LifeNews and Thomas Peters at CatholicVoteAction.org have both reported extensively in the past couple of days on how Notre Dame’s long-time Associate Vice President for Residence Life, Bill Kirk was recently let go. Kirk was the only senior official in the administration who supported the pro-life rally held to protest Notre Dame’s selection of President Obama as commencement speaker last year. The story as also told by a Notre Dame prof in “So Long Captain Kirk” is a sad one on its own, but there’s something important which none of the publications covering the story were aware of—namely the time spent in Boston by the person who fired Kirk, Fr. Tom Doyle, Notre Dame’s new Vice President for Student Affairs. Fr. Tom lived at Our Lady Help of Christians in the rectory with Fr. Walter Cuenin for 3 years while he was at Harvard Business School. Bishop Rene Gracida on Abyssum has coined the expression “Boston Virus” to describe the goings on in Boston, and this is no exception. First, we’ll recap the main news, and then the rather disturbing Boston angle.
LifeNews and CatholicVoteAction both referenced a piece at National Review Online by Jack Fowler. Obama at Notre Dame: Golden Dome Bosses Serve a Cold Dish of Revenge Here’s a quick summary.
Notre Dame philosophy professor David Solomon posted a devastating analysis on his “Ethics and Culture in the News” blog on a troubling campus development: the sacking of long-time ND staffer Bill Kirk, the only man from the university administration who joined an on-campus pro-life “NDResponse” rally last year (also attended by South Bend Bishop John D’Arcy) protesting the selection of Barack Obama as the commencement speaker.
Kirk and his wife Elizabeth are prominent campus abortion foes (she was assistant director of one of the few institutes on campus that is avowedly pro-life and orthodox). Now their voices have been silenced, and by the same people who gnash their teeth and pluck their beards about living wages, unionization, fair treatment of employees, and the rest of the Catholic Left’s lobbying agenda. One can hear the college brass channeling Henry II: Will no one rid us of this troublesome pro-life Associate Vice-President for Residence Life?’
Catholic Vote Action says, “The decision to fire Bill Kirk was made by Father Tom Doyle, ND’s new VP for Student Affairs. I think it’s appropriate to email Fr. Doyle a brief note asking him to explain why he fired Bill Kirk. Fr. Doyle’s email is Thomas.P.Doyle.firstname.lastname@example.org.”
You can just follow the links above to get more of the story about the Kirks, so now we’ll cut to the chase on Fr. Doyle. He studied at Harvard Business School from 2001-2003 and spent another year there writing case studies, including one on financial reporting in the Catholic Church. While he was in Boston for 3 years from 2001-2004, he opted to live in the rectory at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Newton, where the pastor was noted gay rights activist, Fr. Walter Cuenin.
This 2002 Boston Globe article reported, “After arriving at Our Lady in 1993, Cuenin rejuvenated the parish with a spirit of openness that appealed to Catholics of a liberal ilk. He openly questioned polices on gays and women, and told Globe West in 2001 that Our Lady welcomes “people who are very devout Catholics and people who are hanging on by their fingernails.”
In April of 2002, Cuenin submitted testimony to the Massachusetts Legislature in opposition to a bill that would have banned gay marriage. Cuenin and Our Ladys church were well known as being gay-friendly, and the Boston Globe cited the church in October 2003 as “one that welcomes gays and lesbians, and hosts a gay and lesbian faith sharing group.” The parish even marched several years in a row at the annual Gay Pride parade in Boston. Cuenin helped found the dissident group, Voice of the Faithful, in 2002. He was one of the founders of the Priests Forum, and he was led a group of priests who called for the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law. This article from September 2, 2002 issue of The New Yorker magazine entitled “The Reformer” describes Cuenin in elaborate detail:
Father Cuenin was bothered by the Cardinal’s unyielding allegiance to the dictates of Rome….Our Lady Help of Christians is widely considered an excellent parish. Nonetheless, Father Cuenin’s pastorate has not escaped the chancery’s scrutiny. He hadn’t been long in the job when calls started coming in, from the Cardinal himself or from his subordinates, reprimanding him for, among other things, using translations of scripture that replaced such words as “man” with gender-neutral terms, and for giving a non-Catholic—specifically, the Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts—the Eucharist.
[After attending a Voice of the Faithful meeting in 2002] Cuenin said “But what they need and what we need”—he was referring to the Priests’ Forum—”is a community organizer like Saul Alinsky. Some way to put pressure on the hierarchy for change. We covered Our Ladys and Fr. Cuenin previously on this blog, and Fr. Cuenin’s ill-informed preaching on salvagion also discussed in our post “What I Believe” is Unbelievable.
Beyond Fr. Tom Doyle’s having lived at Our Ladys with Walter Cuenin, we do not know a lot about him. When he graduated from Harvard Business School in 2003, he was honored for leadership with a Deans Award. Some of our Newton readers who went to Mass at Our Ladys during the period of time when Fr. Tom was there sent us emails over the weekend with recollections of Fr. Tom as being youthful and energetic and giving homilies that were down-to-earth–but he also typically wore athletic attire under his vestments (ie short pants and sneakers in warm weather) when saying daily or weekend Masses. He started at University of Portland in 2004 as executive assistant to the President and advanced to Executive VP, and was apparently well-liked and popular during his six years there from 2004-2010. At Notre Dame, the 2010-2011 “Guide to Student Life” published by Fr. Tom’s office tells how “Student Affairs strives to create an inclusive, diverse, vibrant environment,” describing the “Spirit of Inclusion” and “Resources for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Questioning Students” (p.46) in a similar manner to the same guides of previous years with no mention of Church teaching in this area, so if he were bringing any new Catholic orthodoxy to Notre Dame, it is not apparent in the student handbook.
Fr. Tom’s choices to live at Our Ladys and to explicitly mention living at Our Ladys in his Univ. of Portland biography are curious ones that might cause anyone to ask a few questions. Priests faithful to Church teachings tend to prefer living in rectories with like-minded priests. And vice versa. There are a lot of churches within just a few miles driving distance from the Harvard Business School. The reputation of Fr. Cuenin and Our Ladys was well-established before Fr. Tom arrived in Boston and chose his living accommodations. Reasonable readers of this blog might ask the question, exactly what was it about Our Ladys and a known dissident like Fr. Cuenin that made Fr. Tom decide to live at that particular parish? If you were a priest faithful to Church teachings and lived in a rectory with a pastor who gave testimony opposing the Church’s teachings on marriage to the state legislature, would you want to keep living there when plenty of other rectories were nearby with space available? Given the range of Fr. Cuenin’s actions that undermined the Church during that time when Fr. Tom was living there, was there nothing that made Fr. Tom say, “I’m outta here”? If Fr. Tom was comfortable staying at Our Ladys which was permeated by Fr. Cuenin’s unorthodox ideology and sufficiently proud of being there that he mentioned it in his bio, through what sort of lens does Fr. Tom judge orthodox Catholics?
Oh, we nearly forgot to mention the Bryan Hehir connection. Next month, October 17-20, Fr. Hehir and Fr. Doyle are both scheduled to speak at Notre Dame’s “Program on Mission-based Leadership and Organization Development.” That’s just a week after Fr. Bryan Hehir is scheduled to keynote yet another Boston Social Justice Conference, this one featuring a BC prof as a speaker who publicly supported a pro-abortion politician as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The “Boston Virus” continues…