UPDATED: Provincial recommended Fr. Frank Phillips of @SJCantius be restored as superior general of the Canons

In the case of Fr. Frank Phillips, CR, the founder of the Canons of St. John Cantius, removed by the Archbp. of Chicago from his pastorate…

Phillips, was accused of misconduct involving adult men. He was removed as pastor of St. John Cantius in March and prohibited from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago by Blase Card. Cupich, pending an investigation of the charges. The matter was left by the Archdiocese in the hands of Fr. Phillips’ superiors of the Congregation of the Resurrection, to which Phillips belongs.

An independent board determined that Fr. Phillips did not commit any criminal, civil or canonical delict.

Some time ago, I was sent documents internal to the discussion of Fr. Phillips’ fate.  I sat on them.

One of those documents was the VOTUM or the formal opinion given on 21 May by the Resurrectionist Provincial Superior in these USA.

I did not want to put it out there without good reason.  However, its content now out on the site of Catholic News AgencyHence, I can share it now.

One of the reasons why I think it is good to know about this document – which CNA published about – is because, according to a Chicago Tribune story, the Archdiocesan spokeswoman said the Archdiocese would have to be

“satisfied that Phillips is not a threat to anyone and that he could observe the archdiocese’s code of conduct code of conduct.” (Emphasis added)

Not a threat?  In 40 plus years of priesthood, including years serving at an all boys high school, nothing arose, nor has it in his time at St. John Cantius until the allegations of which he was cleared came up.  And in the present case he didn’t commit any crimes!

Is the issue really some allegations of homosexual conduct?   If so, will the treatment given to Fr. Phillips now be applied to the entire presbyterate of the Archdiocese?

In a story from the AP in the LA Times… why is the LA Times reporting on this? … we read:

Archdiocese of Chicago spokeswoman Paula Waters said although no church or secular law was violated by Phillips, there were standards of behavior Phillips did not meet. She noted the review board did not recommend Phillips’ return to St. John Cantius.

“standards of behavior Phillips did not meet”.

However, as we read in the VOTUM from the Provincial, while the Provincial thought that Phillips should not return as pastor, his faculties should be restored and he should have contact with the group he founded!

Apparently what Phillips did or didn’t do (the standards are not spelled out), wasn’t so bad that the Provincial thought he should be eliminated from the lives of the Canons.

Don’t get me wrong.  There must be standards!  However, there shouldn’t be one set of standards for some (e.g., conservatives) and another set of standards for others (e.g., liberals).

Here is the letter.  I blacked out the phone and email lest knuckleheads without filters misuse it.

The Provincial wrote:

“As Founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, the ideal would be his restoration as their superior general.  … The historical reality of his being the Founder and his ongoing provision of spiritual leadership would be salutary for all. … If the above recommendation is unfeasible, then at least he and the Canons should not be prevented from communication.”

The Archbp. of Chicago removed Phillips anyway.

Also, in the CNA report the Archdiocesan spokeswoman is quoted as saying:

“it was recommended that Fr. Phillips not return to ministry at St. John Cantius” in the Resurrectionists’ investigation report.”

Well… not quite.  The Provincial wrote that Phillips shouldn’t return to be pastor, not return to ministry.  Indeed, the Provinical wrote that the “ideal” would be for Phillips to return to be the superior general of the Canons, even if he didn’t live there.

In nearly every case that gets out into the interwebs, there are huge gaps of information.

However, in this case, it seems that some key pieces of information have indeed come out, including the VOTUM of Fr. Phillips’ superior.

The VOTUM of the provincial is important, I think, for the sake of Fr. Phillips reputation.  The Archdiocese’s spokeswoman implied that Phillips is a “threat”, even though the VOTUM of the Provincial suggests he isn’t.

With all the talk of accompaniment and mercy we hear these days, this doesn’t seem very merciful… so far.   The story isn’t yet at the last page.  There is still time for accompaniment and mercy… along with justice and truth.

Therefore, please do pray for all those who are involved in the decision making, as we as for all the anxious Canons and parishioners who have been caught in the crossfire.

UPDATE 29 June 2018:

There is an important update.

This letter was posted on the site of St. John Cantius.

This is from the same Provincial who recommended that Fr. Phillip’s be given back his faculties and that he have contact with the Canons.

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.


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  1. Charles E Flynn says:

    I read somewhere that the allegations involve “inappropriate behavior with adult males”.

    It is my understanding that Catholics are required to put the most charitable interpretation on facts, until further evidence makes such an interpretation untenable. Therefore, I have concluded that Fr. Frank Phillips has been accused and then exonerated of the manufacture, distribution, or sale of moonshine, and yet a bus has been dispatched to run over him.

  2. Kathleen10 says:

    Hold on. Why does it recommend “psychological assessment” and “sensitivity training”? I wonder what would spur such an assessment, and why of all things “sensitivity training”, which, as far as I can ever tell, is a kind of PC brainwash you get when you have broken someone’s idea of bowing at the altar of PC. It’s to “re-adjust” your thinking to the RIGHT way (PC way). I’d like someone on the inside to explain those recommendations.
    I find it pretty appalling the accusers would be consulted as to what they would want to happen.
    If he was not guilty of anything, why ask the accusers, and since when are people today consulted as to what punishment needs to be meted out. Good grief, we have people who are assaulting people for voting for Donald Trump, we can’t put the fate of others in the hands of any “accuser”. There’s too much volatility and anger in the populace. That should be left to cooler heads, if there are any.
    It says the Archbishop’s preference is he not return.
    There it is, there’s your rationale for it all, Cupich wanted him gone, and gone he is. If I were a member, I’d be making noise about this. Frankly, I think a lot of Catholics are fed up, and are about to start to bring it, or more accurately, to withhold it.

  3. jhayes says:

    In #4 of his Votum describing his proposed resolution, the Provincial Superior wrote:

    He would obviously not reside at the parish (see #2 above) but at some place determined by his Resurrectionist major Superior.

    So it appears that there was not a disagreement between the Provincial and the Cardinal about the result – that Fr. Phillips would not return to reside at St. John Cantius. [Yes, we know that.]

    Their difference appears to be whether Fr. Phillips should be restored as Superior General of the Canons, residing someplace other than the church. Also, whether his faculties from the Archdiocese should be restored. [Which are HUGE issues.]

  4. Michael in NoVA says:

    Fr. Z,

    I’m not so sure when I read the letter that the Provincial thought that Phillips should not return to as pastor due to any misconduct. Instead, #2 mentions his age (perhaps at 68 priests might start to think about taking it a little easier) and the preference of the Cardinal.

    In other words, the Cardinal doesn’t want Phillips to return and the Provincial didn’t think this was the hill to die on.

    However, I am not an expert on church language. Perhaps the language is clear and conclusive to those who are better versed in documents such as these. But to this layman, the language in #2, as well as the phrase in #4 (“there is no fear that Fr. Phillips could possible interfere in some way with the decisions of the Archbishop”), makes it seem like the votum decision to not recommend Fr. Phillips’ return as pastor to be as much to pacify personal animosity between the two men as it was the actual thoughts of the Provincial.

  5. Patrick-K says:

    If you’d like to donate to Fr. Philips’ legal defense fund, you can do so here: https://www.gofundme.com/legal-defense-fund-for-fr-phillips

  6. Cy says:

    1. This all started with vague “complaints of inappropriate conduct” (with adults).
    2. It was found to not include any breach of canonical (ie would include sexual conduct), civil, or criminal law.
    3. It is nevertheless alleged the Archdiocese is not confident he can adhere to the “Code of Conduct of the Archdiocese” and should be undertaking “counseling” and also “sensitivity training.”
    4. The Code includes a prohibition of “Humiliat[ing], ridicul[ing], bully[ing], or degrad[ing] another person.”
    5. Meanwhile his accusers were given purview into the choice of punishment and chose only “removal from the parish.”

    Pure speculation from a non-involved reader: Did Father preach the wrong (hurtful) preaching to the wrong person?

  7. Antonin says:


    The only breach of canon law around sexual misconduct is force or threats or with a minor. So we can safely say there were no minors nor was force or threat used…..that is different than saying NOTHING happened. We have not nor will we likely ever see the full report. If Fr. Philip wants it, he can sue in civil court and we MIGHT learn more….the relevant authority is the Cardinal and the Rota can only rule on a misapplication of the law which is a tough hill to climb since the Cardinal has discretion

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  9. JonPatrick says:

    It is ironic that this comes out at the same time we are reading about Cardinal “Uncle Ted” McCarrick and the various well documented allegations about his behavior with seminarians which had been known for decades yet nothing was done. Obviously those of the group in power are protected no matter what their behavior, but if you promote authentic Catholic worship and orthodox teaching then watch out.

  10. Kathleen10 says:

    That’s what it seems like Cy. Why else, sensitivity training. That’s a punishment you give to anyone who resists the PC tide. Did he say something instructive (actually Catholic) to a person with homosexual inclinations. This is sheer speculation of course. But it would make sense in the over-reaction as to why he MUST be removed. God forbid he offend the wrong person.

    The Church is obviously now “gay friendly” and openly embracing homosexuality in many quarters. I mean, come on. Even if they thought he had acted inappropriately with a man, how could Wuerl possibly condemn the behavior they are cheerleading for otherwise. Even they cannot possibly be that ridiculous, to hold this man responsible for behavior they are embracing themselves. That would be even more obviously political.
    The facts need to come out. This shouldn’t rest until they do.

  11. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Mass for Fr. Phillips’ intention is being offered on Friday June 29 at 0730 MDT.

  12. mepoindexter says:

    Maybe I’m just reading between the lines on this…

    But “sensitivity training”, “vagueness of accusations on both sides” and “Archbishop’s wishes”…

    …to me sounds like he spoke truth on homosexuality and someone got offended.

  13. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Certainly there should not be one set of standards for conservatives and another for liberals. But in this case, have we been told what are the standards for anyone? What are we talking about? This whole matter reeks of abusive treatment by the Archdiocese. Why can’t they just tell us what the charges are, the evidence, the reasons for the conclusions, and why, if Father Phillips has been exonerated, he is still denied faculties and return to his community?

    Somehow I don’t think anyone is concerned about Father Phillips’s privacy and good name.

  14. Emilio says:

    Is there any way for Father Phillips to appeal the decision of the Cardinal to the Holy See?

  15. JesusFreak84 says:

    He ticked off an LGBTQIAA+++ person or a feminazi, is my guess. The “sensitivity training” nonsense sounds positively Orwellian. Then again, we’re talking about the Cardinal Archbishop who SPECIFICALLY gave a platform to “catholic” Sen. Durbin after Durbin’s own Bishop downstate barred him from Communion. I believe both say who the Cardinal cares about pleasing here =-(

  16. WIcathJPII says:

    Even if this were an isolated incident with an “adult,” I would like to mention something that happened at my parish, across the border. We had a most wonderful priest land on our door-step. He was charismatic, upbeat, conservative, young and very engaging. He was so engaging that he had a FEW “friendships” with various women at our parish and in outlying parishes. This priest was so unassuming, that NOBODY wanted to believe that he was having inappropriate relationships with not only many of the married female parishioners, but also crossed the line with female youth in the congregation. Unfortunately for him, he was up against a very unstable woman who was jealous of his affection for other women in the parish and outed him. She shined a dim light on some of the things he had done, his inappropriate texting, calling, physical inappropriateness. This priest has been gone for almost 2 years now but he will tell you that he was “thrown out” by the Bishop. He will twist the story around so well that you will think HE is the victim. Now, this may not at all be the case here, but the facts in this case with Fr Phillip need to come out. ALL of the facts. IF he had an inappropriate relationship with an adult, he should be banned. I don’t agree that priests should not be allowed to marry or find happiness, but the way it stands now and probably forever will, they are NOT allowed to be in any kind of inappropriate relationships. I believe this happens far too often and because they are with adult individuals, it’s ok. It is not ok.

  17. Fr. Kelly says:

    WIcathJPII: “Even if this were an isolated incident with an “adult,” …”
    The point of this and the other threads is that there was no incident of Fr. Phillips acting out sexually with any adult or otherwise. He was accused, investigated rigorously and exonerated. Cardinal Cupich had chosen to remove his faculties before any investigation and he has chosen not to restore his faculties even though the investigation he called for has shown Fr. Phillips to be innocent of the charges leveled against him.

    You say: “IF he had an inappropriate relationship with an adult, he should be banned”
    He did not have any such relationship, as we who know him knew already, and as the independent investigation has found. Your reaction serves to underscore what we have been saying about how the handling of his case by the Chicago Archdiocese has besmirched his reputation.

    Noone here is saying that it is ok for a priest to have a sexual relationship with an adult. Period.

    I do not know what happened with the priest at your parish across the border, but his case has nothing to do with that of Fr. Phillips. To suggest that is to do a grave injustice to Fr. Phillips and to his reputation.

    Your last remark about Priests marrying is even farther off the point and akin to the specious argument that more contraception will reduce the incidence of abortion.

  18. majuscule says:

    I think mepoindexter has a point about Father speaking out on a certain subject and offending someone. And this is meant to be a warning to other priests who are faithful to the magisterium.

    They wish to imply some sort of inappropriate behavior. They want everyone to believe this to the point of gossip.

    Well, if they aren’t going to be specific I am going to infer from their implication that he was speaking strongly against a certain lifestyle and someone didn’t like it.

  19. TonyO says:

    The intentional obfuscation, ambiguity, and sheer false statements being made is absolutely maddening.

    1. There is an absolutely enormous disconnect between the characterization of the allegations, and the results and penalties referred to. The specific allegations were not made public, they were only described. And they were described under the modifier “with adults”. The ONLY POSSIBLE REASON to include this in the description of the allegation would be if the allegation claimed an action in which either the illegality, or the gravity of the illegal act, changes if the action is taken with respect to a minor as opposed to with an adult. The obvious reason this could matter is if the allegation is of sexual misconduct of one form or another. (By “illegal” I mean any conduct against any law, civil, criminal, or canon, and I include both acts that are merely to be disapproved with a reprimand as well as acts which are to be positively punished.)

    But the disconnect is that the “remedy” sought is only “removal from the parish”. This makes no sense. There is no illegal act that could be alleged in which it matters whether the act was done with a minor versus an adult, in which (if the allegation is found to be verified / supported) the proper result is merely removal from the parish. The probable allegation, if this is a rational penalty, is something far different from sexual misconduct. It is far more plausible, as alluded to above, that it was something more along the lines of “harsh” or “insensitive” speech to those with same sex attraction disorder (SSAd). Yet, if that’s what he was alleged to have done, the diocese characterizing the allegation as “with adults” becomes a SMEAR CAMPAIGN to get people to assume he was engaged in shady sexual conduct. WE NEED THE FACTS. Fr. Phillips would be well advised to publicize the specific allegations, if it is not illegal nor a violation of charity to do so.

    Next, the second recommendation is stupid. The diocese has a normal retirement age. If Fr. Phillips is close to it (if it is age 70), then they might have simply recommended early retirement. If he is not (if it is age 75), then his age should not have been raised as part of the rationale. If he is in ill health, it should have been health, not age. If this were a secular employer, Fr. Phillips would have an age discrimination case against them.

    Also, it was very odd, almost certainly imprudent, if not positively erroneous jurisdictionally, for the Order to characterize the rationale for not recommending Fr. Phillips return to the pastorship on the basis of the Cardinal’s “preference”. If the real underlying problem is that of a personality conflict, say, where Fr. P likes “strong” language while the Cardinal likes “soft” language, the Cardinal’s “preference” is immaterial to the actions to be taken. Bishops should not be removing pastors for personality conflicts with the ordinary. If the real underlying problem is that Fr. P is judged to constantly use “harsh” language on penitents where diocesan guidelines requires other language, then the recommendation shouldn’t be on account of the Cardinal’s “preference” but on account of poorly carrying out the pastor’s duties.

    But far more importantly, juridically, Fr. P should have been put on administrative leave (or the canonical equivalent), during the investigation, not REMOVED from the pastorship. The difference is that on administrative leave, he remains the pastor, he is just blocked from carrying out the duties or living there – temporarily. Removal implies he is no longer the pastor at all, and is a penalty, which is only applicable for wrongdoing. Admin leave is the proper response to an allegation of wrongdoing. This is essential for protecting Fr. P’s rights as a pastor. A pastor is a stable office – he is to hold it UNTIL something happens which creates a cause of removing him. An allegation is NOT A CAUSE for removing a pastor. It only alleges a cause, and it remains only a potentiality until investigated. The Cardinal should not have been allowed to simply remove Fr. P upon a mere allegation. And the Order should NOT have implied by (“return as pastor”) that Fr. P was not properly considered pastor during the investigation, from which he would “return” to once again become the pastor. The Order should have insisted that the proper procedure is that during the investigation Fr. P remained technically the pastor, and if the Cardinal was bent on removing him as pastor, the Cardinal could darn well supply a proper cause for such an action. The fact that the Cardinal doesn’t like how Fr. P operates is not a cause under canon law. If the Cardinal’s preferences are reasonably taken into account as a general matter, then his preferences should not have become part of the recommendations upon the results of the investigation: the finding of no cause does not present a specific moment in which to re-consider the Cardinal’s preferences for the pastor; the Order could have, in a completely separate proceeding, suggested to the Cardinal a new priest to become the pastor at some later moment, with Fr. P remaining the Superior of the Canons Regular.

    Fr. P has the right to just submit to the burdens Cardinal C is laying on his shoulders. And, perhaps, that is exactly what God wants for him. But if it is true that Cardinal C is violating the norms for handling pastors who have been alleged to be involved in wrongdoing, Fr. P also has the right to pursue a correction – not only for himself, but also for every other good priest, and, indeed, for every other good Catholic who benefits by the diocese following the rules correctly. I hesitate to urge him to fight the nonsense, because there are so many facts WE DON’T HAVE, but if the facts line up at all like the above suggests, he probably should fight it. In charity.

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