerate Fr. Phillips?

We have obtained a copy of the recommendation or votum (opinion) written by Fr. Szarek. It is dated May 21, and thus was, we assume, received by the archdiocese at that time. Those currently closely involved with the case within the archdiocese would presumably have access to it.

Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune printed comments on the matter by archdiocese spokeswoman Paula Waters:
Although Phillips was not found to have violated any church or secular law, archdiocese spokeswoman Paula Waters said there was other information that warranted his removal and a continued ban on his administering sacraments in public within the archdiocese. Waters declined to detail the findings against Phillips.
“There are standards for behavior,” Waters said. The review board “did not recommend that he be returned as the pastor of St. John Cantius. And so, based on their recommendation that he not return and on other factors, the cardinal decided that his faculties to minister would remain withdrawn.”
As we shall see, below, those comments were extremely misleading and arguably constituted outright falsehood. The archdiocese has all along appeared selectively unforthcoming about the entire matter. A blunt observer might be excused for concluding that it is now lying.

The text of the votum follows. Essentially it is the conclusion or recommendation of the superior of the Resurrectionists, and thus acts as the cover letter for the 22-page set of findings put together by the three-person review board based on witness testimony. Thus, I suppose "report" might be used to refer to either the findings themselves or the findings plus the votum. But keep in mind that the findings were written by the review board consisting of three laypeople - a judge, an attorney and a psychologist - while the votum was penned by the Resurrectionist Fr. Szarek himself.

The investigation was not a "trial" in the sense that some might imagine. Witness testimony was given over two, day-long sessions in April, but no video, audio or stenographic record was made. Rather, notes were taken of the testimonies and then later summarized in the findings.

But the findings were not merely a summary of the "raw data" of the witness testimony. While the review board would make no recommendation for action (that was left to Fr. Szarek), it would interpret the evidence as well as often pronouncing on the reliability of the testimony.

This post does not include the text of the findings.

Will the findings or complete report ever be made public, officially or otherwise? Probably not. Nor perhaps should it be. Among other things, witnesses were promised confidentiality. Some of the testimony of some witnesses (I'm not referring to that of Fr. Phillips or the accusers) was of a private nature that might prove harmful or embarrassing to those very witnesses if it were ever publicly disclosed. That might almost sound like some sort of quasi-frivolous justification for keeping crucial facts secret. I can tell you with full knowledge that it's not.

But I think a fair reading of the findings exonerates Fr. Phillips from the sort of sexual activity or wrongdoing, including homosexual relationships and homosexual advances or behavior, that people have imagined might constitute "inappropriate conduct." In addition, to put it more bluntly for these charged times, the findings do not establish or even indicate that Fr. Phillips is or might be homosexual.

However, the findings do show that Fr. Phillips arguably exhibited imprudence and/or bad judgment in a number of areas. What precisely that refers to will not be discussed in this post. I apologize for that.

As for the original charges made by the accusers, the findings were quite clear that they were not credible.

A recent press release from the independent parishioners group Protect our Priests, written by someone who had obviously read the report, made reference to the "mendacity, falsehoods, spitefulness and malevolent connivance" of the accusers. Without directly commenting on the character or motivations of the accusers in this post, I can say that this interpretation (at least for one or two of the three accusers) is not inconsistent with the findings. Though of course, the purpose of the votum was not to pronounce on that.

I want to here point out the inaccuracies contained in the recent statements by the archdiocese spokeswoman, Paula Waters:
The review board “did not recommend that he be returned as the pastor of St. John Cantius. And so, based on their recommendation that he not return and on other factors, the cardinal decided that his faculties to minister would remain withdrawn.”
Actually, the Review Board made no recommendation either way. It was not their role to do so.

But it did claim as part of the findings that the original accusations were not credible. Waters did not mention that.

Furthermore, if you read the Votum carefully, the recommendation of Fr. Szarek that Fr. Phillips not return was based only on "the Cardinal's own preference" (a misleading basis for the spokeswoman to independently justify the more recent decision of the Cardinal) and Fr. Phillips' age (68 - less than two years away from mandatory retirement as a pastor). No other reasons were used, though if the behavior implied in the first point of the votum (one presumes the bad judgment or prudential errors referred to, above) was thought to have been weighty enough, it presumably would have been cited. It was weighty enough to merit recommending a "psychological assessment" and "possible sensitivity treatment." 

Fr. Szarek recommended that Fr. Phillips be restored to full canonical faculties. Waters did not mention that.

Fr. Szarek recommended that Fr. Phillips remain as superior of the Canons Regular. Waters did not mention that.

One might argue that Ms. Waters had no obligation to mention those points, though, obviously, using only one part of the votum to support a decision that contradicted the recommendations of most of the votum is misleading spin of the highest level. Is this how the Archdiocese would publicly conduct itself?

I think it's reasonable to view the votum as in part an attempt at compromise. Fr. Szarek (one imagines) knew Cupich was determined not to allow Fr. Phillips to return as pastor. So he tried to salvage the best he could for Fr. Phillips, thinking the contents of the findings would support that.

Note again that the votum was written a month before the decision was made by the archdiocese. For weeks, the rumors among some Cantius parishioners were that Fr. Phillips would be "retired" in a benign or quasi-benign fashion. It is now clear where those rumors originated. I imagine that the much more severe final decision of the archdiocese was a rude surprise to Fr. Szarek, just as it was a rude surprise to many parishioners.

One assumes that Cardinal Cupich also required Fr. Szarek to write or at least sign his name to the terse note enclosed in last weekend's bulletin, the final execution notice, if you will, for his fellow Resurrectionist.

How merciful.

Here is the full text of the votum:
Congregation of the Resurrection
Gene Szarek, C.R., Ph.D. Provincial Superior USA Province
VOTUM
OF THE PROVINCIAL SUPERIOR IN THE MATTER OF FATHER FRANK PHILLIPS, C.R.
21 May 2018
In response to the findings of the Independent Review Board (which follow), I propose the following resolution:
1) IMMEDIATE ASSESSMENT: Because of a certain amount of ambiguity between the allegations of the accusers and the testimony of witnesses, including Fr. Phillips himself, I will be instructing Fr. Phillips to undertake a psychological assessment and possible sensitivity training in the very near future.
2) PASTORATE: Because of his age (68) and out of respect for the Cardinal's own preference, I judge that Fr. Phillips should not return to the parish as its pastor.
3) CANONICAL FACULTIES: Because no civil or ecclesiastical crime has been established. It's seems fair and just to restore the canonical faculties of Fr. Phillips. His accusers, when asked what should happen to Fr. Phillips as a result of their accusation, thought that his removal from the parish was all that they desired (see report, in various places).
4) SUPERIOR GENERALSHIP: This is a sensitive issue. As Founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, the ideal would be his restoration as their superior general. Because the Canons are ordained for the Archdiocese of Chicago and because all major superiors of men merely recommend or nominate priests for appointments, which are made only by the authority of the Archbishop, there is no fear that Fr. Phillips could possibly interfere in some way with the decisions of the Archbishop. The historical reality of his being the Founder and his ongoing provision of spiritual leadership would be salutary for all. He would obviously not reside at the parish (see #2, above), but at some place determined by his Resurrectionist major superior. If the above recommendation is unfeasible, then at least he and the Canons should not be prevented from communication.

Monday, June 25, 2018

EXCLUSIVE: Text of Fr. Phillips Canon Law Letter to Cupich

Cardinal Blase Cupich and Pastor Frank Phillips in the basement cantina of St. John Cantius

On March 17 of this year it was announced that Fr. Frank Phillips, pastor of St. John Cantius in Chicago and founder and superior of the associated order, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, had been removed from public ministry (and thus from his positions as pastor and superior) by Cardinal Blase Cupich, allegedly based on "credible accusations of improper conduct involving adult males." (The more precise nature of these charges as well as the identities of the accusers has never been officially stated or released.) On June 23, after an investigation by the Congregation of the Resurrection ("Resurrectionists") - where Fr. Phillips was ordained and with whom he was also still a member - the archdiocese of Chicago declined to reinstate Fr. Phillips and confirmed that his faculties for ministry would remain withdrawn. Though neither the investigation report itself nor any other details were publicly released, it is known that part of the recent decision was made against the recommendation of Resurrectionist Provincial Fr. Gene Szarek, based on the report and the results of the investigation. The contents of the report were said to have "exonerated" Fr. Phillips.

While attention has understandably been focused on the recent decision of the Archdiocese and the report of the Resurrectionists, it is now clear that another aspect of the case was and presumably still is unfolding behind the scenes.

Fr. Phillips has been pursuing the case through canon law.   

Mahound's Paradise has obtained a letter written by canon lawyer Alan R. Kershaw to Cardinal Blase Cupich on behalf of Fr. Phillips. The letter is dated April 29th, six weeks after the initial decision by Cupich to remove him from public ministry, but six weeks before the recent additional determination by the Archdiocese. I do not know the current status of the issue or the case.

Nor do I know whether Cupich ever sent a "reply," as asked, or if he did, what it may have contained. But we do know that Cupich must have recently acted in spite of it.

Not only does the following letter invoke some expected "legalese", as most legal communications do, but it also features the use of Latin words and phrases, as many legal matters and most canon law matters do. We haven't translated any of them in the following text, but I think the meaning of most of them is clear in context, especially combined with the rough understanding of Latin roots and English etymology that many of us non-Latin speakers have. Obviously, readers are encouraged to also use Google Translate or similar resources for additional understanding.

To speak in layman's terms, Fr. Phillips' legal counsel argued that based upon the procedural actions and statements of the Archdiocese in March, the initial actions of Cardinal Cupich to remove Fr. Phillips from public ministry were unfair and unjust, or, more to the point, invalid under canon law. Fr. Phillips was prematurely judged guilty, harshly disciplined and publicly humiliated without, at that point, sufficient procedure or cause. Indeed, these actions were undertaken before the commencement of the formal investigation by the Resurrectionists. Because he was already guilty, testimony by any of the priests and brothers of the Canons - many of whom would presumably be in a good position to know about the existence or absence of "improper conduct" on the part of Fr. Phillips - was ruled out in the investigation into whether or not he was guilty.

Of course it sounds unjust. It also frankly sounds bizarre.

If there had been an effort on the part of the Archdiocese to "get" Fr. Phillips (something that no one, arguably, has any certain or direct evidence for), one would imagine that the effort would have been more intelligently managed.
Canon 193, §1, CJC clearly establishes: “A person cannot be removed from an office conferred for an indefinite period of time except for grave causes and according to the manner of proceeding defined by law”. 
Where is the “grave cause”? And, why was the requisite “manner of proceeding defined by law” set aside, and not followed as prescribed by the Codex? 
Primo ictu oculi your decree, the singular administrative act dated March 12, 2018, is ipso jure null and void under canon law.
Cardinal Cupich was asked to reverse his actions: 
In light of the arguments heretofore articulated sive in jure sive in facto, on behalf of Fr. Phillips and in defense of his person and interests, You are hereby respectfully petitioned to revoke your March 12th decree in its entirety and, to said effect, restore Fr. Phillips’ status quo ante as Pastor of St. John Cantius and Superior of the Canons Regular SJC.
But he was also put on notice that if he did not do so, further recourse would be taken:
However, should Your Eminence not deem the above arguments to carry sufficient weight for the reasonable and justifiable revocation of your March 12th decree, then by these presents Fr. Phillips makes formal hierarchical administrative recourse against your decree of March 12, 2018.
Obviously one assumes the canon law case is now being pursued, possibly in Rome, irrespective of Cupich's recent decision to make permanent his initial actions. But given that the recent decision by Cupich itself appears manifestly suspect, in view of the actual results of the investigation by the Resurrectionists, one also imagines that it cannot but help Fr. Phillips in this separate case. That Cupich exhibited "precipitous judgment" and perhaps even an "animus" against Fr. Phillips three months ago can only acquire additional plausibility against this new background.            
LAW OFFICES 
Alan R. Kershaw, Ph.B., J.U.D., J.D.

Advocate of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota Practicing in the Supreme Court of Cassation
Rome, 29th April 2018 
H.E . Blase J. Card. Cupich Archbishop of Chicago 835 North Rush Street Chicago, IL 60611-2030 U.S.A. 
Re: Rev. C. Frank Phillips, C.R. 
Your Eminence, 
Greetings in the Risen Christ! 
I have been retained by Fr. C. Frank Phillips, C.R., to defend him in the canonical forum. Attached herewith is a copy of the mandate of appointment. Should you require an original of the mandate, kindly let me know and I will have one delivered to your offices. 
Fr. Phillips has instructed me to contact you with regard to his current status in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and as the Founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius. 
Before proceeding, indubitably it is salutary to recall certain recent, salient, and undisputable events. 
  • February 26, 2018 Fr. C. Frank Phillips was called by Fr. Dennis Lyle and Fr. Jeremy Thomas of the Priest Vicar Board, informing him that accusations of improper conduct had been made against him.
  • The afternoon of March 2nd Fr. Phillips, accompanied by his civil lawyer, met at the Chancery with Fr. Dennis Lyle, Fr. Jeremy Thomas, and Sr. Joan McGlinchey. Also present was Fr. Gene Szarek, C.R., in his capacity as Provincial General of the Congregation of the Resurrection. Fr. Phillips did not respond to the allegations, nor, as you know, was he legally obliged to.
  • Ten days later, on March 12th You announced your decision “to remove the faculties of Reverend C. Frank Phillips, C.R., which means he can no longer remain as the pastor of St. John Cantius and the superior of the Canons Regular”.
  • On March 16th you wrote to the “Parishioners, Staff and Friends of Saint John Cantius Parish”, informing them: “that I have had to withdraw Reverend C. Frank Phillips’ faculties to minister in the Archdiocese of Chicago”, and that you “took this step after learning of credible allegations of improper conduct involving adult men”.
  • The news of Fr. Phillips’ removal was soon in the local, State, national and international media: “In a statement to parishioners, Cardinal Blase Cupich explained that he had made the decision to « withdraw » Phillips after learning « of credible allegations of improper conduct involving adult men ». Anne Maselli, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said in an email that the allegations do not involve minors.” (Chicago Tribune, March 19, 2018; amongst others see also: Newsweek, March 19, 2018; Crux, March 20, 2018).
  • Within the time limits foreseen by canon law, on March 26th Fr. Phillips formally petitioned you to “either revoke or emend your decree” (can. 1734), and to “engage in a process of mediation which can resolve this issue without further canonical action” (can. 1733, §1).
  • The Saturday following Easter you met with the members of the Canons Regular, and during the course of the meeting, with reference to Fr. Phillips, you reportedly expressed to those present that the investigation of the diocese indicates that he is guilty. It is also my understanding, that you strongly recommended to the members of the Canons Regular to not give witness testimony before the Review Board.
  • On the 10th and 12th days of April the “Review Board”, or investigative panel constituted by the Superior of the Congregation of the Resurrection, Rev. Fr. Gene Szarek, interviewed Fr. Phillips’ detractors, and other persons, including Fr. Phillips, who was accompanied by his civil lawyer. Not surprisingly, Fr. Phillips denied the allegations, just as all innocent people refuse to confess to illicit actions they did not commit. To date, the Panel’s final report has not been presented, but it is forthcoming.
* * * * * 
As Your Eminence knows, canon 1717 CJC recites: “§1. Whenever an ordinary has knowledge, which at least seems true, of a delict, he is carefully to inquire personally or through another suitable person about the facts, circumstances, and imputability, unless such an inquiry seems entirely superfluous. §2. Care must be taken so that the good name of anyone is not endangered from this investigation.” 
In your letter/decree of March 12, 2018 to Fr. Gene Szarek, C.R., you generically signify: “Considering the complaints of inappropriate conduct recently brought against the Reverend C. Frank Phillips, CR […] I hereby withdraw all of his faculties to engage in any ecclesiastical ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and remove him of pastor of St. John Cantius Church”; therefore: “I will appoint a parish administrator until the matter currently under investigation is resolved”, and, “I will appoint someone to serve as superior of the Canons Regular on an interim basis”. 
Furthermore, you express the presumption “that an investigation will be undertaken by your office into the allegations made against Fr. Phillips and the exact nature of his conduct. I ask that you keep me apprised of your progress and the ultimate outcome of your inquiries”, and close with your “prayer for a swift resolution to this matter”. 
Also worthy of note is your appointment of Reverend Scott Thelander, SJC, also done on March 12th, “as administrator of St. John Cantius Parish and Superior ad interim”, and you convey your assurances “to visit with the Canons Regular as soon as I can to ask your suggestions and recommendations for moving forward with a permanent arrangement for the position of Superior”.

* * * * * 
Primo ictu oculi your decree, the singular administrative act dated March 12, 2018, is ipso jure null and void under canon law. Attentive study of the facts and related documents further confirms this conclusion. 
Canon 1717 explicitly mandates: « §1. Quoties Ordinarius notitiam, saltem veri similem, habet de delicto, caute inquirat ». 
Præprimis, in Fr. Phillips’ case there does not appear to be any canonical “delict” to speak of. 
Second, although there was no apparent or discernable « notitia delicti » you reportedly asserted to the members of the Canons Regular on Saturday, April 7th that the investigation of the diocese indicates that “Fr. Phillips is guilty”. If this corresponds to the truth, then a precipitous judgment was expressed, or better reiterated by your good self, albeit in absence of a delict and without a preventive « inquisitio circa facta et circumstantia et circa imputabilitatem ». 
Canon 1717 also explicitly mandates: « §2. Cavendum est ne ex hac investigatione bonum cuiusquam nomen in discrimen vocetur ». 
Prescinding momentarily from whether you ordered an « investigatio prævia » into the allegations of non-existent « delicta », on March 12th you asked Fr. Gene Szarek, C.R., to “keep me apprised of your progress and the ultimate outcome of your inquiries”, on the presumption “that an investigation will be undertaken by your office into the allegations made against Fr. Phillips and the exact nature of his conduct”. Therefore, prior to the completion of any investigation, whether diocesan or by the religious order, you proceeded to inform the media of your decisions as set forth in your March 12th decree. This, Your Eminence, blatantly constitutes a violation of Fr. Phillips’ privacy and all rights relative to the preservation of his good name; a clear manifestation, in the minds of many Christifideles, of either an animus against Fr. Phillips, or a high level of suspicion and a low level of skepticism was present during the decision making phase, or, perhaps, a mixture of both; which reprovingly gives way to a reversed burden of proof, i.e. Fr. Phillips must prove his innocence rather than the reprobate accusers having to prove his culpability. To be clear, this is not simply an opinion, or a defense tactic of the undersigned patrocinium, but rather an easily verifiable current of valuation widely shared amongst the faithful, in particular by those who personally know Fr. Phillips, together with all those who are familiar with and participate in the good works of the Canons Regular SJC in Chicago, and elsewhere. 
Canon 193, §1, CJC clearly establishes: “A person cannot be removed from an office conferred for an indefinite period of time except for grave causes and according to the manner of proceeding defined by law”. 
Thereby, with regard to Fr. Phillips’ case, one legitimately queries: Where is the “grave cause”? And, why was the requisite “manner of proceeding defined by law” set aside, and not followed as prescribed by the Codex? 
Ad rem, given the facts outlined herein it is indubitable that your March 12th decree is irreparably vitiated sive in procedendo sive in decernendo. 
Ultimately, in the exercise of his priestly ministry Fr. Phillips has acted in accordance with canon 529, §§ 1-2, CJC, and has conducted himself in an exemplary fashion, reflecting the Magisterium and exhortations of Pope Francis; that is to be selfless and reach out to help others, regardless of their status, to be compassionate and always act with brotherly love especially towards those who find themselves in difficulty on the path of life. 
If Your Eminence, as Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Chicago, prior to giving the March 12th decree had conducted a preliminary investigation, prompting the restrictions, scilicet the canonical sanctions, imposed on Fr. Phillips, then it can only be valuated as superficial and incomplete. Hence, your decree is lacking factual foundation (Cfr. canons 48-51 CJC). 
What is more, the verbiage of your decree and other public writings appear contradictory, and unfounded in canon law. Hence, this perceived lack of clarity and linearity – also in reference to the erroneous application of the dictates of the prescribed canon law process - gives way to, and even further provokes profound confusion amongst the faithful, causing unnecessary scandal and division.


* * * * * 
In light of the arguments heretofore articulated sive in jure sive in facto, on behalf of Fr. Phillips and in defense of his person and interests, You are hereby respectfully petitioned to revoke your March 12th decree in its entirety and, to said effect, restore Fr. Phillips’ status quo ante as Pastor of St. John Cantius and Superior of the Canons Regular SJC. 
As a final resolution of the entire, baseless matter, this could prove persuasive to avoid litigation that potentially would involve the Archdiocese in the secular courts. 
Indubitably, Fr. Phillips has been egregiously defamed by his reprobate detractors, including those who have “jumped on the band wagon” ostensibly hoping to have found an opportunity for fraudulent monetary gain. 
The damage to Fr. Phillips’ reputation has indeed been compounded by those same wide reaching media reports which have caused and continue to consternation and astonishment amongst the Christifideles. Hence, it is left to Rev. Fr. Phillips to discern if and what further action should be taken to restore his good name. 
On this point, Fr. Phillips suggests and would appreciate drafting any eventual joint communication to the faithful in the Archdiocese, regarding the positive resolution of all contrasts and his status. 
However, should Your Eminence not deem the above arguments to carry sufficient weight for the reasonable and justifiable revocation of your March 12th decree, then by these presents Fr. Phillips makes formal hierarchical administrative recourse against your decree of March 12, 2018. 
In closing, I take the opportunity to quote the words of His Holiness, Pope Francis, expressed in his recent letter to the Chilean bishops, wherein he asked forgiveness, acknowledging “that I have made serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially because of the lack of truthful and balanced information”. 
From a professional perspective, and with legitima suspicione, I ask myself whether Your Eminence too has been misled by a deplorable “lack of truthful and balanced information”. Should this prove to be the case, then to the mind of Fr. Phillips’ supporters the moment to rectify matters must be seized immediately to underscore the fact that “zero tolerance” is not merely a one-way policy. 
With a prayer for a positive resolution of all issues, I look forward to your
reply.

In Domino addictissimus,

Alan R. Kershaw, R.R.Adv.