Local News Archive
Print Issue: November 18, 1993
Cardinal's Integrity Is Praised
By Paula Day
An accusation of sexual misconduct against Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago brought responses of dismay and disbelief from archdiocesan priests who knew him when he was auxiliary bishop of Atlanta under Archbishop Paul Hallinan.
"This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," exclaimed Monsignor R. Donald Kiernan, pastor of All Saints parish in Dunwoody. "I knew him as a deacon before he was ordained. Joe is a man's man. It is a travesty of either the justice system or the press to allow a person's reputation to be destroyed on such unfounded charges."
Father Henry Gracz, vicar for clergy for the archdiocese, was a young priest when then-Bishop Bernardin was rector of Christ the King Cathedral. "I don't know of anyone in the Church with greater integrity then Cardinal Bernardin," Father Gracz said. "He was a model to the younger priests when he was here, and an extraordinary pastor of the people of Christ the King from the youngest to the oldest."
Father Gracz said he felt "sick at my stomach" when he heard the allegations. "I get a sick feeling when anyone can make a mere allegation and the publicity is so great that a person's reputation is smudged. I know that the body of the Church is made up of very human persons. A small number (of such allegations) are true, but in today's climate anyone can make any kind of allegation with no basis in fact or reality. Of course, for the small percentage that are proved true there must be a real concern for the victim."
Father Richard Kieran, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Atlanta, remembers Bishop Bernardin's unusual leadership ability. "I stand with the cardinal," Father Kieran said. "He has my unequivocal support. I was very sorry to hear these allegations."
"This is a tragedy wrought by outside forces that injures both Cardinal Bernardin and the young man making the case," said Father Peter Dora, spokesman for the archdiocese. "By bringing this matter into the public media these forces have reduced a most serious accusation to a circus atmosphere."
As a seminarian, Father Dora lived at Christ the King rectory during the summer of 1967 when Bishop Bernardin was rector of the Cathedral parish. "I spent considerable time with him during those months and was impressed by his kindness, his integrity and his impeccable demeanor," Father Dora said.