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When a bishop tries to mislead

carlson CHRIS


It always comes as a surprise, though it should not, when one sees “a man with a collar,” prove he is as fallible as the rest of us mere mortals, capable of misleading conduct and apparently as misguided by “the end justifies the means” philosophy as any other rudderless politician.

Such is the case with Archbishop Blasé Cupich, late of the Spokane diocese and the new Archbishop of Chicago.

In a recent article in the Spokesman-Review, the Archbishop impugns the integrity of Father Steve Dublinski, the current pastor at St. Augustine’s. This good priest served faithfully and well as the Vicar General (in effect, the chief operating officer for the Spokane diocese) for the past 12 years, first for Bishop William Skylstad and then for the Archbishop.

Anyone who knows, or has met or has worked with Father Steve knows he is a person whose integrity and commitment to truth and justice is above questioning and beyond reproach. He is devoted to the truth and the mission of the diocese.

Even if one does not know Father Steve, his action in resigning speaks volumes for him. It should be clear that such a resignation was an act of conscience on his part. It took courage to publicly split with the Bishop. It should also be obvious that the reason for Father Dublinski resigning as Vicar General was his refusal to go along with Cupich’s lawsuit for malpractice against the diocese’s outside legal counsel, the venerable Paine, Hamblen law firm.

If one reads carefully the article that appeared on December 16th in which Cupich is trying to undo the damage done to the diocese’ alleged case against the law firm, Cupich never denies having said to Vicar General Dublinski that he would “just throw some mud against the wall and see what sticks.

Rather, he says he never directed his lawyers to throw mud and see what sticks. It is a classic misdirection ploy that in the process has him implicitly questioning Father Steve’s integrity. This is simply outrageous and an insult to our intelligence. Ask yourself what would Father Steve gain by resisting Cupich’s apparent pressure to be supportive of his desires in this matter?

In filing his lawsuit for malpractice, Cupich was obviously hoping that the diocese would win and be able to collect $4 million in damages from the firm’s liability insurance carrier.

We’re all too familiar with that gambit – we’ve all heard the plaint “It’s not the people we’re suing that will pay, it’s their insurance company.” The implication is those sued shouldn’t care because someone else will pay for the damages.

So what if in the process one trashed the reputation of a venerable law firm’s attorneys, not to mention one of the diocese’ fine priests as well as his distinguised predecessor, Bishop William Skylstad? One cannot help thinking that Archbishop Cupich must view this in terms of what the military calls unfortunate collateral damage.

As an aside, the diocesan interim administrator, Father Mike Savaleski, has a moral obligation to step forward to make sure the diocesan family knows that he was the lead negotiator for the Association of Parishes with plaintiff attorneys who hammered out the future claims section of the Diocesan Plan of Reorganization.

Somehow we always expect more from those that wear collars. We really shouldn’t. Cupich may mouth the new vocabulary of Pope Francis, but his actions belie his words. I may feel he is ethically-challenged but others may find no fault with his conduct.

At the end of the day, though, one does not have to know either Father Dublinski or Archbishop Cupich to know which is the one who has acted with devotion to integrity and the truth. Father Dublinski’s conscience is clear. I have to believe the Archbishop’s conscience at best is cloudy.

There’s an old expression the Archbishop should remember: Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

(Chris Carlson is the former long-time press secretary to Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus, a parishioner at St. Augustine’s, and is privileged to fly fish with Father Dublinski on occasion.)

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