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Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

voices from the past

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Apr 12, 2004

National Review Board chairman Anne Burke is catching some flak for having failed to disclose her friendship with Thomas O’Gorman, a former Chicago priest put on waivers by Cardinal Bernardin in 1992 for molesting a Loyola Academy student whom he was mentoring in the techniques of social justice.

O’Gorman’s pastoral outreach came under the scrutiny of Catholic World Report back in October 1995 in an essay on clergy sexual abuse. Father’s very public posturing on his concern for the marginalized won him the admiration of the NCR’s Tim Unsworth, to whom (before the allegations became known) he gave a rambling interview on renewal:

Who would I ordain? I don't think I'd ordain anyone who doesn't read the New York Times or hasn't written a sonnet. ... We can no longer think of an exclusively male clergy anymore. It just won't wash. ... We can't go among the poor and holler at them with picket signs about abortion. I'm beginning to wonder myself about our teaching on abortion. ... Do you think that life begins when brain activity begins? I don't know. I only know that we can’t bring the poor and homeless into our shelter to feed them and then yell at them for fifteen minutes about abortion.

The criticisms of “yelling at the poor about abortion” were aimed at Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, whose work among Chicago’s homeless and AIDS patients O’Gorman found repellent because of their unapologetic orthodoxy. In many respects he qualifies as a perfect specimen of those gospel-according-to-Peanuts clerical thumb-suckers for whom Social Justice is essentially a form of self-display. Having gathered a media audience to hear them declaim against the heartlessness of General Dynamics and Ratzinger, they’re frankly annoyed when real Catholics spoil their act by actually tending to the actually sick. One wonders too how often the MC sisters compose sonnets or read the New York Times. It was magnanimous of O’Gorman to let them near the poor at all.

"They are very, very cordial to me," O'Gorman said of the Burkes. "They are very, very lovely people."

Does Burke’s friendship with O’Gorman constitute a conflict of interest? Probably not. It’s the heterodoxy she shares with him that’s at odds with the “interest” of the Church. And given that the findings of the board she chaired are positively Athanasian compared to the remarks of the bishops at whose pleasure she served, it would be difficult to trace the influence of O’Gorman in the final product. There are indications, however, that he has a future in the “education for celibacy” business.

In an interview last week, O'Gorman said the allegation of sexual misconduct against him was "totally untrue." Asked why he left the priesthood, O'Gorman replied, "Time for a change."

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