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Ann Brentwood: A Champion for Children

Posted by cometothestable on February 14, 2010 at 10:28 AM Comments comments (0)

By Michael Wegs

 

Ann Brentwood, a great champion of child abuse victims, has passed away.

 

She was a champion in the mold of Greek mythology, those Attic tales of heroes and heroines dedicated to honor, duty, and those mystic challenges of the antique world of Asia Minor and the islands that dot the western edge of the Mediterranean Sea.

 

I choose the Greek model to describe Ann Brentwood -- rather than Alban Butler's hagiography, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints, or the Acta Sanctorum,  --  because the Ancients understood the tragic nature of an epic challenge.

 

For many years, Ann's trial by fire was the defense of survivors of childhood sexual molestation. She cast light on the criminal negligence of the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church in United States. Ann provided testimony to strengthen child protection statutes in Tennessee and pursued similar goals in neighboring state legislatures. In particular, she targeted the Southern elements of this nationwide conspiracy to protect pedophile priests and cover up sex crimes against children and vulnerable adults: Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, and South Carolina. Her ability to educate and highlight the nuances of this issue was invaluable.

 

Above, Right: Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky.,
staked his career as bishop of Knoxville, Tenn., on defending
the reputation of his predecessor, the self-admitted pedophile,
Anthony J. O'Connell. Kurtz remains recalcitrant and vindictive
in his response to clergy abuse victims.

 

The Diocese of Knoxville was her catalyst and crucible, because the founding bishop, Anthony J. O'Connell, admitted publicly in 2002 that he was a child predator with a 25-year career of sexual assaults on students at St. Thomas Aquinas Preparatory Seminary in Hannibal, Mo. O'Connell had been rector and a faculty member at the high school seminary prior to his appointment to Knoxville.

 

The ensuing whirlwind of scandal spread from Knoxville to the Nashville and Memphis dioceses. The extent of the conspiracy and criminal cover-up was revealed to be a statewide network of deceit, border to border; north, south, east, and west.

 

Above, Right: Richard F. Stika, who succeeded Kurtz in Knoxville,
built his resume as a willing participant and protector pedophile
priests in St. Louis, taking a page from the playbook of one his
mentors, St. Louis-native Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

 

Ann's challenge then leapt from the tiny Knoxville arena to cross state lines into Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina as bishops and diocesan administrators were promoted and transferred to maintain the network of abusive power. O'Connell, for example, was promoted to Palm Beach, Fla. He resigned in disgrace to Mepkin Abbey near Charleston; protected by Bishop Robert J. Baker, who recently was moved to Birmingham, Ala. (Baker and O'Connell are friends of long standing).

 

Above, Right: The Rev. Michael F. Freymuth, and his friend, the Rev. Michael A. Campbell, found their own champion in
Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville. Stika, as chancellor of
the archdiocese of St. Louis, hid the facts of each priest's
case from the public for years before their victims stepped
forward with the evidence of the crimes against children.

 

O'Connell's Knoxville successor and apologist, Joseph E. Kurtz, is now archbishop of Louisville, Ky. O'Connell's chancellor, the Rev James Vann Johnston, was named bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., in 2008. Bishop Edward U. Kmiec now leads Buffalo, N.Y.; while his successor, David R. Choby, represents the next generation of coddlers and co-conspirators protecting serial sex offenders.

 

Above, Right: The Rev. Bryan Kuchar of St. Louis also found a
protector in Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville. As chancellor
of the archdiocese of St. Louis Stika spoke publicly about Kuchar's
innocence even after a he was convicted and was sentenced to
three years in the St. Louis County in August 2003 on three counts
of statutory sodomy.

 

Likewise, the current bishop of Knoxville, Richard F. Stika, was promoted from the archdiocese of St. Louis based on a career dedicated to the reckless protection of child molesters. In particular, he chose to shelter the Rev. Michael Freymuth, who was my close friend and confidante during our years at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis. Freymuth is closely allied with a another notorious St. Louis predator, the Rev. Michael A. Campbell, who was the confessor of St. Louis auxiliary bishop Timothy Dolan, who now is the archbishop of New York.

 

Antigone:  Role Model for an Epic Challenge

As a result, Ann Brentwood's epic challenge is comparable in scope to that of Antigone of ancient Greece.

 

Long ago, the tragedian Sophocles (497-406/5 B.C.E.) crafted these words for the
12-year-old daughter of Oedipus to speak:

 

Even from the first it is meek to seek the impossible.

 

According to the myth, Antigone defied her uncle, Creon, who became king of Thebes after years of civil war that divided the House of Oedipus. He ascended to the throne with the deaths of Antigone's two brothers: Eteocles and Polyneices battled each other for control of the city-state.

 

In the aftermath, Creon decreed that Eteocles should receive a state funeral, because he opposed his brother's alliance with rival forces to a capture the throne. But the body of Polyneices was left to rot on a hillside, carrion for bird and beast.

 

Antigone, horrified by her uncle's treachery, performed a ritual burial rite for Polyneices: she sprinkled three handfuls of dust on his body in lieu of full
burial and poured wine upon the ground as an offering to the gods. Creon condemned his niece to death -- sealed in a tomb to starve -- for faithfulness
to her brother and her religious beliefs.

 

As with Antigone, Ann Brentwood challenged institutional authority despite the
odds for victory. Like her mythical counterpart, she understood the nature of her adversaries and the prevailing attitude of the American bishops toward pedophile priests:
 

  • We are the Church.
  • We have been here for thousands of years.
  • We are eternal.

 

Healthcare Executive & Child Advocate

Ann was well-trained for this epic challenge.  She graduated from Murray State University with a degree in Psychology and Nursing and received her Master of Nursing degree  from the University of Evansville in Indiana.  She retired as director of nursing
and vice president of hospital operations at the Regional Medical Center in Madisonville, Ky.

 

For a time, she was a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine of Siena in Louisville, Ky.  Later in life, she became a Mom and a grandmother and all that that life entails.  A singular irony that she enjoyed, I think, is the foreshadowing we see in the life of Catherine of Siena: the Medieval saint challenged religious, political, and social convention to restore the papacy to Rome from Avignon and end the Western Schism of 1378.

 

As a religious leader and educator, Ann Brentwood understood the power equation employed to cover up crimes of this magnitude. As healthcare specialist and mother, she identified with the human trauma of sexual assault.

 

On the Road: Tennessee Meets a Chevy Cavalier

I once had the pleasure of spending five days with Ann Brentwood and her great friend, Susan Vance. I witnessed Anne's fervor in October, 2004, during a 40-hour marathon criss-crossing the state of Tennessee in a rented Chevrolet Cavalier to launch a statewide SNAP network in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville.

 

In Memphis, the duo served as advocates for victims in a meeting with the callous review board of that diocese. They helped a young man file a police report with the city's sexual assault unit identifying the Rev. William Kantner as the assailant
(Bishop J. Terry Steib allowed Kantner to his parish in 2005). Ann and Susan were unwavering in speaking to the local media about these matters.

 

In Nashville, Ann parried with Catholic academics at Vanderbilt who attempted to minimize the crisis in that diocese. And when Vanderbilt cancelled our venue as a result of the encounter, we rebounded at an off-campus facility.

 

O'Connell Victims Meet in Eastern Tennessee

Events in Knoxville and Chattanooga were just as intriguing. The Roman Catholic publisher of the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Bruce Hartmann, imposed a media blackout of our two SNAP events. An ally of Bishop Kurtz, Hartmann ignored journalistic integrity. Kurtz, in turn, failed to acknowledge the presence of abuse victims meeting in his diocese and gave O'Connell victims the bum's rush.

 

Because of Ann's perseverance and vision, we did not go without some rewards:

 

Following a meeting at First Congregational Church in Memphis, we received an update on the at-large warrant about to be issued in St. Louis for the arrest of the Rev. Juan Carlos Duran, a former Dominican priest who was transferred to the diocese with the full knowledge that he was a serial predator. Duran is charged with sodomy of a 10-year-old boy. His whereabouts remain a secret although the authorities believe he now is in Bolivia.

 

In Chattanooga, I met a young man -- a museum curator -- who came to our presentation at the University of Tennessee. His father, a medical doctor, joined us.

 

This young man, a Baptist who had converted to Catholicism, told us that he was victimized by O'Connell when he was a seminarian at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corner, Wisc. O'Connell was bishop of Knoxville, when he visited the seminary in his capacity as a member of the board of directors. This young man was warned by other students that O'Connell was a sexual predator, someone to avoid. Despite this caution, O'Connell made his way to the young man's room one evening after supper. The young man was able to force O'Connell to retreat. His report of the attack was ignored. O'Connell was never censured or reported.

 

A Renegade Priest in Clarksville

In Clarksville, we exposed a renegade priest on the lam from the diocese of Cincinnati, Ohio. In February, 2004, Bishop Kmiec of Nashville allowed the
Rev. David J. Kelley to relocate to a residential community for the U.S. Army post at Fort Campbell, Ky., knowing that 40 civil suits had been filed against the priest in the Ohio diocese. Kelly or the church has purchased a house in Clarksville's Hunter's Point neighborhood. He was known to his neighbors --  mostly Army wives whose husband were serving overseas -- as someone who enjoyed the company children a bit too much. Kelly remained in Clarksville until the fall of 2005, protected by Bishop Choby, Kmiec's successor.

 

One of the more startling aspects of this tour was our meeting with the principal of Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga: Perry L. Storey. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the removal of O'Connell's image from the hallways, classrooms, and administrative offices. Mr. Storey declined, citing the historical significance of O'Connell's appointment as the founding bishop of Knoxville. He even was unmoved by my conversation with an uninformed 16-year-old co-ed, who was led to believe that O'Connell was not a predator. "He's a good and holy man," she replied to a question about the bishop's reputation, unaware of O'Connell's public admission that he is a child predator. The principal was not inclined to correct the student's impression.

 

Ignatius Kane:  Alabama Monk Rape Case

The most dramatic moment of this week-long campaign was meeting Anne McInnis and to learn of the impending indictment and arrest of an 82-year-old Benedictine monk at St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Ala.: Ignatius Kane. Kane was charged with first-degree rape. In 1970, Anne, who also had converted to Catholicism, aspired to join the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia in Nashville. The Dominicans sent her sent to Cullman to make a retreat with Kane as her spiritual advisor and to consider her vocation in depth. Instead the monk raped the 20-year-old would be novice in the abbey library.

 

This move by the Alabama court was reassuring and energizing. But a year later, another judge dismissed the charges, citing the age and health of the miscreant monk.

 

These individual stories form a testament to the charism shared equally by Ann Brentwood and Susan Vance. As advocate and witness they have given survivors a sense of hope for a better tomorrow and offered solace for the trauma of the past.

 

Recently, I watched Meryl Streep's tour de force in the film, Doubt. Streep's characterization of Sister Aloysius Beauvier reminds me of Ann's sense of irony in relation to her crusade for justice, transparency, and full disclosure of the American bishops' conspiracy to subvert justice. Ann's sanguine, straight-forward attitude left no room for clerical coddlers. And unlike Streep's character, Ann Brentwood had no doubt about the criminal inventory that she and Susan have compiled nor the intentions of the Southern bishops they monitor and who continue to obstruct justice, tamper with evidence, and malign victims and witnesses as they move forward to do what is right.

 

A New Generation of Bishops Protects Pedophile Priests

As for church administrators who continue to engage in seemingly criminal activities, rewards and honors somehow flourish.

 

Knoxville's chancellor, James Vann Johnston, is now bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo. An O'Connell protégé, Vann Johnston has never wavered in his defense of O'Connell despite the evidence. At his 2008 consecration in Springfield, he extolled O'Connell, fully aware that his Missouri predecessor is none other than Cardinal Bernard Law (O'Connell and Law are cronies of long-standing) .

 

Above, Right: James Vann Johnston, as chancellor of Knoxville, opposed all efforts to disclose information about pedophile priests during his tenure. With the support of Bishop Joseph E. Kurtz, he also championed the reputation Bishop Anthony J.
O'Connell, his mentor and benefactor. For his efforts, the
Vatican promoted him to Bernard Cardinal Law's former see:
Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo.

 

Bishop Edward U. Kmiec of Nashville was appointed bishop of Buffalo, N.Y., in 2004. His successor, David Choby, like Vann Johnston, represents the next generation of obstructionists and criminal accomplices in the clergy sex abuse drama. In 2008, Choby presented a plaque to the Rev. Paul W. St. Charles to commemorate the the 50th anniversary of his graduation from Nashville's Father Ryan High School. Bishop J. Terry Steib of Memphis has stated publicly that St. Charles has been "credibly accused" of molesting boys in his diocese. Steib petitioned Rome to "defrock" St. Charles.

 

Memphis Saga:  Bishop Sartain & the Rev. Gregorgy Fuller

For many years, the former chancellor, vicar general, and vocation director of Memphis, the Rev. James P. Sartain, protected a troubled priest named Gregory Fuller. Sartain is well-practiced in the art of deception, serving as a benefactor to a number of notorious pedophile priests in Memphis: the Rev. Paul St. Charles, the Rev. Gregory Salata, the Rev. Paul Haas, the Rev. William Kantner, the Rev. Richard Mickey, and the Rev. Daniel T. Dupree, among others.

 

As a result, the Vatican gave Sartain a promotion in 2000, naming him bishop of Little Rock, Ark. The Vatican then transferred Sartain in 2006 to his new post in Joliet, Ill., where he replaced Bishop Joseph Imesch, who defied community standards throughout his tenure, transferring predators to Chicago, St. Louis, Santa Rosa, and elsewhere to conceal molestation cases dating to the 1980s.

 

Above, Right: David R. Choby of Nashville has sheltered and honored sexual predators in his diocese. In 2007, he publicly lauded the Rev. Paul St. Charles as a celebrated alumnus of
Father Ryan High School in Nashville, despite five pending child
molestations lawsuits. The diocese of Memphis has stated that
allegations against St. Charles are "credible."

 

Imesch acknowledged in court depositioins that he new of "inappropriate behavior" by certain priests -- including nude swimming and games with young boys in one case and a relationship with a 14-year-old girl in another -- but didn't take any action.

 

"I'm not going to say, "Hey, police, go check on my priest,'" said Imesch in the previously sealed deposition.  "Could I have done something more? Probably. We did what we thought was right at the time. And I'll have to live with that."

 

And a side note: Like many priests involved in the pedophile priest scandal, Sartain has changed his name. In Memphis and Little Rock, he was known as James P. Sartain. With the move to Joliet, he prefers to called J. Peter Sartain. It would seem the bishop has found his niche.

 

Father Fuller:  A Troubled Past Ignored

Greg Fuller and I were friends at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, when he was studying for priesthood for the diocese of Salinas, Kan., and I was affiliated with the diocese of Jefferson City, Mo. He was a caring, intelligent, and talented young man, who had studied previously at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.

 

In the January, 1975, Greg was implicated in one of series of sex scandals that came to light at the Josephinum: faculty members (priests and laymen) and graduate students (including deacons) preying on undergraduates in the college division. Greg, who was approaching ordination, left the Josephinum at 7:30 a.m., Sunday morning, January 16, according the description in a letter from a mutual friend who is now a prominent priest in the diocese of Lincoln, Neb. The offending faculty and graduate students were dismissed as well.

 

"He was told to withdraw or be kicked out with [the incident] on his record," according to the letter dated 24 February 1975.  "He wouldn't leave and was expelled. . . . He left everything but his clothes here . . .

 

"His diocese agreed to pay psychiatric expenses. . .He went three times, but moved to Corpus Christi last week, and is no longer under psychiatric care.

 

"F[uller] told me the 'explicits' so he could 'explain to me why these things were so important to make him feel like a man.'  When he told me that, I knew he'd cracked."

 

Greg floundered for several years. He attempted to pursue studies at a Maronite seminary and then enrolled at Memphis Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian academic institution.

 

Bishop Caroll Dozier & Father Greg Fuller 

In time, he met Carroll T. Dozier, the first bishop of Memphis. Dozier gave Greg a factotum

Dozier ordained Greg Fuller with tragic consequences. In addition to protecting known child molesters, he and Sartain sheltered Fuller, a tormented alcoholic with a troubled past. Together with the knowledge of bishops Dozier and Steib, Sartain did not so much as help Greg as to keep the matter a secret. Their failure to deal with Greg's condition honestly resulted in his self-destruction at the age of 44 in September 1996 at the Days Inn motel in Jackson: found hanged with an article of clothing.

 

And in the end, the leadership of the Memphis diocese was more concerned with minimizing Greg's relationship with another priest: the Rev. Father Fred Sauer, who set fire to The Church of the Nativity in Bartlett in July. Neglect and secrets wreak havoc on our lives.

 

Facing the Challenge with Grace

The attitude of these men did not faze Ann Brentwood. Their scare tactics and harassment techniques only strengthened her resolve. She followed the lead of the nuns at the Monastery of Our Lady of Citeaux south of Knoxville. The monastery was established with O'Connell's blessing. But as the nuns began to address the abuse crisis Kurtz and Vann Johnston launched a campaign of calumny and slander to discredit the sisters and close the monastery. In 2004, Kurtz and Vann Johnson intervened in a grant-making process to scuttle funding that would have allowed the sisters to expand their community outreach.

 

Like the sisters at Citeaux, Ann Brentwood appreciated the irony of her situation in life. I know she would demur at the thought of being called a champion or heroine of any sort. I believe that she also would acknowledge sadly the idea that she too was a victim.

 

This concept is an important consideration.

 

A Symbol of Hope

Ann was victimized by the actions of the American bishops in that she was compelled to respond to the festering condition of the church in the United States. As a result, Ann chose to devote the last years of her life to a matter that could have been rectified by the simple acknowledgement that crimes against children and vulnerable adults were and remain a rampant problem within the priesthood and that a criminal conspiracy to conceal these crimes had been engineered at the high levels of administration in the church. Instead, the hierarchy chooses to obfuscate, vilify, and rant despite the insurmountable evidence.

 

Ann should have been able to focus her golden years on the simple pleasures of life. But her belief system, personality, professional training, and maternal instinct would not allow her to ignore this massive undertaking to bury the truth. Her devotion to the truth gave her the power to take up this challenge.  She saw no other alternative.

 

We are grateful that Ann's world view and philosophy of life led her to this cause. We are sad that our friend and benefactor has left us behind to continue the struggle. We accept her legacy of strength, wisdom, understanding, hope, and charity which will help us carry on.  We pray for her and her family.

 

The message of Antigone seems appropriate as we celebrate Ann's life:

 

What law of Heaven have I transgressed?
Hereafter, can I look to any god
For succor, call on any man for help?
Alas, my piety is impious deemed.
Well, if such injustice is approved of by heaven,
I shall be taught by suffering my sin;
But if the sin is theirs, O may they suffer
No worse than the wrongs they do to me.

 

* * * *

 

Come to the Stable honors the memory of a St. Thomas student: Stephen Spalding (1953-1982). Come to the Stable/The Stephen Spalding Foundation is a 501(c)(3)
non-profit organization dedicated to the support of victims of sexual abuse.

 

 

 

 

 

A Clergyman's Life: Msgr. Louis W. McCorkle's Career at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary

Posted by cometothestable on November 30, 2009 at 6:25 AM Comments comments (2)

By Michael Wegs

 

Career benchmarks are worthy of recognition. In academia, scholarly achievement is celebrated with a festschrift: a collection of essays by colleagues and friends noting the intellectual accomplishments and expertise of the honoree. Outstanding actors and actresses are recognized by their peers with the Oscar, the Emmy, and the Tony awards. Authors are given Pulitzers. Artists are exhibited in museum retrospectives.

 

Roman Catholic priests tend toward modesty, avoiding the limelight. Bishops, nonetheless, like to single out church careerists for special mention from time to time by giving them the title of monsignor. The title is anachronistic, a throw-back to the days of monarchy: The title is granted by the Pope, usually at the request of a bishop. The recipient gets to wear a cassock with red or purple piping on the sleeves and button holes depending on the degree of his rank of which there are three classifications.

 

Silence as the Golden Rule

 Some clergymen receive the honorific for outstanding service to the church. Others receive the title due to pure longevity or length of service: like a gold watch. Most are promoted for their business acumen, political acumen, or their ability to keep secrets both off the golf course and outside of the confessional.

 

Msgr. Louis W. McCorkle can be included in this latter group, despite the longevity of his service to the church and his success as a painter and sculptor.

 

At the age of 86, McCorkle has been a priest for 56 years (ordained in 1953). His career has been devoted to the church in Hannibal, namely St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary. He is known to most of us as "Uncle Lou." Some alumni have attempted to canonize the man by calling him the "Father Founder" of the defunct college prep school.

 

McCorkle was present at the inception of St. Thomas. He was a faculty member
1957-1968 and 1970-2002, teaching music and art (with brief appointments as spiritual director). In 1969, he was assigned briefly to Sacred Heart in Vandalia: I was sophomore at the time when a classmate and I helped him move: a day of loading and unloading his U-haul trailer.

 

Keeping Secrets Has Its Rewards

But the foundation of his career success as a priest is based on the fact that he continues to harbor the secrets he knows about Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell and other predatory priests who shared faculty positions with him during his 43 years as a teacher at
St. Thomas. It is reasonable to believe that his silence in these matters led Bishop John R. Gaydos to recommend McCorkle and three other faculty members closely allied with O’Connell for promotion:

 

Msgr. David Cox, an O’Connell protégé, recruited from the Diocese of Columbus,
Ohio, after he was involved in a sex scandal at the Pontifical College Josephinum there.

 

Msgr. Marion Makarewicz, a St. Thomas alumnus (Class of 1979) and former rector
of the seminary. Although I do not like to quote anonymous sources, but I thought it worthwhile to note a comment posted on my March 8 post about these men and
Msgr. Gregory Higley (Class of 1972), the vicar general for the diocese . I know
each of them personally:
 

"This is an important article! Glad to hear someone else has
come forward. Thank you for writing this!!! Thank you for this site . . .
’Msgr. Marion’ . . . knows WAY more than he is telling . . . I just wish
others would. It would HELP EVERYBODY. People who are
silent about this are as guilty as OC, Manus, and the rest!"

Marion Makarewicz graduated from St. Thomas in the spring of 1979: that autumn O’Connell began molesting "Kent," a member of the new freshman class ."Kent" is the son of permanent deacon, who was ordained by Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe. Two years prior, in 1977, O’Connell targeted Marion’s classmate, Christopher Dixon. Christopher grew up in Hannibal; and like Marion, was ordained in 1990 and became a teacher at his alma mater. In 1995, Christopher told the secret about O’Connell and was punished. Marion, like McCorkle, has been rewarded for his silence.

 

Msgr. Jacques Wenting, who taught French and Latin at St. Thomas for four decades, is a member of this rogue’s gallery. But unlike his contemporary and colleague, Wenting did confide in other priests about the betrayal of his students by O’Connell and other faculty members.

 

McCorkle is widely recognized for his distinctive floral paintings. Late in his career he branched out into sculpting. In 1988, when O’Connell was named bishop of Knoxville, Tenn., McCorkle produced a bust of the self-admitted pedophile, who was a
St. Thomas faculty member for 25-years and rector of the Hannibal boarding school for much of that time.

 

McCorkle and O'Connell

Msgr. McCorkle is closely associated with O’Connell. Their shared history at the high school and afterward cannot be understated. McCorkle vacationed in Florida as O’Connell’s guest when he was promoted a second time as bishop of Palm Beach (ironically, O’Connell succeeded J. Keith Symons, another pedophile priest).

 

The O’Connell-McCorkle symbiosis is as well documented as this octogenarian about to head off the cloisters of Conception Abbey (McCorkle sculpted a bust of O’Connell that was displayed at the Knoxville diocese chancery during O’Connell’s
10-year assignment in Tennessee, until victims advocates successful lobbied his successor to remove the offending image).

 

McCorkle, in fact, may be best remembered for supporting the freshman orientation regimen of the Rev. Richard Kaiser, who was O’Connell’s immediate predecessor as rector (1964-1970).

 

St. Thomas and the "No Underwear" Policy

Each September during freshman orientation Father Kaiser offered his notorious
"No Underwear" speech to the incoming students. The presentation usually occurred their second night at St. Thomas after night prayers in chapel and just before bedtime. From the chapel sanctuary, Kaiser advised the freshman class to remove the underwear before going to bed: tight clothing, he said, was not healthy. Underpants do not allow "your manhood to breath."  Pajamas were sufficient sleeping attire, nurturing your masculine vigor while you slept.

 

McCorkle supported Kasier’s "No Underwear" mandate without question. He also put his own stamp on this indoctrination which he followed up the evening after night prayers.

 

McCorkle offered an intense observation about homosexual traits and tendencies, underscoring his innate ability to ferret out those so inclined. In retrospect, the theatricality of his presentation is comical, considering his artistic bent and effeminate persona. At that time of life, though, most of us could not grasp the context of his invective. We were just kids fresh out of grammar school already missing our moms and dads. For most of us, the harangue about our underpants and homosexuals after 9 p.m. night prayers was beyond our comprehension.

 

The effect and intent of the "No Underwear" policy is now obvious. O’Connell used the policy to his advantage. Energized by Kaiser’s leadership, O’Connell was able to target students for special attention with late-night counseling sessions under the guise of spiritual direction.

 

St. Thomas: An Open Secret

Every faculty member knew that O’Connell was alone with students in his room for
2- to 4-hour periods per meeting. Every faculty member knew that O’Connell invited certain students to his room after lights out for these marathon counseling sessions. Every faculty member knew that these students did not return to their dormitories often as late as 2:00 a.m. and sometimes even as late as 4:00 a.m.

 

The sophomore dormitory was on the second floor adjacent to faculty suites. When O’Connell was spiritual director, his rooms were next to the dormitory. The connecting doorway to his part of the building provided easy access to both freshmen and sophomores. Likewise, as dean of students, his suite was a few foot-steps outside the junior/senior dormitory. He conducted bed checks three times each night, often whispering to students in the dark and taking them back to his rooms for extended conversations.

 

O’Connell with the support of men like Kaiser and McCorkle facilitated this mind-set toward the students and nurtured this attitude in alumni who returned in succeeding generations as St. Thomas administrators and faculty.

 

Nurturing Predators at St. Thomas

The Rev. James P. McNally, who graduated from St. Thomas in 1972 with Vicar General Msgr. Higley, gave the "No Underwear" speech during his tenure as dean of students. McNally, an O’Connell protégé and a disgraced pedophile priest, was allied by his friend Msgr. Cox with McCorkle still on board supporting the St. Thomas regime. McNally and Cox were college students together at the Josephinum, and continued together as theologians at Kenrick. Cox has protected McNally and O’Connell. Cox also protected another predatory faculty member: the Rev. Gary Pool, a 1974 St. Thomas graduate who studied for the priesthood with Cox and McNally at the Josephinum and Kenrick.

 

McCorkle, Kaiser, and succeeding generations of predatory priests at St. Thomas were able to preserve the seminary’s secrets in two ways:

 

The most successful was their ability to sensor the students’ mail. You have to wonder how many students wrote to their parents and told them about their abuse, but their parents received the information. How many students were forced to suffer silently because they thought their parents did not care?

 

The second method of controlling the secret was realized through Kaiser’s

grooming technique, which followed the "No Underwear" speech. A few days before our first weekend home visit in October, Kaiser reminded the students of new status in life. Kaiser, who was an orator and elocution specialist, told the students in a sermon how to behave toward their parents when they returned for the first time:

Remember, you are little gods. We know you are little gods.
You know you are little gods. But your parents do not know
you are little gods. When you return home to visit, do not let
them know what you have become. They will not understand.
How you behave at home and how you behave here at our
beloved St. Thomas are two different things. You must remember
this. Do not forget who you are, what you are, or where your
loyalties lie.
 

St. Thomas: Father Michael Quinn's Agenda

Today, we know the lay of land and the extent of these loyalties as far as St. Thomas is concerned. 

 

Msgr. McCorkle was honored in October at a reception sponsored by Holy Family Church in Hannibal. The event was organized by the pastor, the Rev. Michael Quinn. Quinn is a St. Thomas graduate and among the first alumni to be ordained. The priest gave the monsignor a plaque to honor the cleric in light of his retirement to Conception Abbey near Kansas City.

 

Now, Quinn is restaging the event this Saturday, December 6.

 

This ongoing homage to a man who protects O’Connell and other faculty members who preyed upon young boys at St. Thomas is a scandal in and of itself. McCorkle is now retired. He should have the courage and charity to speak out about the sorrow and subterfuge inflicted on so many students, their families, and Catholics alike throughout his career at the high school on Levering Avenue.

 

Msgr. McCorkle has betrayed his trust. He is condemned by his silence on this matter. McCorkle is an accomplice to O’Connell and so many others who have been identified as child molesters such as the Rev. Manus Daly, O’Connell’s immediate successor.

 

Quinn would better serve the former St. Thomas students and the memory of the institution by standing up for the victims who survived the institution rather than pander to those who managed it. It is a shame that he does not choose to honor those students who told the truth about O’Connell and those he brought into the system to molest the innocent and the vulnerable.

 

Come to the Stable honors the memory of a St. Thomas student: Stephen Spalding
(1953-1982). Come to the Stable/The Stephen Spalding Foundation is a 501(c)(3)
non-profit organization dedicated to the support of victims of sexual abuse.

 

 

 

Canon Law or U.S. Law: Which Do You Prefer?

Posted by cometothestable on October 18, 2009 at 7:35 AM Comments comments (0)

 

By Michael D. Fleming

 

"His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it." 

 

Does this description sound familiar? It comes from a wartime description of Hitler.

 

It might as well apply to the Roman Catholic Church.

 

In its response to a recent Supreme Court decision that upheld an order for the Roman Catholic diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, church officials repeated their claim of love and kindness toward victims of sex abuse by priests, insisted that the church, and only the church had the right to assign priests to parishes, and cited the First Amendment as proof that civil courts were barred from intervening in church affairs.

 

Let’s take this assortment of whoppers, misstatements and Big Lies one by one.

 

First of all, the church’s treatment of sex abuse victims has been neither loving nor kind. It has employed hardball legal tactics worthy of a Mafia crime family: Delay. Blame the victim, adding threats if necessary. Plead the statute of limitations to bar victims’ claims. Not much Christian charity on this count.

 

Second, the church has twisted the doctrine that secular powers cannot intervene in the internal affairs of ecclesiastical decisions, until that principle’s bones are broken. Church autonomy does not include the right to play hide-the-priest with those whose sexual misconduct has been disclosed, and who continue to be a clear and present danger to children in their charge.

 

Did Father John have a diddle and poke at St. Anselm’s parish? Well, let’s just ship him off to St. Jude’s, or if that fails, to one of the notorious dumping grounds for pedo-priests whose bishops have bad vision and a flexible conscience.

 

Finally, the biggest whopper of all, one that would bring a blush to the cheeks of even the most depraved judge or crooked lawyer. When I was in law school, we learned that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment protected belief, statements of that belief, and worship free from outside pressure. Generations of legal decisions have mapped out these specific rights, and no one challenges them.

 

Nothing there speaks of the right to molest altar boys. Perhaps the bishops are reading from a different constitution than the rest of us. Is this arcane right protected by the Da Vinci Code? Do those who wish to discover this right have to close their eyes, make the sign of the pentagram, spin around three times, and face Rome?

 

It does not take a lawyer, or a philosopher, or a theologian, to realize that these assertions by the Church are pure hokum. If there were any shame in the Church, the cardinals’ and bishops’ faces would be as red as their vestments at the Red Mass they celebrated a day before the Bridgeport decision was announced. But they have spent centuries touching up their makeup, and it takes more than the swipe of a finger to reveal the scarlet underneath.

 

Come to the Stable honors the memory of a St. Thomas student: Stephen Spalding
(1953-1982). Come to the Stable/The Stephen Spalding Foundation is a 501(c)(3)
non-profit organization dedicated to the support of victims of sexual abuse.

 

 

Sexual Abuse: A Message from Makenzie Phillips

Posted by cometothestable on October 10, 2009 at 1:11 PM Comments comments (0)

By Michael Wegs
Updated: 18 February 2010

 

The cult of celebrity clashed with childhood sexual molestation in September with Mackenzie Phillips’ disclosure that her father had engaged her in an incestuous relationship from childhood through her late teens.

 

The former child star’s supporters have reached out with comfort and solace. Her detractors bay at the moon and spew venom at the thought that John Phillips, the creative force of The Mamas and The Papas would molest his own daughter.

 

The allegations of Mackenzie Phillips in her memoir High on Arrival,, are incendiary given the iconic status of her father and his musical colleagues: Michelle Phillips, Cass Elliott, and Denny Doherty. The Mamas and The Papas, after all, are a legitimate hallmark of the free-spirited 60’s. As with Op-Art, tie-dye, and macramé, they represent the sybaritic hipness of privileged excess that we attach to the upper-class, bi-coastal counterculture of that era.

 

It is difficult to conceptualize the trauma of incest and rape in relation to music of The Mamas and The Papas: I Call Your Name, Do You Wanna Dance, Go Where You Wanna Go, and Dream a Little Dream of Me. Linking childhood sexual abuse to Creeque Alley, California Dreamin’, Dancing in the Street, and Monday, Monday is inconceivable if not impossible.

 

But as Ms. Phillips speaks with her ravaged voice about her father’s transgressions, the pristine quality of their music may lose the romantic quality that has been chronicled in our collective consciousness. Equally damaging is that fact that her talk show interviews about her life experiences appear genuine.

 

Mackenzie Phillips is an actress well-known for her television series, One Day at a Time. And, yet, her situation is not unique as far as celebrity is concerned.

 

Carlos Santana, for example, was molested a child by his music teacher. Gabriel Byrne was sexually abused when he was an 11-year-old altar boy and again during his four and half years of study for the priesthood in England.

 

The comedienne Roseanne was abused as child growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah. Joyce Meyer, the television evangelist was molested by her father between about ages of 12 and 15. Actress Terry Hatcher of "Desperate Housewives" and "Superman" fame is a survivor as is talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

 

But Mackenzie Phillips’ newly published memoir provides a fresh look at child predation and it is a classic case study of abuse: to ease the trauma of her private life she turned to narcotics, alcohol, and prescription medications to relieve her anguish.

 

In addition, her public discussion of these life-altering events highlights the fault line survivors straddle when they confront this situation and disclose the nature of the crime. We are reminded, too, that the pedophile priest scandal manifests the same undertones of psychic trauma as an incestuous relationship of a father with his daughter. And no matter the time or place, whenever a child reports the crime, the family dynamic splinters into three groups: most the family denounces the child as a liar and villain; a few will sympathize all-round and attempt to mend the breach; and one or two will believe and support the child as an advocate.

 

In Ms. Phillips case, her step-mother has chosen to castigate the actress publicly, finding a weapon in her daughter’s well-publicized dependency on narcotics and alcohol to defend her own self-interest as a parent.

 

"John was a bad parent, and a drug addict," her step-mother, Michelle Phillips, admits in Vanity Fair.  "But . . . . Mackenzie has . . . had a needle stuck up her arm for 35 years."

 

Chyna and Bijou Phillips, Mackenzie’s half-sisters, have offered solace. Chyna Phillips has known the cause of her sister’s suffering for nearly two decades.

 

"When I was 13, Mackenzie told me that she had a consensual sexual relationship with our father," she says.

 

Mackenzie reports that Mick Jagger is aware of the facts, but he remains silent.

 

Although Mackenzie Phillips and the media have characterized the sexual molestation as "consensual," we recognize that this not the case whatsoever. The psycho-dynamics of the father-daughter relationship, in fact, is the classic predator-victim power equations.

 

What happened to Mackenzie Phillips is not a casual affair in any way, shape, or form. Neither can her tragedy be minimized nor can it be described as a sophisticated tangent of the Summer of Love, or an EST weekend in a hot-tub, or a retreat with Timothy Leary and LSD, or an introspective lecture with Ram Dass, or any other aspect of the counter-culture that imbued her Jet Set childhood.

 

Michelle Phillips would like us to believe that the lyrics of Creeque Alley represent a true chronicle of The Mamas and The Papas, a reflection of the innocence of their lifestyle. But the environment in which her step-daughter was reared belies the reality of her father’s gilded vagabond existence, greased on an American Express card and getting high in Los Angeles.

 

Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell offered a similar rationale for his actions when he admitted that he had molested students at the high school seminary he led for nearly 25 years. But O’Connell outmaneuvered Michelle Phillips by adding a twist to the Go-Go 60s and 70s excuses. He cited Masters’ and Johnson’s medical research as a straw dog to minimize the nature of his crimes against students at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Hannibal, Mo.

 

We now have some understanding as to why Mackenzie Phillips has passed through life "with a needle stuck in her arm."

 

From the age of 10 she was plied with booze and dope, groomed to service John Phillips’ sexual desired. She was raised in a gypsy culture, romanticized in Creeque Alley as the quartet-plush-child engaged in merry-making in the Virgin Islands: a moment documented in film and music with footnotes by John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Byrds’ front man Roger McGuinn, Barry Mcguire, and other singers and songwriters who were their friends.

 

Mackenzie Phillips was 17 when she became pregnant. Her father, fearing the unborn child might be his, obtained an abortion for his daughter. In this instance, her life parallels that Jaycee Lee Duggard, an 11-year-old girl abducted in 1991and emerged from captivity in November 2009 near Lake Tahoe as the mother of two children (her capture, Philip Garrido, is the father). Nor is Ms. Phillips story much different from that of Elizabeth Fritzl of Austria, who was held captive by her father for 24 years in the basement of her home and made to bear his seven children.

 

Critics have minimized Mackenzie Phillips ordeal as publicity stunt and a bizarre attempt to relaunch a stalled acting career. As one commentator noted: the cult of celebrity now demands shocking revelations and details in order to garner media in our 24-7 digital information age, which has Mackenzie Phillips to allege her father’s transgressions. These critics, in turn, support Roman Polanski in his bid to escape justice 30 years after raping a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles.

 

Alessandra Stanley, the New York Times television critic, has written that Mackenzie Phillips’ disclosure is a self-serving preview for her debut as a guest on the reality television program "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew." The charge may be true, but the disclosure of her childhood experiences does not diminish the violence nor lessen the quality of her valor in addressing the issue of sexual abuse. Stanley may not like the idea of Mackenzie Phillips as a standard bearer for child victims, but her position is misplaced. The critic should concentrate on the powers that protect predators such as Polanski and Bishop O’Connell, i.e. Hollywood establishment figures and American bishops who flaunt child welfare to shelter pedophiles.

 

Michelle Phillips’ effort to demonize her step-daughter as unstable is unworthy and unconvincing, too. Certainly, her embarrassment and sadness are poignant; the deception and betrayal painful; and the notion that she may have misjudged her husband unsettling. Nonetheless, Michelle Phillips should recognize the plight of this survivor. After all, we now are fairly certain that the primary cause of her addictions is John Phillips, a man who acknowledged in his lifetime that he is responsible for his daughter’s condition.

 

As one child advocate I know likes to remind me: many of us receive a life sentence served out with prescription medication; others are condemned to a lifetime of drug and alcohol abuse. The line that divides approved and unapproved dependency is razor thin.

 

Come to the Stable/The Stephen Spalding Foundation has discussed this very issue with O’Connell survivors. We know of some St. Thomas alumni who have received rehabilitative care at Hazelden, St. John’s Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, and medical facilities in California. Most are survivors who appreciate the fact that they are now wounded healer helping others move onward with hope.

 

As for Mackenzie Phillips, we believe that she will be able to help others and herself by venturing on to this platform and reminding us of the folly of living in fear of discovery. Her courage is to be celebrated.

 

* * * *

 

Come to the Stable honors the memory of a St. Thomas student: Stephen Spalding (1953-1982). Come to the Stable/The Stephen Spalding Foundation is a 501(c)(3)
non-profit organization dedicated to the support of victims of sexual abuse.

 

 

 


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