Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

The other Springfield

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 15, 2005

In that hour when nervous and respectable people objected to the shouting of the guttersnipes of Jerusalem, Christ said, "If these were silent, the very stones would cry out."  G.K. Chesterton

Springfield Journal-Review writer Dave Bakke offers a reasonably fair-minded and comprehensive article on the manifold woes of the Springfield (IL) diocese. Notoriously, Bishop Lucas's predecessor Dan Ryan crashed because of his fondness for male prostitutes. Several priests have been in the dock for molestation. Last December, the diocesan chancellor Eugene Costa was found beaten in a park known as a gay cruising zone, whereupon Lucas engaged a lay-headed investigative team "to look into non-criminal allegations against local priests." Now, almost in passing, Bakke tells us about two other high-profile "career changes."

Lucas kept Costa and Monsignor John Renken, who had been Ryan's number-two men, in place. But in the aftermath of the Costa beating, Lucas made several important changes in the diocesan leadership:

  • Costa resigned as diocesan chancellor and parish planning coordinator as well as from his positions as pastor of St. John Vianney and Holy Family. He is undergoing a lengthy physical and psychological rehabilitation period at an undisclosed location outside of Illinois.
  • Renken was relieved of his leadership duties as moderator of the curia, vicar general and moderator of canonical and civil affairs. He remains judicial vicar and diocesan judge in the tribunal, which grants marriage annulments, and he remains director of the permanent diaconate. ...
  • Monsignor Kenneth Steffen, Renken's co-pastor at St. James Church in Riverton and St. Katherine Drexel Church in Springfield, went on an indefinite leave of absence. The diocese gave no details on the reason for his leave. An announcement read at his parishes in mid-February said Steffen left to receive physical, emotional and holistic healing.
  • Even after the disasters in Phoenix and Palm Beach, the Springfield Saga cripples belief. Stephen Brady of Roman Catholic Faithful has documented (always dramatically, almost always accurately) the sexual corruption of this small diocese, in which Ryan's antics were the most obviously atrocious, but in which the chancellor Msgr. Costa has figured ominously as well (in 1998, e.g., Brady quoted Costa's parish bulletin inviting all comers to attend Mass in Halloween costume).

    In 2003, Brady wrote to Robert Bennett, then chairman of the research committee of the National Review Board, alerting him to the role played by the above-mentioned Costa and Renken in running interference for Ryan, and noting the bizarre connection by which Renken shared his domicile and "co-pastorship" with Kenneth Steffen. Two years later, Costa and Steffen are off-line and Renken is in limbo.

    His detractors have not been slow to call Steven Brady demented and his accusations scurrilous. His language, true, is more lurid than that of an attorney, but then Brady's not an attorney, he's a pizza cook. Yet like the boy who dared say the emperor had no clothes, this pizza cook has put a name to obvious truths no one else had the guts to speak. Cf. Mr. Chesterton supra.

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