I'm glad I was alone in the office when I read this. No one around here needs to hear me swearing that much this early in the day.
According to an article in today's Chicago Sun-Times, defrocked and imprisoned former priest Daniel McCormack had a known history of sexual improprieties going back to his days at Mundelein Seminary (the main seminary for the Archdiocese of Chicago).
It seems that Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tuscon, AZ, who was the rector of Mundelein when McCormack was studying there in the 1980's, knew of these sexual incidents but thought that it would have been "grossly unfair" not to allow McCormack to be ordained.
He was indeed ordained and went on to be somewhat of a "high flyer" in the archdiocese. He also went on to molest five boys (aged eight to twelve, and there may have been more) over the period of about nine years while pastor of St. Agatha's Parish on Chicago's west side. Read the whole sordid story, as told by the Chicago Tribune last year, here.
McCormack is now in prison, having been convicted and sentenced this summer for a five year sentence.
This situation seems like a broken record, another sad chapter in the damnable story of clerical abuse in the church that now involves the entire hierarchy of the archdiocese; read about the larger implications here.
This does not make it better or excusable. Nothing ever could.
What struck me about the revelation of Bishop Kicanas, however, was what he said about the handling of the situation. He claims that he knew about the sexual improprieties while McCormack was in the seminary and allowed him to be ordained. Why, you ask?
There was a greater concern on Kicanas's mind, something that trumped these sexual misdeeds that caused then-rector Kicanas to send McCormack for treatment. What could this possibly be, that would seem more important than a possible predeliction for sexual deviance?
Kicanas said that he was more concerned about McCormack's drinking. So much so that he was sent for treatment for his supposed alcoholism.
Astounding. Simply astounding.
Now, I know that the two might be related, that a drinking problem can come along with other mental issues and that one might have led to the other. That much I get.
What I cannot understand, nor could I ever condone, is the notion that a drinking problem is somehow worse than sexual misdeeds. I also cannot fathom, furthermore, why treatment didn't possibly reveal a more full mental picture of this sick individual.
I think that two main points arise here. First, this story is proof positive of the institutional culture of cover-ups, lies, obfuscation and bullshit that plagues the Catholic Church hierarchy. These specific allegations, and others like them, have caused more than a crisis of confidence among Catholics; I'd say it has caused more than a few Catholics to become not-so-Catholic anymore.
Second, I realize that using a drinking problem to cover up sexual abuse could be a symptom of this aforementioned diseased institutional culture of the Catholic Church. I think it is interesting, however, that at least to one person, it seemed that a drinking problem was worse than sexual "misdeeds." It says a lot about our attitudes as a society when, in a taxonomy of mental pathology, alcoholism beats out sexual abuse.
To put it more bluntly, what would you rather deal with: a priest who is an alcoholic or a priest who molests kids?
Oh, and as for McCormack? Let's hope he meets the same fate that John Geoghan met.
Year in review
2 months ago