Tuesday, December 2, 2014


AnonymousDecember 1, 2014 at 9:39 PM reminds us of the case of the late Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who, in 1994 was accused of sexual molestation by a former seminarian. At the time Bernardin was the highest ranking prelate in the United States to be accused of such a crime.

The case is instructive for us who are now witnessing the same kind of situation locally. 

Bernardin declared the accusation to be false and then reached out to the accuser and his family. Bernardin and the accuser eventually reconciled and the accuser recanted his charge blaming a faulty memory. And the whole church was better for it.

With Archbishop Apuron we see him neither declaring the charges to be false or reaching out to the accuser. Instead we see him asking others to believe the charges are false and suing the accuser (though he hasn't specifically named him yet). And the whole church is the worse for it. 

What a loss for us all. 

Read the Bernardin account here

Bernardin, Ex-accuser Reconcile

Cardinal Describes Apology As `Direct, Deeply Moving'

January 05, 1995|By Paul Galloway, Tribune Religion Writer.

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin on Wednesday disclosed details of a private, emotional and redemptive encounter he had last week in Philadelphia with his former accuser, Steven Cook, describing their two hours together as a "grace-filled meeting which brought closure and peace to both of us."
At the meeting in a Roman Catholic seminary, which was initiated by Bernardin and arranged by intermediaries, Cook apologized to the cardinal for accusing him of sexual abuse in a lawsuit that was filed in November 1993.
Bernardin prayed with Cook, presented him a Bible and said mass for him and the friend who accompanied him, using a chalice that had been donated especially for such an occasion. Bernardin also was accompanied by a friend, Rev. Scott Donahue, a Chicago priest.
"Never in my 43 years as a priest have I witnessed a more profound reconciliation," Bernardin said in a four-page account of the meeting, titled "A Story of Reconciliation," that was released Wednesday.
"Steven's apology was simple, direct, deeply moving," Bernardin wrote.
Reached by phone Wednesday in Philadelphia, where he lives, Cook said he told Bernardin: "I want to apologize from the bottom of my soul for the pain and embarrassment this lawsuit caused you."
Dropping the charges three months after he lodged them, Cook declared as "unreliable" his memories of the abuse, which were induced through hypnosis some two decades after Cook said it occurred.
Cook now goes beyond that statement, asserting that he is absolutely convinced of Bernardin's innocence.
In the interview, Cook said: "When we met, I told Cardinal Bernardin that I was 95 percent sure he hadn't abused me, but I would like to be 100 percent certain. I said to do that, `I need for you to look me in the eye and tell me you didn't do it.' "
Cook said Bernardin did this.
"And I believed him," Cook said. "I felt a need to take responsibility for my part in the whole thing, and I also needed to look into his eyes and ask him if he had abused me."
Cook said Bernardin "in a round-about way" seemed to support Cook's charges against another Catholic priest, Rev. Ellis Harsham. His lawsuit charged Bernardin and Harsham with abuse in the mid-'70s while Cook was a pre-seminary student in Cincinnati; Harsham was a priest at the seminary; and Bernardin was Cincinnati's archbishop.
"Cardinal Bernardin said to me, `When I looked at you, I knew someone had abused you.' But he didn't come out and say it was one of his priests."
The Cincinnati archdiocese reached an out-of-court settlement with Cook on his claims against Harsham, who has left the priesthood.
Cook said, "Cardinal Bernardin told he thought someone had probably been manipulating me and telling me things that weren't true about him."
Was he? "Yes, I was being fed stuff that was not true. Unfortunately, I trusted the people who told me that."
Contacted at his office in New Jersey, attorney Stephen Rubino, who represented Cook, was asked if he had second thoughts about the charges against the cardinal. "This business doesn't have second thoughts. We have to do what we think is right at the time, and that's what we did," he said.
In a news conference Wednesday at archdiocese headquarters, Bernardin said Cook encouraged him to speak publicly about their meeting and that he called Cook on Tuesday night to seek approval for the four-page account.
Cook said, "When he called and read what he'd written, the first thing I said to him was, `You're a great writer.' He truly captured the emotion and intensity of the experience."
Bernardin said that Cook had been especially grateful for Bernardin's pledge to "walk with him," to pray for him and keep in touch.
Cook, 35, has AIDS. "My health is like a roller-coaster ride," he said. "I've struggled with feeling sick a lot. Some days I feel good and go out. Some days, I feel sick and stay in bed all day."
Cook said that although his belief in God is unshaken, he feels "alienated" from the Catholic Church because of its lack of support for gays such as himself.
Bernardin said when he offered Cook the Bible he had bought for him, Cook was reluctant to accept it because of his alienation from the church. "He said on several occasions while in a hotel he threw the Gideon Bible against the wall in anger and frustration," Bernardin wrote.
But Cook finally took it, holding it tightly to his chest with tears in his eyes.
Cook was also hesitant at first about mass. "But it was actually a wonderful ceremonial experience. It was healing to see a cardinal of the church standing there, having mass with two gay men in a chapel. It felt very loving and accepting."
Bernardin said, "I think I have grown spiritually as a result of this. I think I am more compassionate."
He said he was never angry at Cook, had prayed for him daily throughout the ordeal and had always hoped to meet with him.
The whole of the message of Jesus Christ, he said, is reconciliation.
"I needed to reconcile to be at peace," Cook said. "Resentments and anger are only going to hurt me physically and spiritually."
He said he would meet with Harsham if Harsham expressed repentance. "It's important to be responsible for your actions, which I was with the cardinal. And if you are victimized, you also need to grow past being a victim. I now have an inner peace and self-love I never had."


  1. Tim, is it possible to post the entire Cardinal Joseph Bernardin article rather than just the link? Everyone, and I mean everyone in Guam could learn a lot from that meeting and how the Cardinal dealt with the allegations, the accuser, and, apparently, priests within his Diocese. It would be a shame if your viewers fail to go click on the link and read.

  2. I might not have read the link yet but the operative words here are enough for me. "Reaching out". Isn't that what Church is all about? Reaching out.