January 23, 2005

Embattled priests' paths crisscrossed

The Arizona Republic

Joseph A. Reaves and Michael Clancy
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 23, 2005 12:00 AM

For all practical purposes, they are superstars of the Phoenix Catholic Church.

They have been for decades.

Recently, though, within months of one another, Monsignor Dale J. Fushek and the Rev. John Cunningham were banned from public ministry. advertisement

Their setbacks, for unrelated and still-unproven reasons, have stunned a church reeling from two years of scandal.

They have created an unwanted crisis for their bishop, divided the faithful and raised troubling questions about possible political intrigue, personality cults and the almighty power of the dollar.

"Difficulties like these are always sad and painful," Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said in an e-mail response to a question from The Arizona Republic about the suspensions of Fushek and Cunningham.

"Each of these cases has its own unique set of circumstances; thus it is not helpful to compare them."

Comparing the allegations against the two priests is, indeed, impossible.

Cunningham was removed from public ministry April 29 for violating the church's sacramental guidelines for celebrating Mass. Then, on Jan. 4, he was removed as pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Gilbert amid allegations of financial irregularities.

Fushek was placed on administrative leave Dec. 29 after the diocese received a complaint that he was in a room two decades ago while a seminarian sodomized a teenage parishioner.

But if the allegations are vastly different, they appear to have some intriguing connections that hint at long-simmering rivalries between the two men and their relatives.

Posted by kshaw at January 23, 2005 03:34 AM