Matt C. Abbott
Cardinal O'Malley and the Father Cuenin controversy
By Matt C. Abbott
September 17, 2018

From a Sept. 13, 2018 Boston Catholic Insider blog post (click here to read the post in its entirety):
    In view of Cardinal Seán O'Malley's public denials about having had knowledge of Cardinal McCarrick's sexually immoral behavior, Catholics and non-Catholics ought to be aware of how Cardinal O'Malley handled a situation where he did know of a Boston priest's homosexual abuse of a young man, and where he knew about the priest's advocacy of the gay agenda for many years before this abuse occurred.

    The priest is Father Walter Cuenin, and his public advocacy for the gay agenda was well known for 15-plus years under both Cardinal Law and Cardinal O'Malley. In his final role in active ministry, he was chaplain at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Cuenin departed that position abruptly in January 2015 without prior notice for what was described at the time as 'health reasons.'

    A tipster at BCI reported September 8 that the reason for the departure was actually that Cuenin had plied a student with alcohol and made undesired sexual advances on him. Cuenin was removed from ministry and sent for treatment at a clinic in Michigan and has not been heard from since. This scandalous incident was covered up by both Brandeis and the Archdiocese of Boston....

    What actually happened around his departure is far more grave than 'health reasons.' BCI is told that Cuenin had taken a Brandeis student on a trip to New York City around Christmas time, staying in a one-bedroom hotel room with one bed. He plied him with alcohol and then engaged in non-consensual sexual activity with him. The victim, who prefers to be unidentified, wanted Cuenin to leave campus so that other students were no longer vulnerable to similar happenings.

    Brandeis' administration loved Cuenin for his liberal ideology that fit well on campus. And because he was a popular figure on campus, they wanted to keep the matter quiet. So did the Archdiocese of Boston. Key people from Brandeis involved in the handling of this situation included Andrew Flagel, then-senior vice president for students and enrollment, and Jamele Adams, dean of student life. Then-president Frederick Lawrence was also aware and involved. Cardinal O'Malley knew about this, as did Bishop Peter Uglietto, vicar general, and Father Bryan Parrish, episcopal vicar and secretary for parish life and leadership.
When I asked, in an email, for a response to BCI's blog post, archdiocese spokesman Terrence Donilon provided me with the following statement:
    There has been no charge of molestation of a minor or young adult. Father Cuenin has faced serious health issues in recent years. It has been our experience with Boston Catholic Insider, an anonymous blog, that the information they distribute is consistently false and misleading, as is the case in their September 13, 2018 entry.

    For the record, the Archdiocese of Boston is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of children and young people in our parishes and institutions. Through its Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach, the archdiocese continues to make counseling and other services available to survivors, their families and parishes impacted by clergy sexual abuse and by allegations of abuse by members of the clergy. Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley encourages any person in need of pastoral assistance or support to contact the archdiocese's Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach by calling 617-746-5985.
BCI's editor, in an email, provided me with the following response to Mr. Donilon's statement:
    Terry has never once found something inaccurate in one of our posts in the last eight years. He just doesn't like that we expose the truth. Before we went out with our story, my colleague spoke to Father Bryan Parrish, episcopal vicar for parish life, and he confirmed that the previous posts on our blog about the sexual incident with a male student were correct – and the alcohol and sexual incident was the reason for Cuenin's removal from Brandeis and from ministry. Maybe there was no formal 'charge,' but the incident occurred. Parrish confirmed in writing that Cuenin's ministry is restricted. We also reached out to all the players from Brandeis and told them the story as we understood it. They refused to comment.
When I asked, in an email, for comment on BCI's blog post, Father Parrish contacted Mr. Donilon, who wanted to make sure I received the previous statement (above).

© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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