Posted by Oakes Spalding, July 20, 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 Phillips and confirmed that his faculties for ministry would remain withdrawn.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.
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 no 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.
Posted by Oakes Spalding at 11:39 AM