Monday, September 10, 2018

Cardinal O'Malley's Dead Letter Branch is Back in the News

Retired NJ priest Fr. Kenneth Lasch told the Boston Globe he wrote to Cardinal O'Malley about an unresolved abuse complaint and received several dismissive letters from Fr. Kickham.

 I've been complaining about these template letters for decades!  I personally know hundreds of Catholics who sent Cardinal O'Malley letters about various problems who received a dismissive letter from Fr. Kickham.

 I've read letters other Catholics received from Fr. Kickham and received several letters myself. Let me tell you something: That guy knows a million and one ways to write letters about nothing.

But, after years of following stories of Catholics trying to get resolution about a situation Cardinal O'Malley has the duty to fix, I'm not convinced Fr. Kickham is the root of the problem.

 Don't get me wrong, Fr. Kickham letters are exasperating and need to be improved upon, but I believe the problem may be Cardinal O'Malley is an absentee father and Fr. Kickham doesn't have the authority to take action on most of the complaints he receives.

 If a bishop won't engage in communication or exercise his authority and your job is relaying information about his communication and authority, you've got to be an expert on patronizing letters that convey the bishop has abandoned his duties and obligations.

 Here's why I've come to that conclusion:

 Fr. Lash wrote three letters about his situation. He had a long way to go.

 I don't personally know anyone whose written to Cardinal O'Malley about sexual abuse, but I do know plenty of Catholics who've written to him about spiritual malpractice, heresy or blasphemy. To get some kind of a response, Boston Catholics customarily write a dozen or more letters about a situation over which the Cardinal has the duty and authority, before they would ever see action.  That's the reason the information is now disclosed on blogs.   Who has time for that?!

The process took years. If a situation was serious enough to warrant an appointment, when a meeting finally occurs, its clear the Cardinal never read the letters, not even in a quick review to find out what the meeting was about.

 Fr. Bill Scanlan used to call the phenomenon "O'Malley Dead Letter Branch".  Here is some commentary from Fr Scanlan’s files:
Another letter is added to the O'Malley Dead Letter Branch. 
The questions certainly are surfacing... 
Does he receive his mail? 
Does he read his mail? 
Is his mail being misdirected? 
Is this an intentional snubbing? 
Could this result from legal advice to avoid contact? 
Whatever is at the heart of his unresponsiveness it is certainly not the character of a real pastor/shepherd.
A few excerpts from Fr. Scanlan's letters to Cardinal O'Malley:

  "This is now my sixth (6th) letter to you since you assumed the 'cathedra' of Boston. The previous five have not received so much as a 'responsive' grunt. I therefore remain doubtful that you even received them." 
"Hello Bob, I suppose this is as tiresome for you as it is for me...this will be my ninth letter to my bishop, the third of the last two weeks. It was you who recognized these last three letters! I do appreciate that courtesy and I believe it to be quite sincere. Thank you."  

 "Nine letters have gone unrecognized by my Bishop. I can no longer see this as unintentional. I now recognize his silence as an intentional message "I can not be bothered with your concerns, and you, William Scanlan are 'persona non grata"  

 "Bob, I appreciate the awkwardness of your position. I do not hold you in any way responsible for this tragic reality..." 

Excerpts from Fr. Scanlan's letter written to Cardinal O'Malley following a meeting which occurred after years of sending letters:
"When you review that document, you will understand why I was mystified by your statement (more than once), "I did not know". You were informed in my numerous letters of the situations you didn't know. 
In deference to you, I have to therefore assume that communications intended for you are being misdirected. This would indicate a very serious situation within the Curia adjunct staff and ultimately with your own mission to shepherd the Diocese."
Fr. Scanlan was one of many who made dozens of attempts to get Cardinal O'Malley to communicate and exercise his authority.  In the absence of communication and action, he sought the assistance of auxiliary bishops, canonical yahoos, Nuncio Montalvo, the Romans.

 Through these experiences, it was his opinion the motives behind Fr. Kickham's responses were pastoral and kind in nature. Cardinal O'Malley has checked out. Rather than let a wounded person feel ignored, Fr. Kickham at least acknowledges receipt of the letters and comes up with something to say about the nothingness of the Cardinal's response.

 I could be mistaken.   I'm throwing this out there because indicting the wrong people for the wrong reasons is not going to fix the problem.   Given my own experiences, Fr. Bill's explanation is plausible.

 Going up the chain of command hundreds of times, it's become clear to me that solid faithful priests and administrators have their hands tied in the discipline of wayward priests. Wayward priests are taking advantage of Cardinal O'Malley's protection.

 Superiors of wayward priests will be outraged along with you, will reach out to the wayward priest, do what they can. But, eventually say things like "don't get mad at me, this is as far as I can go with it, the rest is up the Cardinal and you can expect nothing further to happen, its a sad situation, pray for us.."

 The Cardinal put out a response to yesterday's Boston Globe article, basically saying he 'will now' personally review correspondence 'of Commission related matters' or 'abuse related' matters, even if they address matters outside of his authority' and he's 'made a commitment to refer those requiring the attention of the Nuncio to the United States and/or the Vatican' (where the Holy Father has made the commitment to "not say one word on this matter").

 Knock yourselves out!

 It's important to note what Cardinal O'Malley's statement doesn't say.

 His press release is very specific on what he's authorized Fr. Kickham to give him to personally read:
Letters pertaining to the abuse of children and letters which fall outside of his authority that need to go up the chain of command.

 Letters pertaining to spiritual malpractice or the homosexual mafia will continue to be forwarded to the Dead Letter Branch. 

It's an unacceptable response.  He's got to sit and read all communications that require his intercession to resolve and he's got to 'commit' to resolving them, with removals and laicization where appropriate.

The letters have to start communicating to us that an investigation is underway and if allegations are found to be true, the priest will be removed, his faculties stripped and a canonical process will commence.

Enough smoke and mirrors.


  1. Well, as one blogger noted, these huge archdioceses are more than one man can handle for one thing. Secondly, we can understand about this "prince" not "personally" receiving a very important letter about mortally sinful situations in his diocese because he does not deign to read letters himself. Thirdly, he was of the sort of person specially chosen by the pope.

  2. If Cdl. O'Malley has auxiliary Bishops, the "too big to handle" excuse is crapola. Here in Milwaukee, with only 300 parishes, we have TWO Auxiliaries and at least 5 other high-level staffers (some of which are Canon lawyers) in the Puzzle Palace.

    They're ignoring it and hoping we will go away. They will have a very unpleasant surprise coming.


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