Posted by Oakes Spalding, June 29, 2018
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 Phillips and confirmed that his faculties for ministry would remain withdrawn.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 (but 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.