January 31, 2006

Pastor whose ouster caused rift is given Brandeis post

Boston Globe

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff | January 31, 2006

The Rev. Walter H. Cuenin, the popular pastor of a vibrant Newton parish who was forced to resign over a contested allegation of financial impropriety, is being appointed by the Archdiocese of Boston as Catholic chaplain at Brandeis University.

The appointment, by Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, could reduce some of the controversy over Cuenin's treatment by the archdiocese; the Brandeis appointment is considered desirable by the priest's supporters, because of his longtime interest in Catholic-Jewish relations. Two previous occupants of the Brandeis chaplaincy, the late Rev. Robert W. Bullock and the Rev. David C. Michael, have played major roles in shaping the archdiocese's relationship with the Jewish community in Greater Boston.

Cuenin, 60, said he is delighted with the appointment.

''I'm very excited about it, and I'm looking forward to working with the students and faculty at the university," Cuenin said. ''It's a way of being involved in the Jewish community, as I have been for many years, and of working with the Catholic community on that campus."

Cuenin has been living and assisting at St. Julia Parish in Weston since his resignation in September from the job he had held for 12 years, pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton. The archdiocese said Cuenin violated church rules through the use of a leased Honda Accord and excessive payments for saying Mass. The parish's lay leaders, who had approved the payments, said the accusations were ''unfair and unjust."

Some Catholics believe that Cuenin was punished for his role as a leader of priests critical of archdiocesan management and his support for gay rights; the archdiocese denies that politics played any role in Cuenin's ouster.

The Archdiocese of Boston had no immediate comment.

Posted by kshaw at January 31, 2006 08:33 AM