AN ORDINARY’S NOT SO ORDINARY LIFE, CHAPTER TWENTY THREE

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John Cardinal O’Connor, Archbishop of New York

My becoming  persona non grata with my brother bishops in Texas was to get even worse, it that were possible.  The Board of Directors of the John G. and Marie Stella Memorial Foundation was made up of seven individuals with myself as President and Chairman, the Board was elected by the Members of the Foundation who were also members of the Board of Directors.   The three other  individuals of the Board reflected the same religious affiliations as the Members of the Foundation.  The Court decision in 1963 that settled Brother Leo’s first lawsuit against the Foundation stipulated that from then on the group of Members of the Foundation would be 2/3 Catholic and 1/3 non-catholic, i.e. four Catholics and two non-catholics.  The Board of Directors had the same religious proportions.

The Board of Directors made all the decisions about the operations of the Foundation.  I was elected President of the Foundation and Chairman of the Board of Directors from 1984 until 1997.  The Board of Directors was made up professional people, doctors, lawyers, engineers, bankers, hospital administrators and government officials.  While I provided leadership for the Board of Directors the Directors were not my puppets.  They frequently rejected my ideas for the activities on the ranch that might provide additional income for the Foundation other than oil and gas.  I never voted on the awarding of grants; I would speak in favor or against but I would never vote.

The Foundation gave away tens of millions of dollars in grants.  Fifteen per cent of the grants had to be to non-religious entities by order of the Court in its 1963 decision.  The Foundation gave millions of dollars in grants to all the dioceses of Texas with the exception of the two largest, richest dioceses, Dallas and Houston.  It was inevitable that, human nature being what it is, some of the bishops felt that they should receive more.  That may have motivated some to launch an attack on me or some of their motivation may have stemmed from their anger over the nutrition and hydration scandal; only God knows!  Here is what happened.

In 1992 Bishop Leroy Matthieson, Bishop of Amarillo gave an interview to the Diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of Tyler.  In the interview he accused me of abusing my power as President of the Foundation.  In short order Bishop Joseph Delaney of Fort Worth and Bishop John McCarthy jumped on Bishop Mattieson’s bandwagon and began to make public statements that were quoted in the media accusing me of abusing my authority as President of the Foundation.  They persuaded Archbishop Flores to visit the Attorney General of Texas and to convey their concerns.  Archbishop visited the Attorney General, Dan Morales, and he filed suit in the District Court in Travis County that had jurisdiction over charitable foundations asking the court to remove me from the Board of the Kenedy Foundation and to reorganize the Foundation’s governance.

The appearance of an attorney from the Attorney General’s office at the office of the Foundation demanding that all of the files of the Foundation be turned over to the Attorney General sent shock waves through the staff and Board of the Foundation.  In addition to our Foundation attorney the Board retained the services of former Judge Jorge Rangel to defend the Board and the battle was joined.

The three bishops I named above continued to slander me in the media.  Concerned about my good name and reputation and also conscious of the scandal they were giving to the Catholics of the United States I asked John Cardinal O’Connor to help by getting Rome to stop the three bishops from making their slanderous remarks about me in the media.  It was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life!

I had know John O’Connor ever since I was Auxiliary Bishop in Miami and he was Chief of Chaplains to the United States Military.  We met in 1972 when I celebrated a confirmation in Key West and again at Homestead Air Force Base.  We hit it off since I was ex-military myself.  Then over the years we worked together on committees of the N.C.C.B.  We had served together on a special committee consisting of himself as Chairman and Cardinals James Hickey and Joseph Bernardin with Bishop Sean O’Malley and myself, charged by the President of the N.C.C.B with visiting Nicaragua, Guatamala, Honduras and El Salvador to gather information of the Church’s struggle with revolutionary forces.  I had worked closely with him on the N.C.C.B. Committee for Prolife Activities.  I counted on our friendship to persuade him to do as I asked.

It was a mistake because I forgot that during the decades when Brother Leo and Peter Grace had tried to gain control of the Foundation they had appealed for help, first to Cardinal Spellman and later to Cardinal Krol.  Both Cardinals, far from trying to help Brother Leo and Peter Grace tried to gain control of the Foundation themselves.  I should have remembered that.  The love of money and the power that it gains was too much for Cardinal O’Connor to resist.  He asked the Congregation of Bishops to appoint a special commission to investigate the Kenedy Foundation and Cardinal Gantin, Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops appointed Cardinal O’Connor chairman of the Special Commission with Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston and Bishop Raymond Burke, Bishop of La Crosse.

When the Attorney General of Texas, Dan Morales, filled suit against me and the Board of Directors of the Kenedy Foundation I recognized that anything could happen and I did not want the Diocese of Corpus Christi to be vacant for any period of time after I retired since that meant that there would not be a Bishop of Corpus Christi as a member of the Foundation and a member of its Board of Directors.  So I decided that I would ask Rome for a Coadjutor Bishop to assist me in the last few years until I turned 75 and had to send my resignation to the Pope.  Coadjutor Bishops usually do not have any power in the diocese until the Ordinary dies or retires.  They only have the right to succeed the Ordinary and become Ordinary in his place.  Until the Ordinary dies or retires the Coadjutor functions in the same way an Auxiliary Bishop would function.

So now I made the second biggest mistake of my life.  I approached the Apostolic Nuncio and told him of my desire to have a Coadjutor with right of succession in place when I retired so that the Diocese Foundation relationship would not be jeopardized.  He asked me if I had anyone in mind.  I told him that while I was Chairman of the Hispanic Affairs Committee of the N.C.C.B.  I was impressed with the Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, Bishop Roberto Gonzalez.  The Nuncio told me to speak with Cardinal Law and see if he was willing to let Bishop Roberto go from Boston.  I did, he agreed and I informed the Nuncio; Bishop Roberto was appoint my Coadjutor shortly thereafter without any special powers, only the right to succeed me.  I say that the appointment of Bishop Roberto was a mistake because after Cardinal Gantin appointed the Commission Cardinal Law and Cardinal O’Connor had, in Bishop Roberto, an agent in my Chancery and he did betray my trust.

Cardinal O’Connor called a meeting of all the bishops of Texas to be held at the Marriott Hotel at DFW Airport.  We all went.  The Cardinal O’Connor, Cardinal Law and Bishop Burke listened as each bishop in turn expressed his opinion.  Then Cardinal O’Connor adjourned the meeting and everyone departed.  Some weeks later Cardinal O’Connor sent a letter to me and to the Board of Directors in which he proposed that the Board be replaced by a new Board made up of the Bishops of Texas.  The Reaction of the Board was immediate and very negative.

Sarita Kenedy East had created a Foundation to be run by laity.  The only cleric she named to be on her Foundation was her Bishop, Bishop Garriga of Corpus Christi.  All her life, up until she came under the evil influence of Brother Leo, she bestowed her generous giving on people and institutions in South Texas, primarily Catholic but occasionally non-catholic.  Under Brother Leo’s influence she gave generously to the Trappist Order, but never to Dioceses other than the Diocese of Corpus Christi.  Cardinal O’Connor’s proposal was so foreign to the desires of Sarita that I told him he was violating a fundamental rule in the Church that the wishes of a donor were to be respected.  He replied, “No one knows what she thought” which was absurd because we had documentary evidence of what she thought.

To my disgust my new Coadjutor, Bishop Roberto Gonzalez began to actively conspire with his mentor, Cardinal Law and Cardinal O’Connor.  Years later in speaking with Cardinal Raymond Burke I learned from him that after the meeting in the Marriott Hotel at DFW Airport, Cardinal O’Connor never consulted him about the Diocese of Corpus Christi/Kenedy Foundation case.  O’Connor was acting just as Spellman and Krol had acted years before in trying to gain control of the foundation.

My plan for the reorganization of the Foundation Board to meet the criticisms of the bishops of Texas was for the Board to be expanded to thirteen members. It would be composed of nine members who were laity from South Texas, plus the Bishop of Corpus Christi, and one other Bishop selected by the bishops at the provincial meeting and finally two other lay persons from elsewhere in the State of Texas.  The Board of Directors voted approval of my plan and so I instructed our attorney, Jorge Rangel to begin negotiations with the Attorney General for the acceptance of our plan.

While Jorge Rangel was negotiating with the Attorney General’s office, Cardinal O’Connor send me a fax which read, “I am on my way to JFK Airport to fly to Rome to meet with Cardinal Gantin, Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, you must fax a letter to me immediately so that I get it before my flight leaves telling me that you accept my plan for the reorganization of the Foundation.”  I was furious!  I immediately faxed a letter to him at his Chancery office knowing that they would read it to him at the Airport over the telephone; I wrote to the Cardinal,  “How dare you order me about like a servant.  I am a successor of the Apostles just as you are!  I will never accept your plan.”  My anger at him was mitigated months later when I learned that he was suffering from a brain tumor which caused his death.  No bishop in his right mind have sent that fax to me.

The Foundation was saved by the United States Justice Department launching an investigation into the conduct of Attorney General Dan Morales.  He was indicted and convicted of accepting bribes and was sentenced to a prison term in a Federal Penitentiary.  With Dan Morales, the tool of Bishops McCarthy, Delaney and Mathieson, in prison our attorney Jorge Rangel had no difficulty in persuading the Deputy Attorney General to accept the Board’s plan of reorganization.  The Office of the Attorney General dropped the lawsuit that had been filed in Austin.

So ended the drama started by Bishops Mathieson, McCarthy and Delaney.  But my troubles with the bishops of Texas did not end, they would never end.  We, they, had crossed the Rubicon.

 

 

 

 

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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One Response to AN ORDINARY’S NOT SO ORDINARY LIFE, CHAPTER TWENTY THREE

  1. Rev. Robert A. Skeris says:

    Skeris@cua.edu

    On Sat, Aug 23, 2014 at 5:47 PM, ABYSSUS ABYSSUM INVOCAT / DEEP CALLS TO

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