Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell
Today’s guest(s): Msgr. Robert Deeley, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for the Archdiocese of Boston
Today’s topics: Meeting the new vicar general of the Archdiocese of Boston
Summary of today’s show: Msgr. Robert Deeley, the new vicar general of the archdiocese, recounts his path to the priesthood, his service in Boston and in Rome, his experience working with Cardinal Ratzinger and what it was like to see him elected pope; and how his experience and perspective on the universal Church will help him as a vicar general in Boston. Also this Sunday’s Mass readings and their special relevance to the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
1st segment: Scot said Fr. Mark just got back from his retreat this week. He said he was in Duxbury at Miramar Retreat Center and Fr. Robert Rivers was the retreat leader. Fr. Mark also teaches canon law at St. John Seminary and he was happy to see how full the seminary is now. Scot said he spent some time at the seminary at the end of last weekend. In the last five or six years it went from being half-full to now being space constrained. Fr. Mark said in addition to the diocesan seminarians, there are many others from religious orders as well.
Scot said The Good Catholic Life is celebrating its six month anniversary. We began on Ash Wednesday and the time has flown by. He said he has learned a lot about his faith. Also one year ago today, the Archdiocese purchased ParishComm which became Pilot Bulletins and Pilot Printing, which serve the archdiocese. Finally, Scot said his friend Tim Van Damm, who’s been on the show and who works for the College of St. Mary Magdalene in New Hampshire, got engaged last night.
Fr. Mark noted that Pilot Printing helps not just parishes, but also the ministries in the Pastoral Center. He’s also happy to celebrate the vocation of marriage.
2nd segment: Scot welcomed Msgr. Deeley to the show and gave his congratulations for the six month anniversary. Over the past few weeks he’s found the show to be valuable to local Catholics. Scot asked him how Catholic education K-12 made a difference in his life.
He said it was a marvelous education at Sacred Heart in Watertown and at Matignon High. The sister of St. Joseph were able to educate, motivate, and form the students and give them a vision of the future. They also nurtured and encouraged his vocation so that he entered seminary after high school. Fr. Mark asked if any of his teachers have contacted him since he became vicar general. Sr. Zita taught him in 7th grade and is still alive today.
Scot asked Msgr. Deeley’s family. One of his brothers is a priest and other worked for the archdiocese. Msgr. Deeley said the Church was part of their lives as kids. His parents were immigrants from Ireland and took strength from their involvement in the life of the parish and the Church. They grew up as altar servers, were involved in parish activities, and CYO. He later was able to be a lector and other activities of that nature.
He said he felt a kind of call to priesthood in about the second or third grade. There was something about priesthood that attracted him, but he put it out of his head in high school until he was a junior in high school when Msgr. John Kelty encouraged him to think about. His parents were very supportive of his choice, but encouraged him to do what he thought was the right thing for him. The same for his younger brother as well. Fr. Mark and Msgr. Deeley reminisced about their experience of Msgr. Kelty, including times when each of them lived with him in a parish as priests.
During seminary, Msgr. Deeley received a prestigious scholarship to study philosophy at Catholic University and that study in the way of thinking systematically was an extremely important part of his education. It was a key preparation for his later work as a canon lawyer. After that he entered theological studies and then went to seminary in Rome.
His first assignment was at St. Bartholomew in Needham under Msgr. Robert Kickham. He had been in charge of the Holy Name Societies in the archdiocese. He had just arrived at the parish as pastor. It was a wonderful time for Msgr. Deeley to learn from mistakes and mature as a priest. He is the uncle of Fr. Robert Kickham, who is one of Cardinal Seán’s priest-secretaries.
Then he became secretary of the tribunal and lived at Mary Immaculate in Newton with Fr. Mike Doocey. He had taught for many years in Catholic schools and had a great love for young people and was a wonderful and dedicated pastor.
3rd segment: After his service at the tribunal, including 10 years as judicial vicar, he spent five years as pastor of St. Ann’s in Wollaston. Msgr. Deeley is grateful he had the opportunity to be a pastor and Wollaston was a great place to be. They did some wonderful pastoral planning and had a superb school. He was there from about 1999 to 2004 and was pastor during the abuse crisis and the Reconfiguration experience. He said they were all shocked by the revelations that were coming out and relied on the parish council members who were so committed to the Church and over the next year they worked to heal and understand and move forward. To be part of that community was a grace through that experience.
Scot asked if he was surprised to be sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome to work on cases of clergy accused of abuse. Then-Archbishop Seán asked him to take the assignment and he agreed, knowing he had the ability and skills to provide assistance. He intended it to be for 18 months, but it was 7 years ago.
He worked alongside Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was prefect of the Congregation. He was instrumental in changing his status from temporary loan to a more permanent member of the congregation. Before Msgr. Deeley came home for his first Christmas, he encountered Cardinal Ratzinger who told him he needed to be back home in his parish for Christmas. After that Christmas vocation, he submitted a requested list of American canonists, but he was asked by the cardinal why he wasn’t on the list. Although he was too old according to the requirements to serve in the Roman Curia, Cardinal Ratzinger waived the requirements.
Fr. Mark said Msgr. Deeley was in Boston when it was a Boston problem; went to Rome when it was an American problem; and was there when it was a worldwide problem. What is our reason for hope? Msgr. Deeley said our faith gives us hope in the meaning and message that Jesus gives our lives. “The Almighty God cares for each of us and watches over us and no matter what evil we find in the world—including in the Church—God continues to watch over us now and for all eternity., Why wouldn’t we have hope?” Despite working on the tribunal for so long and dealing with so many failed marriages, he still believes in marriage. In the same way, he still believes in the priesthood and his own priesthood.
Fr. Mark said another sign of hope was a man he knew who was an investigator of the crimes of abuse who was around so many good priests and other Catholics that he became Catholic himself.
Msgr. Deeley pointed out that it is naïve to assume that abuse of children is a problem exclusive to the Church. It is a problem that is very much in our society. It is not exclusive to America or the English-speaking world.
Going back to his time in Rome, Scot asked Msgr. Deeley what it was like for him to find out that Cardinal Ratzinger had become Pope Benedict XVI. Msgr. said on April 16, 2005, just a few days before the election, following the death and funeral of Pope John Paul II, the cardinal hadn’t been in the office of much, but that day was his birthday and so he came by the office after noon. The conclave was scheduled to begin that Monday. During that birthday meeting, the cardinal’s voice from all the talking he’d been doing. He’d work in six languages simultaneously and summarizing for all who spoke those languages. Afterward, one of Msgr. Deeley’s colleagues said, “Robert, next time we see him, he will be Pope.” On Tuesday, there was one ballot and suddenly everyone rushed to the piazza and they were all ecstatic at his election.
Msgr. said he was reading something recently by John Paul II and reminded him of how much continuity there is in the teaching between the two popes. Indeed, it’s not just his intelligence that got him elected, but the cardinals saw in Pope Benedict the heart of a good priest. That’s why when he was brought to knowledge of the abuse crisis that he reacted as he did as cardinal and pope. He saw the harm that had been done and moved to correct the problem and do what he could to help those who had been harmed.
4th segment: Scot said the vicar genera;’s job is so broad and he’s described it as the office where all the problems in the archdiocese land and his job is to handle them before they land on the cardinal’s desk. Msgr. Deeley said he is only starting and can describe it as the Church describes it, but it does involve a lot of problem solving. The role of the vicar general is to make it possible for the cardinal to be an effective leader of the archdiocese. If we can help him with the governance of the archdiocese and help him arrive at solutions to the problems he encounters, then that is what we do.
Fr. Mark asked the difference between vicar general and moderator of the curia. The moderator coordinates the work of the pastoral center and those who work in central ministries of the archdiocese. The vicar general helps in the governance of the archdiocese, with regard to matters that affect the whole archdiocese, not just the agencies in the pastoral center.
Scot said often the vicar general is a leading pastor or auxiliary bishop and believes that Msgr. Deeley was chosen by Cardinal Seán for his experience in the universal Church. What experience does Msgr. Deeley bring from that perspective? He said we need to learn from the universal Church. First, we have to consider evangelization. We have the wonderful message of Jesus Christ and the commission to invite others to become part of that. In parts of the world in Africa and Asia, that effort is tremendous and having tremendous results. We can get caught up in the problems in our American cultural, but in many parts of the world, the wonder and beauty of the Gospel is being proclaimed and taught. We need to learn from that here in the US and reinvigorate the Church from our own proclamation of the Gospel. Cardinal Seán’s pastoral letter on evangelization is a wonderful instrument for that, particularly because he says all we have to do is be Catholic, live our faith, and answer questions from our Catholic faith.
Fr. Mark said pastors are very anxious to see what Msgr. Deeley is going to do and how he will coordinate between parishes and central ministries. Msgr. Deeley said he plans to go out about the archdiocese to meet priests and pastoral associates as the opportunities present themselves.
Scot said with the change of a bishop or vicar general, people think things will change a lot. Msgr. Deeley said the role of the vicar general is to assist Cardinal Seán with his vision of the archdiocese and his job is to do that. Scot mentioned Cardinal Seán’s priorities during his time in Boston with evangelization as central focus. Msgr. Deeley said we have a message to proclaim to bring Christ to others through our lives.
Msgr. Deeley said he knows how painful pastoral planning can be, having experienced it as a pastor in 2004, and he has great confidence in the pastoral planning office and the committee gathered by Cardinal Seán. They are clear on the reality that we have to d address the issues presenting themselves to the archdiocese with regard to priestly numbers, demographics, and Mass attendance.
5th segment: Now, as we do every week, we look forward to this coming Sunday’s Mass readings to help us prepare to celebrate together.
Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
Scot said the fact that these readings occur on September 11 and they have to do a lot with forgiveness challenges us. Msgr. Deeley said the Gospel especially comes within a series of readings about how we deal with each other in the Church. Forgiveness is an extremely important part of how we are going to be able to live with one another. It is difficult but it is the way in which we come to know God’s mercy and grow in God’s mercy for ourselves. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. We cannot forget what happened on 9/11, but we have to move forward. Being angry is harmful to us because it ties us up in a way that makes it impossible to act. These readings tell us to let go in order to forgive.
Fr. Mark pointed out the difference between righteous anger and the sing of anger, which wants vengeance. He notes that in the story of Cain and Abel, someone asks for vengeance seventy seven times over. Jesus turns that on its heads and commands forgiveness 77 times. Scot said some biblical scholars look at 77 times as meaning infinite. We are called to forgive infinitely. In the Our Father, the only conditional statement is when we ask for forgiveness as we forgive others. What a challenge it must be to forgive for those who were affected by 9/11. But Jesus can bring good. After Good Friday, there is Easter and after 9/11, God brings grace.
Noting the first reading, Fr. Mark said we are called to let go of wrath and anger.
On Sunday, Msgr. Deeley will be celebrating Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, commemorating 9/11. Scot said Catholics should commemorate by praying hard for those who were hurt by the events of 9/11, for first responders, for government leaders,and for protection from that kind of evil.
Scot thanked Msgr. Deeley for being on the show and asked listeners to pray for him as he begins his tenure as vicar general.