Many Catholics Still Angry

By Tom Deignan
IrishAbroad [New York]
Downloaded June 27, 2003

GROWING up in Jackson Heights, Queens, Eileen Flynn remembers that "nothing was questioned" when it came to the Catholic Church.

Her parents were immigrants from Cork. Her mother raised four children, while her Dad was a member of the heavily-Irish transit worker's union.

"The priest was the only educated member of the community," says Flynn, who attended Catholic schools in Queens, and later obtained three degrees from Fordham University.

Now, Flynn is one of thousands of Irish Catholics across America who, one year after an historic bishop's meeting in Dallas, remains skeptical of church reforms.

Flynn, and many other loyal, practicing Catholics, were angry when Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating stepped down earlier this month from his leadership position on a board monitoring church reform.

Keating, of course, made a serious gaffe, comparing some bishops to the mafia. But Flynn thinks there was a lot more to it than that.

"I think a lot of the bishops were out to get Keating.. They were waiting for him to slip up. I think a lot of them have dirty laundry to air," says Flynn, who now teaches at St. Peter's College in Jersey City, which of course, makes her an employee of the Newark Archdiocese.

Despite that, and the conservative bent of Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, Flynn is compelled to continue speaking out against what she sees as a church adrift.

"I'm a little bit afraid," said Flynn, acknowledging a potential backlash against her criticisms. "But I feel I have to say what I have to say.. I'm a mother and I'm going to be a grandmother, and what was happening to (sexually abused) kids was horrible."

Flynn will be speaking next month to members of the nationwide reformist group Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), which has been banned from meeting on Roman Catholic property by Archbishop Myers. So, VOTF's Northern New Jersey chapter will meet at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Hillsdale on Monday, July 14.

Flynn will also be discussing a book she recently published entitled Catholics at a Crossroads: Coverup, Crisis, and Cure (Paraview Press).

Irish Catholics such as Flynn, as well as members of VOTF - which now has over a dozen chapters in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey - have watched church officials with disappointment for the past year. Following last June's Dallas meeting, many say, there was hope for real change, in an institution which routinely covered up sexual abuse.

The resignation of Governor Keating, however, seemed to cap off what many characterize as an unproductive year.

As VOTF president Jim Post put it: "Governor Keating has provided important lay leadership to the Catholic Church - and public service to all Americans - at a time when the clergy sexual abuse scandal weighs heavily on the moral credibility of bishops, cardinals, and Church hierarchy. His language may have antagonized some, but his commitment to cleaning up the stain of scandal was never in doubt."

Post also called "on all Catholic bishops to.reaffirm the commitment from their 2002 meetings in Dallas and Washington, D.C., to rid the Church of the sins and crimes that caused and enabled this crisis."

But with the church issue more or less out of the headlines, Flynn and others acknowledge that many Catholics are no longer as upset as they were last year.

"People I see fall into two categories," she says. "One group gives 10 bucks a week (to church collections), they don't want to hear about it." Others, Flynn adds, "are incensed. They are much more activist. That's the group I'm in.incensed and wanting to make changes." Flynn says: "I don't know which group is bigger."

Flynn, it should be added, has never thought of leaving the church.

"I matured in my faith. I wanted (the church) to be what they promised us in the 60s at Second Vatican council."

She has not seen that happen. Now, she says: "I separate my faith in Jesus from the hierarchy."

Flynn does say she is "optimistic" that the next pope will be more open to wide-reaching reforms.

If not, "within 20 years there won't be any more priests.and the church will exist only in the past tense," Flynn says.


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