I’m going to keep writing on the situation of Fr. Walter Cuenin because this is a big deal in the Archdiocese of Boston and even beyond because Cuenin, as I said before, is the guy who is the central organizing figure behind many of the dissident groups that had their start in Boston and spread throughout the country. (See previous entries here: 1, 2, 3)
Anyway, Fr. Cuenin preached at his parish this weekend for the last time. He didn’t celebrate the Saturday evening Mass, but did give a short statement during the homily outlining why he had resigned. He explained that he had been receiving a living expense stipend and car lease and insurance payments from the parish over and above what the rules and regulations of the archdiocese lay out. We’re not talking small change here. He has been in the parish for a dozen years and the car expenses alone must be a minimum of $400 per month. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars. He also has to pay the money back.
Now Cuenin admits to this, but what is his defense? He claims that the parish finance council approved these payments and that audits by the archdiocese over the years never red-flagged it. This is a very lame defense. For one thing, a parish finance council has no authority to set compensation for a pastor. They are purely advisory. Canon law is very clear about this. The bishop sets the remuneration scales for priests. Otherwise, what’s to prevent a pastor from stacking the financial council with people who favor him and asking them to give him 15% of the collection every month?
The situation is similar to that of the Tyco International CEO, Dennis Kozlowski, who just got up to 25 years in prison for granting himself raises and benefits he wasn’t entitled to. Kozlowski claimed that the SEC had investigated in 2001 and gave Tyco a clean bill of health, so why should they be arresting him now? After all, the bonuses and zero-interest loans were approved by a committee of execs at the company, right? Doesn’t matter because the shareholders were the ones being hurt and Kozlowski and the execs didn’t have the right to do what they did.
So just for what Cuenin admits, he’s clearly wrong. He works for the archbishop and only the archbishop can set his compensation.
What’s ironic is that liberals have been pointing to Kozlowski’s antics at Tyco as another example of conservative corporate greed at the expense of the little guy. But here we have this liberal icon doing the same thing. I wonder if all the liberal deep-pockets in Newton will pony up to help Cuenin pay off his tens of thousands of debt when he’s apparently done the very same thing that liberals have condemned in others.
Another point to keep in mind is that we’ve only heard what Cuenin has chosen to tell us. Is this the only reason he’s been asked to resign? If this is what he’s willing to admit to in public, is there more he’s leaving out? We’ll have to wait and see.
It should also be interesting to see how Cuenin’s buddies at the Boston Globe handle this tomorrow and Monday. Stay tuned.