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 Phillips and confirmed that his faculties for ministry would remain withdrawn.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that he not return and on other factors, the cardinal decided that his faculties to minister would remain withdrawn.”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.

26 comments:

  1. "SENSITIVITY TRAINING"??? Oh boy, where have we heard THAT before? I can surmise what THAT is which would probably involve secular political correctness 'training' that has not one iotta to do with Church teaching, and probably the opposite of Church teaching. This is a real LOAD OF YOU KNOW WHAT!!!!!!!

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    1. Well, yes, but in fairness, that sort of thing is often done in the workplace as a matter of course and for cover. I don't really have a problem with it, and remember, it was only "possible." Also, as I said in the post, there were arguably grounds for it. "Lack of sensitivity" also means that you may have been imprudent in creating or putting yourself in certain situations, not that you acted maliciously or wrongly per se.

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    2. Reading between the lines (=speculating) one might gather that "sensitivity training" implies that Fr. Phillip's objected to homosexual activity at St. John Cantius.

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    3. Bingo. Whatever his 'crime' was or 'crimes' I don't think they can hold a candle to Fr. Pfleger's. And....what happens to him?....NOTHING. And....I'm sorry but I will NEVER trust this so called 'sensitivity training'.

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    4. Sensitivity training sounds a bit manchurian candidate to me. In China now Catholic priests that don't tow the line are sent for rehabilitation. Uh huh. I don't buy this sensitivity training poo. It's just more PC "stuff" shoved down everybody's throat.

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  2. Well, this certainly cleared up all the speculation! Thanks anyway.

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  3. These homosexuals are rotten to the core. They will use their own crime as a pretext to destroy a priest who doesn't committ the unnatural acts they are guilty of. Demonic.

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    1. Hi, Diana Johns. By the grace of God, I don't know you, and I hope I never see you. The only demon I can identify in this article or any of the comments appears to reside in your very soul. Shame on you, vile woman.

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    2. Diana Johns, don't fret. I totally agree with you. Sodomy has infiltrated the Church a tthe highest levels, and calumny is their weapon.

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    3. Diana Johns, I agree with you entirely. Homosexual behavior is ancient. Only recently has it been necessary for homosexual behavior to be equated with a minority status that has to be defended in the public realm. Heterosexual behaviors do not place people into a category of special attention. Today the homosexual community has an agenda. Everyone must accept their actions and embrace them. Not one word can be spoken in public schools or in the workplace to state that the behavior is sinful and that often the individuals have emotional issues that need attention. One word and a person is called insensitive or worse, removed from office or school. It has never been necessary to demand attention for the needs of heterosexuals. Now, we must allow men in women's locker rooms. They need to use women's bathrooms. All because these men have a need to make public their personal behaviors. The act is sinful! The person engaging in that act may not know any better and may not be culpable, but the act is sinful. Individuals may be innocent, but the movement and the desire to push what is sinful into the realm of normal and healthy is an agenda that they will push and ramrod into all situations that they believe to be contrary to embracing their sinful behaviors. They do not care what they destroy along the way. The main reason they don't care is because they only care about furthering their agenda, nothing more.

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    4. I agree with Diana Johns!

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    5. I agree with you Diana. There is a video I've seen where a meeting of a "gay" group admitted that their ability to marry wasn't the real goal, destruction of the institution of marriage was the stated goal.

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  4. We are commanded to bear no false witness against our neighbor. That such false or misleading or even ambiguous testimony being used to remove a priest from priestly duties is most troubling. Take heart. The truth is like a lion: set it free and it will defend itself. The truth will out.

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  5. If you’d like to donate to Fr. Philips’ legal defense fund, you can do so here: https://www.gofundme.com/legal-defense-fund-for-fr-phillips

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  6. In October our parish will celebrate its 100th anniversary. The man responsible for keeping it open is forbidden to attend for no reason whatsoever!

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  7. The Latin Rite is one of the thornes in the side of the Archbishop. The other is the success of the Canons. He can't tolerate anything about St John Cantius Parish. May Our Lady help us all defend our faith from these evil shepards

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  8. Guess all details won't be released, but you have to believe Cupich loves getting (in)to the bottom of things, quickly.

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  9. sensitivity training?
    - wonder if it's for withholding Holy Communion from a cohabiting couple ...

    “In such cases [cohabitation], respect also can be shown for those signs of love which in some way reflect God’s own love.” /AL

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  10. Sensitivity training originated in the Psy Ops of the head honcho of the American Jewish Committee, Kurt Lewin, an expert in psychological warfare and in the 1940s he developed and perfected his dark craft while being funded by the Office of Naval Research at the National Training Laboratory in Bethel, Maine.

    (Yes, thank you American WASPS for funding Messias-Deniers to change our behavior.)

    It was out of this dark research that programs such as T Group and Sensitivity training whuich proved to be a great success to the point where is one did not agree with the destructive anti-Christian ideology of the Frankfort School one was labeled an authoritarian personality (talk about psychological projection) are recommended for therapy.

    And THIS is what a priest is to be subjected to?

    Why not just fire a bullet into his brain?

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    1. Although I don't have first hand knowledge, I admit, I've read a little about it, and yes, it does have the 'flavor' of just plain ol brain washing. Thanks for shining a little more light on the 'sensitivity training origin and objectives'. I'm hoping and will include in my prayers that the 'good Cardinal' drops this idea for Fr. Phillips.

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  11. What mystifies me is how Fr. Phillips would be likely to come into contact with people who would object to his attitude about the Faith and its practice. St. John Cantius is known as a bastion of orthodoxy. Would you want to interact with Fr. Phillips without having a pretty good idea of what you were going to hear? Unless, of course, operatives were dispatched for the express purpose of eliciting from Fr. Phillips something the Cardinal could them claim was "insensitive".

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  12. What I don't understand is how someone could interact with Fr. Phillips without having a pretty good idea what kind of attitude about the Faith he would encounter. St. John's is a bastion of Catholic orthodoxy. Why put yourself there is you do not share the parish's mission? Unless, of course, operatives were dispatched from somewhere to provoke Fr. Phillips into saying something that could then be called 'insensitive.'

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  13. "Unless, of course, operatives were dispatched from somewhere to provoke Fr. Phillips into saying something that could then be called 'insensitive.'"

    Semperidem, of course it was a set up. Like abortionists, their hatred for the true church of Christ knows no limits. Their modus operandi never deviates from their playbook penned by Saul Alinsky....say, isn't he from Chicago too? Apples don't fall far from the tree....

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  15. Cupich is a pretty underhanded guy. Fits well in this corrupt city. I'm done with these bishops,can't stand them anymore. I never thought I would ever think this way!

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