Skip to comments.Diocese to explain priest's suspension - [Rev. John Cunningham]
Posted on 05/10/2004 2:27:12 AM PDT by Phx_RC
A team of diocesan officials will meet Monday night with parishioners of St. Mary Magdalene to explain why their popular priest and parish founder, the Rev. John Cunningham, remains suspended for allegedly concelebrating Mass with a non-Catholic priest and how the bishop is trying to resolve the issue.
A lengthy letter announcing the meeting was read at Saturday's Mass and will be read at all of today's Masses at Williams Community School gym at Williams Gateway Airport in Mesa, where the parishioners regularly meet while their permanent campus is being built in Gilbert. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted announced he has appointed the Rev. Donald Kline, director of the vocations office for diocesan priesthood, as the interim director of the parish with 772 registered families.
All are invited to a parish meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the school's cafeteria where diocesan officials, including the judicial vicar for the diocese, the diocesan attorney and the head of priests, will explain church law regarding the Eucharist. They will also take questions and hear concerns.
Cunningham is planning a news conference earlier that evening to "tell his side of the story," a spokesman for the priest said.
Olmsted suspended Cunningham, a priest since 1974, on April 30 following a complaint brought by staff of St. Anne's Catholic Parish in Gilbert where the Eucharist was part of a wedding in April. An Anglican priest is said to have had a role in the Eucharist that is restricted to faithful Catholics.
Olmsted said in his letter that a recently completed investigation into the matter was inconclusive. "For that reason, I am required to refer the matter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome," he said.
The bishop's letter cited Pope John Paul II's recent encyclical on the Eucharist, saying the "Eucharist stands at the center of the church's life" and "is the most precious possession which the church can have in her journey through history."
Catholics believe the bread and wine of communion undergo "transubstantiation" and the elements become the real body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ in that process, unlike the common Protestant belief that bread and wine are symbolic of Christ's body and blood.
Read the following posts for some background information about Rev. John Cunningham.
His troubles probably started when he was 16.
Read on to find out why this might be so.
Note: Bolds and underlines added for emphasis.
Father Cunningham was born in Phoenix in 1949 and grew up in the shadow of the State Capital, the sixth child of Irish immigrants. He attended St. Meinard Seminary in Indiana, where he earned his B.A. in Philosophy and Masters in Divinity. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Phoenix in 1974 and served in two urban parishes before become pastor in Tolleson, Arizona.
He was diocesan vocation director for six years.
An innovator who enjoys a new challenge, Fr. John founded St. Bridget Parish in 1985.
While still a pastor, Fr. John enrolled at ASU where he received an M.A. in Religious Studies in 1997. His thesis was entitled: Gender, Authority and the Gospel of Mary: A Feminist Critique.
Our pastor has taught World Religions and other classes at Mesa and Scottsdale Community Colleges and ASU East.
He also has an extensive background in Jungian psychology, having done a sabbatical at the Jung Institute in Zurich, and been actively involved for years with the Phoenix Friends of Jung.
He is ready and eager to start Gilbert's second Catholic parish. He named it after St. Mary Magdalene in tribute to the devoted friend of Jesus, the first witness to the resurrection, the first evangelist, a perennially illustrious symbol of spiritual illumination, and, in our time, a popular icon of women's empowerment.
Fr. John is an avid reader. He plays guitar and sings Irish songs and, now and then, hammers out a jig. He enjoys snow skiing, animals, and most of all, his mini-daschund, Bailey. His travels have taken him to Israel, Russia, Japan, China, India, Nepal, Mexico and Brazil, all over Europe, and annually, to a cozy cottage in the West of Ireland that he calls his second home.
Our founding pastor is a friendly, outgoing man who stresses hospitality, loves a party and a lively intellectual discussion. He accepts people where they are, but strives to enlarge horizons of mind and heart with a vision of what we can yet become as individuals and as a church.
His motto is: "This day will never come again."
By Rev. John Cunningham
CLERGY CORNER -- Feb 07, 2004 -- Link to Article
The Rev. John Cunningham is pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Higley.
I was 16 when I was introduced to the works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955). He was a Jesuit paleontologist who created a synthesis of science and faith.
Teilhard's big idea was the spiritual heart of evolution - the rise of consciousness. Over the next few years, I devoured many of his books.
It was as if, for the first time, someone had put into words my budding fascination with the world. Teilhard provided a lens for me to see the grand scheme of things and an evolutionary perspective with which to understand the universe and my place in it.
His Law of Complexity-Consciousness stated,
"The more complex a physical organism is, correspondingly, the more consciousness it manifests."
At 19, I first stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon, like a dwarf before a giant. Then I thought of Teilhard, and I realized that this geological spectacle had never thought a thought, registered a sensation or begun to feel wonder and gratitude as I did at that moment.
The difference was consciousness, that rare, precious, fragile light - our supreme value. Teilhard taught me that we are evolution that has become conscious of itself. He reasoned that if this is so, then consciousness must be present in varying degrees in all things, as an innate property of matter in process of organization. Cosmic evolution is a tremendous enterprise giving birth to reflection.
Teilhard studied the past to grasp what lies ahead. He came to perceive the universe as a single emergent process.
"Someday," he writes, "after we have mastered the tides, the winds and the gravity, we will harness, for God, the energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world, the human will have discovered fire."
This incomparable teacher lit a fire in me, with its light of understanding and glowing hope in the future and the warmth of a holistic, evolutionary spirituality.
When I gaze up at the starry night sky, I thank God for the consciousness that my body sustains. I have learned that through you and me, the universe looks back on itself, creates its future and is drawn to adore the mystery.
By Rev John Cunningham
CLERGY CORNER -- Aug 23, 2003 -- Link to Article
The Rev. John Cunningham is pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church of Higley, which currently meets in the Williams Community School gym of the Arizona State University East campus, 7006 E. Union St., Mesa.
There are two spiritual paths we can follow. One path emphasizes the emulation of a hero or sage - whose life invites imitation. The other path lies in the realization that what we seek to imitate is already within us.
The first path locates salvation elsewhere, the other reveals it as here and now. One way requires a savior - the other calls for selftransformation. Most follow the first path, unaware that the other leads to the real treasure.
When we say somebody is an inspiration to us, we mean that such a person leaves an indelible impression. Some inspire us so much that we feel we would not be who we are without them. But I'm convinced we could not recognize this inspiration or be changed by it, if the same capacity and qualities were not, in fact, present within us.
For example, my late father had a quiet temperament and calm nerves. At times when I feel anxious, I think of him and how steady he was, and the worries subside.
What I think happens is: Those we consider inspirational activate or awaken similar energies within us.
In this role, they don't supply something we are lacking, but open our eyes to see the gifts we already have. The spirit of those who inspire us sparks our own undiscovered inner power. On the highest spiritual plane, this leads to the discovery of our inner divinity.
With gratitude for the teachers and guides along the way, ultimately we must grow up and claim our own spiritual authority.
History's religious giants all knew this. They did not teach childish dependence or slavish imitation, but encouraged us as partners to get on with the journey.
Though we cannot walk in one another's shoes, we can share the light that shines through many lamps.
Would the content of the above articles and Background Information give you confidence in Fr. John as a pastor of a Catholic parish? Why or why not?
Given the admittedly limited amount of information above, would you be willing to entrust the religious formation of your Catholic children unto his leadership? Why or why not?
Note: Bolds and underlines in all of the above are added for emphasis.
Has he done a self excommunication?
If so, if you can, please give cite(s) and any other info or opinion.
Thank you all in advance.
Please let me know if you want on/off this list via FRmail.
That is the trouble with ripping people to shreds we don't even know personally. He might be a nice guy and if he leaves the kids alone, he's got more going for him than some of them.
Has he done a self excommunication?
Possibly. Not my call. I don't know where you draw the line on manifest heresy. I read de Chardin years ago and it didn't do much for me spiritually. Same with Jung. Some of his ideas have validity, but when you make a religion out of that dark stuff, that's not what my idea of Christianity is about. We were given sufficient "philosophy" in the gospels to give me all I need for my journey and then some. I don't get into the deeper stuff, which I find depressing frankly, unless and only unless it gives me some insight into my personal flaws to the point where I can ask God for forgiveness and the help I need to overcome them.
If so, if you can, please give cite(s) and any other info or opinion.
There are canons which I think someone has posted that cover this sort of thing.
I don't think what he did was all that terrible. Maybe the Anglican priest was a good Christian. Kind of nice to include him in the consecration and there wouldn't be one darn thing wrong with it if it weren't for rules, rules, rules. I personally get hung up over rules and don't think it is a good idea to rebel, but on the other end of the spectrum, when you are constantly tearing people apart for things that aren't all that terrible, what does that make me/us? If they do something that really hurts people, that is completely different. I don't see where anybody was hurt by what was done.
Much ado about nothing. Now if they gave Kerry communion at that mass, I might have more to say on the subject :-).
I chose to look at this question as if I were (hypothetically) a Christian from another denomination, or perhaps unbaptized person discerning joining the Catholic Church.
When he uses a statement like:
The spirit of those who inspire us sparks our own undiscovered inner power. On the highest spiritual plane, this leads to the discovery of our inner divinity.
I would think, if I were not told he were a priest, that this statement came from some crystal-swinger spiritualist in Sedona, or long haired, anorexic guru from a top of a tall snowy peak in Katmandu.
And I think if I were that person seeking guidance of The Church and of The Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ, I believe I would keep searching, saddened that The Church had gone by the way of New Age.
Just the pure fact that he as a priest sites (the man) Pierre Teilhard de Chardin as his inspiration, as opposed to Jesus Christ, is disturbing to me.
John Cunningham was an ass't pastor in my parish in the late 70's. Several teens,in addition to my three,called him fr.Showboater and did not like him. He was pretty young and very nice looking and although I thought his Catholicism weak,I was surprised that teens did not like him. I thought that he might have been gay,boys frequently sense those things.
I asked a couple of women and they assured me,he was not gay. They said he was a womanizer and flagrant.
He must have been bisexual because we have recently learned that as the ass't diocesan vocations director he had been called on the carpet. He had taken the seminarians out to dinner and left a $500.00 tip. When queationed he told the vocations director,that the waiter "provided good service and was 'cute'". Shortly thereafter he became the vocations director for the diocese.
He was frequently the "catholic authority" the newspapers quoted because they were sure he would never utter a Catholic thought or position to poison the minds of the public. He was also the founding pastor of a parish in the east valley,St.Brigit's where they have something that looks like stonehenge with mazes and odd rocks etc. The parish was into enneagrams and new age spirituality and luv and peace and justice retreats and woman's rights. He invited the Jesus Seminar group to give a symposium which was moved off site by order of the bishop,much to his chagrin.
Three years ago or so,we heard he had his priveleges suspended for concelebrating Mass with an Episcopalian priestess. The case went to Rome but we heard that there was furious lobbying and nothing happened. Next thing we knew he was given the oppurtunity to start a new parish.
Last year he signed the Phoenix Declaration and then evidently had this new difficulty with permitting some type of eucharistic abuse at a wedding. I have a suspicion that this second abuse may be more serious because there were probably some conditions placed on him after the priestess brouhaha. Watching fr.Cunningham is a full time job for a Bishop and I hope and pray that fr. will either repent or resign,since out new Bishop has a lot of other work to do. I have heard that all heresy starts south of the belt,I would say if it doesn't start there,it does nd there. John Cunnigham is the perfect example.
theologically, holding Mass with a priest from another church is merely a major disciplinary action. I attended at least one mass where an Orthodox priest concelebrated with several Catholic priests at a mass.
However, there is a real question about Anglican/Episcopalian priests. Over a hundred years ago, after investigating it, the Vatican found many lapses in "bishop to bishop" consecrations, so said Anglian orders were not valid. However, since that time, many Anglican and Episcopal priests are ordained with Orthodox or schismatic Catholic (e.g. the Polish national catholic church) bishops co presiding with Anglican bishops-- something that only makes sense if the Anglicans themselves agreed that they may have lost the line of the sacrament. But as a result, most Anglican/Episcopal priests are now true priests.
So if this priest merely concelebrated a mass with another valid priest from another church without the church's permission, he is open to disciplinary correcction of the bishop
But if this "priest" was merely a clergyman without valid ordination as a priest in any church, it is a blasphemy, and he "excommunicated" himself.
I have never heard that, but I have often thought it. Heresy either begins or ends there, it is the cause or the end result, even if one only ascedes to it.
This Priest, from what I have read here, even by people who know him personally, seems like a bad apple that is infecting all who come in contact.
But he is a real Priest of God, and should probably not be piled on by people who don't really know what went on. Especially since he didn't commit a crime. The Bishop and the Vatican alone should decide his fate. We should only pray that they make a decision that is favorable to the Church.