Provincial recommended Fr. Frank Phillips of SJCantius be restored as superior general of the Canons

By Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, 26 June 2018

In the case of Fr. Frank Phillips, CR, the founder of the Canons of St. John Cantius, removed by the Archbp. of Chicago from his pastorate…

Phillips, was accused of misconduct involving adult men. He was removed as pastor of St. John Cantius in March and prohibited from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago by Blase Card. Cupich, pending an investigation of the charges. The matter was left by the Archdiocese in the hands of Fr. Phillips’ superiors of the Congregation of the Resurrection, to which Phillips belongs.

An independent board determined that Fr. Phillips did not commit any criminal, civil or canonical delict.

Some time ago, I was sent documents internal to the discussion of Fr. Phillips’ fate.  I sat on them.

One of those documents was the VOTUM or the formal opinion given on 21 May by the Resurrectionist Provincial Superior in these USA.

I did not want to put it out there without good reason.  However, its content now out on the site of Catholic News Agency.  Hence, I can share it now.

One of the reasons why I think it is good to know about this document – which CNA published about – is because, according to a Chicago Tribune story, the Archdiocesan spokeswoman said the Archdiocese would have to be “satisfied that Phillips is not a threat to anyone and that he could observe the archdiocese’s code of conduct code of conduct.” (Emphasis added)

Not a threat?  In 40 plus years of priesthood, including years serving at an all boys high school, nothing arose, nor has it in his time at St. John Cantius until the allegations of which he was cleared came up.  And in the present case he didn’t commit any crimes!

Is the issue really some allegations of homosexual conduct?   If so, will the treatment given to Fr. Phillips now be applied to the entire presbyterate of the Archdiocese?

In a story from the AP in the LA Times… why is the LA Times reporting on this? … we read:

Archdiocese of Chicago spokeswoman Paula Waters said although no church or secular law was violated by Phillips, there were standards of behavior Phillips did not meet. She noted the review board did not recommend Phillips’ return to St. John Cantius.

“standards of behavior Phillips did not meet”.

However, as we read in the VOTUM from the Provincial, while the Provincial thought that Phillips should not return as pastor, his faculties should be restored and he should have contact with the group he founded!

Apparently what Phillips did or didn’t do (the standards are not spelled out), wasn’t so bad that the Provincial thought he should be eliminated from the lives of the Canons.

Don’t get me wrong.  There must be standards!  However, there shouldn’t be one set of standards for some (e.g., conservatives) and another set of standards for others (e.g., liberals).

Here is the letter.  I blacked out the phone and email lest knuckleheads without filters misuse it.

The Provincial wrote:

“As Founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, the ideal would be his restoration as their superior general.  … The historical reality of his being the Founder and his ongoing provision of spiritual leadership would be salutary for all. … If the above recommendation is unfeasible, then at least he and the Canons should not be prevented from communication.”

The Archbp. of Chicago removed Phillips anyway.

Also, in the CNA report the Archdiocesan spokeswoman is quoted as saying:

“it was recommended that Fr. Phillips not return to ministry at St. John Cantius” in the Resurrectionists’ investigation report.”

Well… not quite.  The Provincial wrote that Phillips shouldn’t return to be pastor, not return to ministry.  Indeed, the Provinical wrote that the “ideal” would be for Phillips to return to be the superior general of the Canons, even if he didn’t live there.

In nearly every case that gets out into the interwebs, there are huge gaps of information.

However, in this case, it seems that some key pieces of information have indeed come out, including the VOTUM of Fr. Phillips’ superior.

The VOTUM of the provincial is important, I think, for the sake of Fr. Phillips reputation.  The Archdiocese’s spokeswoman implied that Phillips is a “threat”, even though the VOTUM of the Provincial suggests he isn’t.

With all the talk of accompaniment and mercy we hear these days, this doesn’t seem very merciful… so far.   The story isn’t yet at the last page.  There is still time for accompaniment and mercy… along with justice and truth.

Therefore, please do pray for all those who are involved in the decision making, as we as for all the anxious Canons and parishioners who have been caught in the crossfire.