PRESS RELEASE from Fr. Frank Phillips of @SJCantius

I’ve been following and posting about the horrid situation of Fr. Frank Phillips, CR, founder of the Canons of St. John Cantius and now-former pastor of the homonymous parish in Chicago.  My previous post HERE

Phillips accomplished astonishing things there over the years.

Phillips was accused of bad behavior, but an independent board found that he did not break an civil or canon laws.

Phillips’ Provincial recommended to the Archdiocese that his faculties be restored even if he weren’t returned as pastor, and that he should have contact with the Canons.

A group supporting Phillips posted online that the board had exonerated him.

Today the parish of St. John Cantius published on their site a letter from Phillips’ Provincial.

The board did NOT exonerate Phillips, even though they found that he hadn’t broken laws.

What did the Review Board really say?

I am not going to hold my breath, but one of these days we may see the report of the Board.

However, today Fr. Phillips’ counsel issued a Press Release:

Press Release
From Fr. Frank Phillips
June 29, 2018 – Chicago

I wish to express my thanks to Father Gene Szarek, Provincial Superior of the Congregation of the Resurrection, for providing an independent Review Board to examine the accusations against me. Thank you to the members of the Review Board who spent hours listening to the accusers as well as individuals who gave testimony of the facts and on behalf of my character. I assure you I have done nothing that would scandalize the faithful.

My prayers were answered when the Review Board returned its finding of no criminal violation, civil violation, or canonical violation in my case. The Review Board found me innocent of the accusations which I have vehemently denied. I am returning to serve God in any capacity under the direction of the Provincial of the Congregation of the Resurrection to build up the Kingdom of God.

I want to express my appreciation and gratitude to all those who called me, sent me letters, made phone calls, and spoke publicly in my defense. To all those who supported me, please rest assured that I remember you daily in my prayers and my heart has swelled with knowing that you stood by me in the difficult times I have just experienced. I will always stand by you.

I am currently in Rome engaged in consultations with the Congregation of the Resurrection and other church leaders. I have heard there is a misunderstanding concerning my status. Currently, by decree of Cardinal Cupitch my faculties are suspended only in the Archdiocese of Chicago. I am free to continue in my calling to serve God in all other geographical locations on the planet. Therefore, I will continue to say mass for you daily and petition for reconciliation with the Cardinal.

Lastly, I want to express my appreciation, gratitude, and thanksgiving for my lawyer Stephen Komie who guided me through the process. As we walked together he provided counsel and advice which allowed me to stay the course, keep my head up, and seek my prayers for justice.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. tamranthor says:

    While I believe we must respect the privacy of the individuals in these sorts of cases, and we should certainly not spread murmurings, rumors, slanders or calumnies, it would be very nice to have clarity about outcomes and findings as pertain to public leaders, i.e. pastors and priests.

    The scandal is sometimes that nobody knows what happened or was decided, and then imaginations are bound to run wild.

  2. Patrick-K says:

    “What did the Review Board really say?”

    The fact that it’s not being released strongly suggests it does not reflect well on the archdiocese.
    My guess is that Fr. Philips, although not fully “exonerated,” was only found “guilty” of something very trivial.

  3. JesusFreak84 says:

    Fr. Phillips has every right, morally and legally, to defend himself publicly. I’m glad he’s chosen to do so and seems to have secured sound council to do so.

  4. frjimt says:

    We’re living in a time where the ‘mitres’ are being ruled by lawyers & after the Mccarrick debacle, many are afraid that they’ll end up in jail.
    To quote a chancery official about a priest in limbo: I’m not going to jail for fr N.

    Would that a few brave ones would willingly go their for the faith instead of out of fear..
    Just look at the blog: these stone walls.

  5. jbazchicago says:

    Unbeknownst to me, during the period of the investigation, I told Fr.Phillips that I could not give to the annual archdiocesan appeal given Cupich’s invitation to Fr. Martin to speak. He said nothing disparaging, and expressed his regret. He is the real deal, a good priest. He was stabbed in the back by helping young men get on their feet professionally by offering them shelter.

    He never had an issue with the canons. They have a demanding life, so scores have left after trying their vocation. NOT ONCE has there been an accusation. Cupich played this beautifully! He hates the Old Mass, can’t stand traditionalists. He has no tolerance for what he does not like. Because us traddies give more percentage wise than our counterparts (despite not aborting and contracepting away children) Cupich was careful to not alienate the parishioners because we’re a cash cow so that there’s money to invite Jim Martin’s sideshow. SO this was convenient, plant enough doubt in parishioners as to Father’s character without alienating the money. Cut off the head, the body will follow. Bravo, Cardinal Cupich, bravo. Your hate and ego has rid another nuisance to your life.

  6. Il Ratzingeriano says:

    My guess is that Fr. Phillips was found to have done some very intemperate things that were not, however, illegal or scandalous.

  7. ChrisP says:

    This has all the hallmarks of someone having the fortitude to tell an obnoxious chancery official to take a long walk off a short pier – resistance will not tolerated!

  8. TonyO says:

    My guess is that Fr. Phillips was found to have done some very intemperate things that were not, however, illegal or scandalous.

    That is my guess also. Possibly some imprudent things from an “optics” point of view.

    The question is, are any of those things the matters of which he was accused? And if so, we have 2 options: either (a) THEY ARE NOT violations of law (either criminal, civil, or canon), or (b) THEY ARE violations of some law.

    (a) If the accusations of his behavior are accusations of things that are NOT violations of law, there is nothing to investigate, and more especially, not even a remotely plausible basis for removing him as pastor and superior during the investigation. So if it is (a), the diocese was in the wrong for how it pursued this matter.

    (b) If the accusations are of things that ARE violations of law, the investigation found he had not done them. That is to say, the investigation cleared him of the acts of which he was accused. Since he did NOT DO them, the statement (by the order) that he was found not to have done anything in violation of law does in fact exonerate him of the matters for which he was investigated. The follow-up comments after by the Order that the report “did not exonerate him” would then be double-speak nonsense: sure, the report did not use the term “exonerate”, but in fact if it found he did not do the actions of which he was accused, it exonerated him with regard to the accusations.

    There is, though, a third possibility, that stands in between (a) and (b): that the accusations were of some matter of law, because the behavior become contrary to law if it reaches a certain degree of severity, but is not a violation of law if it is of a lesser degree. (Harassment could be described that way.) In this case, it is possible that the investigation found that Fr. P did some things that he was accused of, but what he actually did were not enough to make the sum total arise to a violation of law: e.g. a single disparaging remark is not “harassment” in the eyes of the law, even if it is uncharitable and nasty. In that case, the report could have said that Fr. P’s behavior was inappropriate but not in violation of law. Such a report would not “exonerate” him of ALL wrongdoing, only of that level of wrongdoing that amounts to a violation of law.

    The most important thing to realize, though, is that THERE IS NO REASON to hide or disguise or be mealy mouthed about all this. It is perfectly possible – indeed, it would be MORE charitable – to Fr. P and his reputation, to just say that, if (c) is the actual state of affairs. It is not necessary (as I just showed) to actually detail the exact nature of the accusations or of Fr. P’s behavior, in order to clarify that he did some things that were wrong even though they are not contrary to civil or canon law.

    Ultimately, it would be more charitable to actually reveal the specific accusations themselves (except keeping private the individuals harmed), but I understand caution about doing so. I think that doing so is a mistake, but it is a plausibly reasonable one. But the notion that keeping the general nature of the accusations, and of Fr. P’s actual mistaken acts, under wraps is NOT a good idea, it is a bad idea and should be discarded. Fr. P’s reputation could not possibly suffer more by revealing what the investigation found he actually did (in general terms). It is, in fact, the diocese’s quasi-silence about the facts that is actually MORE harming to his privacy and reputation. I STRONGLY urge Fr. P to make both the accusations and the report public (keeping the individual names redacted) if he has it at all within his power to do so – even if it shows he did some wrong things. I am entirely positive that by doing so, his reputation will be protected far better than the quasi-silence an multiple innuendo that the diocese is subjecting him to.

  9. James in Perth says:

    I agree with the commenters above who speculate that there likely was some personal failing of Fr. P that did not rise to the level of breaking any civil or canon law.

    I recall a diocese where I formerly lived whose bishop adopted a “zero tolerance” policy regarding priestly behavior. While this policy had good effects (e.g., this diocese has had relatively few reports of sexual abuse (although older reports continue to come to light)), it also had the effect of the dismissal of some very good priests who committed minor infractions while they were young and not fully mature.

    In one case, a priest was suspended based on very scanty evidence. Appeals were made to the Vatican which twice ruled in the priest’s favor and returned the matter to the diocese for further proceedings. The pain for that priest, as you can imagine, was substantial. A new bishop was appointed but before the matter was finally resolved the priest passed away. The new bishop however graciously allowed him to be buried from his former pastorate with all the usual ceremonies. I can only applaud that bishop for his courage and mercy.

    My point is that balancing the scales of justice sometimes is quite difficult and that reasonable minds may disagree on what should be the correct outcome. I am concerned that the Archbishop of Chicago seems to hold animus against traditional Catholic communities. I hope and pray that justice is and will be done. Unfortunately, as it now stands, I don’t believe we have enough information to truly know.

  10. surritter says:

    @ TonyO and James in Perth… To quote from James in Perth: “I agree with the commenters above who speculate that there likely was some personal failing of Fr. P that did not rise to the level of breaking any civil or canon law.”

    But Fr. Phillips’ own words insist that he did “nothing that would scandalize the faithful.” That means he claims to be completely above-board in all aspects of behavior.

    So he is either lying, or your suspicions are correct. I’m torn about what to think of all this!

  11. surritter says:

    Correction to above comment: Either he is lying and your suspicions are correct, or he is telling the truth and there is nothing even remotely “intemperate” going on.

  12. Charivari Rob says:

    TonyO, surriter:
    There are scenarios which can easily be imagined where a good-inentioned bishop or superior investigates a good-intentioned priest regarding some creditable allegation and finds neither illegality nor scandal – but does find something else, even something unrelated to the allegation, some risky or reckless behavior or impending problem that the bishop might be prudent to head off.
    Here’s an example of such a scenario, which should most definitely NOT be interpreted as an accusation of Father Phillips.
    1. Bishop obligated to have priest investigated on some charge, investigation exonerates priest, but investigation want into his movements reveeals he’s an active customer ’til last call at the local gin mill 5+ nights a week. He didn’t drink & drive, and he hasn’t missed any morning-after Masses/commitments, so no specific adverse consequence yet, but… being a pastor can be stressful. If a bishop sees trouble coming and does nothing, he’s failed both the parish and the priest.

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  14. Fr_Sotelo says:


    You stated, “THERE IS NO REASON to hide or disguise or be mealy mouthed about all this.” Actually, there is–diocesan lawyers. No lawyer worth his salt is going to represent or defend a bishop who does not keep his mouth shut, when his lawyers have told him to keep his mouth shut.

    The bishop cannot, and should not, comment on the case of a priest who has been removed from ministry. It would be very easy for a priest to sue his bishop, and win, for violating the laws which govern the priest’s rights to workplace confidentiality. I don’t know why it is so hard for people to accept that in the Catholic Church, it has never been considered a right of the laity to know the workings or goings on between a bishop and his priest. But you are right. The priest, Fr. Phillips, may discuss whatever he wishes, and whatever he knows. The bishop, however, can not discuss either what he wishes to discuss, or what he knows pertaining to the case.

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