Back a couple of years ago I attended a funeral for a family member at the Our Lady Help of Christians church in Newton. It was at a time that the church sex abuse scandal in Boston was at its height. The Pastor who presided over the funeral mass was Rev. Walter H. Cuenin. Rev. Cuenin was notable at the time because he along with 57 other pastors had signed a letter of protest regarding Cardinal Bernard's Law's involvement and conduct in the whole issue.
At the end of the mass Father Cuenin was at the back of the church and a number of people including myself shook his hand and offered words of thanks for his demonstration of courage in speaking out against what was then and is now the most disgraceful failure of a religious institution in the protection of its flock.
Shortly there after, Cardinal Law resigned in disgrace and jetted off to Rome for his reward for shielding pedophiles in his archdiocese for a 20 year period. Cardinal Law's replacement, Archbishop Sean O'Malley soon took over and seemed on the surface to be a more humble and less pretentious man, more about the good works of the faith than about the trappings of the power of the position he would hold as the head of the Archdiocese of Boston.
It was niave of us to think much has changed. The Archbishop waited an appropriate amount of time, focusing on dealing with the scandal and getting off the front pages but when the time was right the powers that be struck back at Rev. Cuenin. It wasn't enough that they relieved him of his duties as pastor but they also made sure that they slandered a very good man on is way out the door. No, said the archdiocese spokesman, Father Cuenin wasn't being relieved because he showed courage and leadership in speaking out against the abuses in the church. Father Cuenin was being replaced because 'he violated church policy by accepting a monthly stipend of $500 and a leased Honda Accord.'
Apparently it mattered not that the lay people in the leadership of the church had approved these expenditures and that these had arrangements had passed numerous audits of the church. It also did not matter that this is a vibrant and growing parish that welcomes all to its congregation.
Just to make sure that none of the other dissenters in the church missed the message that was being sent by Archbishop O'Malley, the pastor selected to replace Rev. Cuenin was Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, former spokesman for Cardinal Law and one of his chief lackeys and apologists.
Justifiably the congregation at Our Lady is outraged over the treatment of Rev. Cuenin, who by the way accepted his fate with grace and dignity. The flock has initiated protests and petition drives and also withheld collection funds in an effort to return Rev. Cuenin to the church with little success. In response to these latest efforts, spokesman for Archbishop O'Malley, Terrence Donillon said yesterday, 'People have to understand that Father Cuenin is not coming back. It's just not going to happen.' What he should have added was we are the church, we don't care what you think, and we don't have to.