Thursday, June 07, 2012

Father Jonathan Joseph Slavinskas' sister: Father Coonan was a better role model than drug addicted and alcoholic singers, actors and reality show stars

In a previous post, I noted how then Deacon and now Father Jonathan Joseph Slavinskas was quoted in The Catholic Free Press as having said that, "Father Coonan [Fr. Joseph Coonan] was a great influence and helped nourish my vocation."  Fr. Slavinskas also credited the late Bishop Timothy J. Harrington, who was dissent-friendly, as being an inspiration.

Now Fr. Slavinskas' sister, Amy Whittemore, has left a comment at this Blog taking exception with the legitimate concerns of Catholics who find this troubling.  And all the more so since St. Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, warns, "Do not be led astray: Bad company corrupts good morals." (1 Corinthians 15: 33).  She writes:

"It sickens me that people in todays society feel the need to judge a person by who their role models or influences are. How bad is it to look up to someone who was ACCUSED of something that may or may not have happened? Fr. Coonan was an influence to my brother before any of the scandals come out. Who are we to judge others? The only one to judge is God. Father Coonan was a better role model than the ones teens look up to today such as the drug addicted alcoholic singers, actors, and reality show stars..."

Something that may or may not have happened? Fr. Joseph A. Coonan was removed from ministry at St. John's Church in 2002 after allegations of inappropriate contact with children dating back to the 1970's.  He was also charged with domestic assault and battery, assault and battery on a person over 65 years of age (his mother), and one count of intimidating a witness according to court documents.  The Worcester Diocese found the accusations to be credible and removed Fr. Coonan from any and all ministry.

Father Coonan was an influence on Fr. Slavinskas before any of the scandals came out?  And also after Which is why Amy's brother continued to defend Fr. Coonan after the scandals came out and even now credits him with being "a great influence" who "helped nourish" his vocation.  Recall that many men came forward with similar stories of abuse, many involving Joseph Coonan's fondness for watching boys urinate, defecate or masturbate.  Is this the stuff that nourishes vocations?

As for judging, Dr. Germain Grisez, one of the finest moral theologians of our time, explains that, "It might seem to follow that love must accept everyone, even enemies, just as they are, and to affirm them even in the error or sin which is present in them. But the law of love does not require indiscriminate affirmation of everything about other persons (see Saint Thomas Aquinas, S.t., 2-2, q.34, a.3). One's love must be like Jesus'. He loves sinners and brings them into communion with himself in order to overcome their error and sin. When the scribes and pharisees bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus, he not only saves her from being stoned to death but warns her not to sin again (see John 8:3-11). In a true sense, Jesus is not judgmental, he sets aside the legalistic mentality, readily forgives sinners, does not condemn the world, and points out that those who refuse to acknowledge their sinfulness are self-condemned by the truth they violate (see John 3:16-21). But he realistically recognizes sinners as sinners and never accepts error as truth... Similarly, if Christians' love of neighbor is genuine, it not only permits but REQUIRES THEM both to 'hold fast to what is good' and to 'hate what is evil' (Romans 12:9)."

And again, according to Dr. Grisez, "Vatican II neatly formulates the prohibition against judging others" 'God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts; for that reason, he forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone' (Gaudium et Spes, No. 28). This norm, however, does not preclude JUDGMENTS necessary for determining that one should try to dissuade others from committing sins or to encourage them to repent if they have sinned."

Sacred Scripture makes this abundantly clear: "should you not judge those inside the Church"? (1 Corinthians 5:12), and again: "the saints will judge the world and angels" (1 Corinthians 6:2-3), and again: "the spiritual man judges all things" (1 Corinthians 2:15), and again: "Let prophets speak and the others judge" (1 Corinthians 14:29).

Not all judging is sinful. This is just common sense. Our legal system is structured in such a way that when a person commits a crime, he or she is tried before a judge and sentenced (judged) if found guilty. Likewise, it is our right (and duty) to judge words, ideas and actions which are not in conformity with the Gospels or which fail to conform to the Magisterial teaching of Christ's Church and to expose these as fallacious and/or sinful. In so doing, we are not rendering a judgment against a person. We are following the teaching of the great Saint Augustine (Bishop, Father and Doctor of the Church), who said: "Interficere errorem, diligere errantem" - kill the error, love the one who errs. This killing of what is sinful or erroneous is necessary if our charity - our love of neighbor - is to be genuine. Otherwise, our love is counterfeit. It is a fraud.

No one at this Blog has judged Fr. Slavinskas' person.  But there are those of us who do question whether he has common sense and good judgment

Father Coonan was a better role model than the ones teens look up to today such as the drug addicted alcoholic singers, actors, and reality show stars?  How so?  Fr. Coonan, by all accounts, also struggled with abusing alcohol and freely chose to engage in sexual perversion.  Which is why the Worcester Diocese removed him from ministry.  The accusations, and there were many, were credible for diocesan officials.
Ms. Whittemore writes, "ShrewsburyCatholic, how dare you tell others to be 'cautious' around my brother, Fr. Jonathan Slavinskas. It angers my so much for you to say this. He has done nothing but love and give his life to the Lord. He would never, NEVER do anything to hurt someone. It is people like you who make it so hard for young men to become priests. They struggle constantly with their calling to the priesthood and what others will think of them. They have to put up with so much ridicule that it is sickening. Not all priests or men studying to become priests are gay, or child molesters or abusers.."

But no one at this Blog ever said that "all priests or men studying to become priests are gay, or child molesters or abusers."  One has to wonder why Ms. Whittemore is so defensive in this regard.  But it is nevertheless disturbing that Fr. Slavinskas would have such great praise for a priest whose ministry ended in disgrace.

Bad company corrupts good morals.  A sober warning.  And reason to be cautious.  If the Diocese of Worcester is serious about furthering vocations, why am I not permitted to discern my vocation? See here.


1921Diner said...

I too am alarmed at Fr. Slavinskas' praise for Coonan. All the more so since the Church removed him from pastoral ministry after finding the accusations to be credible.

Does Amy Whittemore believe that the Diocese of Worcester acted inappropriately? If so, how so?

Does she believe that Coonan was innocent? If so, based upon what evidence?

Stewart said...

"Just how widespread is homosexuality among priests and bishops? For obvious reasons, no reliable statistics are available. The percentage is vigorously disputed, of course, but one indication of the scope of the problem is that those who argue for the lowest estimate insist that the number of gays in the clergy is no higher than that of the gay population in society at large--as if this were not on its own showing evidence of a profound crisis. Gay priests themselves--who, though admittedly partisan, admittedly also have unique access to the facts--commonly assure us that they are legion within the priesthood in general and well-represented even among bishops. The Kansas City Star series mentioned above notes that, of 26 novices who entered the Missouri Province of the Jesuit order in 1967 and 1968, only seven were eventually ordained priests. Of these seven, three have (to date) died of AIDS, and a fourth is an openly gay priest now working as an artist in New York. The priest-artist deplored the fact, not that his fellow Jesuits engaged in homosexual relations, but that they did not take "safe-sex" precautions even after the facts about HIV transmission became known. In this case, four of seven priests in a discrete sample are known to have been actively homosexual. What can we extrapolate from this data about the remaining three men, or about the American priesthood in general? Ten years ago the liberal National Catholic Reporter cited this example as typical:

Father Smith (not his real name) is a Jesuit priest working in a Philadelphia parish in one of the older parts of the city. He is a closeted gay priest and does not want his name used. ... "In my worst moments," he said, "I fear I will have been a collaborator in supporting an institution that oppresses gay people...." He said he became a Jesuit after falling in love with an older, 40-year old Jesuit priest. Smith was 20 then and studying at St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia. "As a Catholic priest, I know there would be no church without gay people. ... I assume priests are gay until proven otherwise."

In the same vein, such priests routinely gloat about the fact that gay bars in big cities have special "clergy nights," that gay resorts have set-asides for priests, and that in certain places the diocesan apparatus is controlled entirely by gays..."


Did you catch that? " certain places the diocesan apparatus is controlled entirely by gays."

That might explain what is going on in Worcester might it not?

ShrewsburyCatholic said...

Maybe if you were to sing the praises of Father Robert E. Kelley, who abused scores of children and who was recently featured on the front page of the CFP - being waited on by a religious sister from funds taken from "Partners in Charity" - you too would be welcomed with open arms.

Then again, maybe all you have to do is promote Joyce Rupp or Elizabeth Dreyer or women priests.

I'm sure that would get you in the door.

HolyCross2013 said...

Apparently the Worcester diocese isn't looking for men who are committed to the magisterial teaching of the Church.

Here's a man who is beginning his seminary studies at age 67:

So this isn't an age issue. You're more than 20 years younger than him. And you first approached the Diocese in the 90s.

No, there is something else going on here. A psychiatrist told the diocese NOT to ordain one man because of homosexual tendencies. The diocese ordained him and he was credibly accused of sexual abuse.

Another, who headed the diaconate training program, was arrested in Las Vegas for lewd conduct. Police found out he belonged to the Worcester diocese when they found his drivers license in his shoe.

Do we want healthy vocations or people who will dissent from Church teaching and act out sexually?

StJosephsFitchburg said...

I just cannot get over the fact that Fr. Slavinskas would speak so highly of another priest who was removed from his parish because of credible accusations of child abuse. And now his sister also defends Fr. Coonan?

What is going on in this diocese?

Wendy said...

I wonder if Father Slavinskas or his sister appreciate AT ALL how hurtful and offensive their support of the late Fr. Coonan might be to those who were victimized by the confused priest.

Have they given ANY thought as to how their words might be hurting these victims?


Anonymous said...

I too find Fr. Slavinskas' and his sister's unqualified praise of Fr. Coonan disturbing. However, I understand some of where they are coming from. I had a priest that was my mentor, teacher, confessor, spiritual director and father figure in college; who ultimately was discovered to have numerous sexual relationships with seminarians (no minors). He was caught up in scandal, removed from ministry, etc. What he did was not only abusive, but constituted sexual harassment as well, since he was a professor at the seminary, and had influence and advantage over seminarians. I was very saddened by what I discovered about him, and was later even more saddened when he refused to take responsibility for his actions and publicly and verbally attacked his accusers and his religious order for holding him accountable. Nevertheless, I would be wholly dishonest if I did not acknowledge the tremendous influence this priest had on my life. I loved him like a father. He was a father figure in my life when I desperately needed one. I do not condone what he did, and am horrified by his actions and by the fact that he did not acknowledge his responsibility in damaging men in the seminary. But, for me to outright condemn him and reduce his life's accomplishments to his terrible sins, and to deny what he meant to me would be wrong, pandering and dishonest. It would be revisionist history. I do not excuse or condone what he did. Nobody should ignore, excuse, condone or forget the sexual abuse Fr. Coonan committed. But, if Fr. Slavinskas and his sister are merely providing perspective, context and an honest assessment of what this man did for them and meant to them before they knew what terrible things he was doing, they may even be doing something useful-finding a way to see that other side of an evildoing person that may enable us to find love and forgiveness for that person. (Not excuses or painful advocacy for him that hurts his victims) Unfortunately, Fr. Slavinskas and his sister do seem to be attacking the accusers and to be ignoring Coonan's sins, and even equivocating about what appears to be fairly clear evidence of abuse by Coonan. In this sense, they have lost an opportunity to help us to better understand this abusive priest and maybe even to find love for him in some way. Instead, they have hurt his victims, defended the indefensible and persisted in an almost immature and blind allegiance to Coonan. That is hurtful and destructive. Slavinskas could easily have said something to the effect that, "He was a great influence on my vocation. I love him dearly. It was heartbreaking and horrifying to learn that this man that I held in such high esteem had such a terrible dark side to him that destroyed so many lives. I cannot deny what he meant to me, but I will never condone what he did, and my prayers go out to his victims. As a priest, I apologize to his victims on behalf of the Church, and I hope that I can exemplify the qualities that I thought he possessed, but which were clearly a false facade. If I can live the life and priesthood that he inspired me to live when I was a young man, I hope I can use my ministry to bring healing to the abused and to prevent any further abuse." Something like that. That would be an honest acknowledgement of what Coonan meant to him-rather than putting forward a revisionist history-and yet would acknowledge the pain he caused and desire to be of assistance to Coonan's victims.

WorcesterXavier said...

I thnk we are now witnessing the auto-demolition of the Diocese of Worcester. Next someone will be testifying as to how positive an influence Fr. Lowe Dongor was.

Years of dissent have taken their toll on this diocese.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, Fr. Slavinskas has defended Fr. Coonan. And this is inexcusable. He never said, "I cannot deny what he meant to me, but I will never condone what he did."

Such a statement would have been much better. He could also have said, "There but for the grace of God go I" (St. Philip Neri).

But to sing the praises of a priest removed from ministry because of credible accusations - and there were many - is reckless and irresponsible.

David said...

Look where the diocese put Father Dongor after the accusations against him...


Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Pope Benedict XVI, speaking to those priests who have abused others, told them that they have betrayed the trust of the faithful, brought shame on the church and now must answer before God and civil authorities, saying, "Conceal nothing...Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy."

Conceal nothing. Those words are not just for priest-abusers. But for those who insist on defending them.

We are called to fight the darkness. Not to become part of it.

Anonymous said...

The Ship of Peter is torn apart
Martyred in its Holy Teaching
It sinks and sinks, no work of art
The bottom though never reaching

Dissidents are screaming loud
Leaving behind an awful niff
Pretending to be proudly stout
Gearing the Ship into a cliff

Jesus shows His wounded Heart
Smitten with a deadly dart
Peter the Rock in desolation
Deploring severe desecration

Wake up, you Christian Brother
Show now your truthful face
With Mary our Heavenly Mother
We'll reach that Peaceful Place

In allegiance to the Holy Father
United in prayer and fasting
No victory will claim, but rather
Satan's defeat be everlasting.

Rita Biesemans, 01-02-2011

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