W. H. Marshner
December 2, 1972
(Special to the Wanderer)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Msgr. Marvin Bordelon has resigned from the United States Catholic Conference (USCC). He was director of the Division of World Justice and Peace (which was part of the larger department of Social Development and World Peace), and his resignation becomes effective December 31st.
An ardent champion of McGovernism both at home and abroad, Bordelon clashed often with the policies of Cardinal Krol and the majority of the American Bishops. So, having picked up his marbles, he will work henceforth with the Council on Foundations, of New York, in order to set up a Community Foundation for Greater Washington.
A native of Louisiana, Msgr. Bordelon was long inseparable from his fellow-native, Msgr. Joseph Gremillion. Both men have been very close in the past to Archbishop Giovanni Benelli, whom many describe as the eminence grise of Pope Paul VI. On every recent visit of Archbishop Benelli to the United States, Msgr. Bordelon has contrived to be at his side. In 1967, when the scandal- plagued Pontifical Commission Justitia et Pax was established, Gremillion became its secretary, while his old friend Bordelon entered the USCC as Director of the Division of World Justice and Peace.
The zenith of Bordelon’s domestic influence came in 1970, when his Justice and Peace Division was made an independent department (International Affairs) with himself at the head. Then, of course, a funny thing happened. Cardinal Krol was elected president of the NCCB- USCC. Budgetary reasons were discovered for reducing the International Affairs staff and merging its rump with the Departments of Social Development and Health Affairs. Bordelon was back to being an “acting director” of a mere division.
Even so, Msgr. Bordelon found a lot to be pleased about in recent Church developments. He cited “the establishment by some seventy U.S. dioceses of justice and peace offices or similar agencies; the action of priests’ senates around the Country in designating persons to promote justice and peace concerns and collaborate with the USCC Division; the establishment of the Washington-based Center for Concern; the issuance of a number of Bishops’ statements on war, peace, justice, and related themes; the presentation by the Division of congressional testimony in these areas; and the production and distribution by the Division of annual ‘peace packets’ dealing with such issues as racism, corporate responsibility, pacifism,” etc., according to a press release from the National Catholic Office of Information.
According to the same release, Bordelon said: “I am not optimistic about the immediate prospects of American Catholics dealing seriously with some of our fundamental problems — we are materially too rich and parochial to tackle these root questions with realism and sufficient sacrifice. I am confident, however, that in the long run, sufficient numbers of Christians and other men of good will can and will recover a more realistic sense of priorities and redirect their energies toward the needs of all men on the planet. I am thus delighted that the USCC plans to continue the program which has been launched.”
It remains to be seen what effect Msgr. Bordelon’s resignation will have on these USCC policies as well as on the standing of Msgr. Gremillion and other members of their circle. Rumored as likely to succeed Bordelon is James R. Jennings, presently an employee of Bordelon’s Division. (For more on Mr. Jennings, see elsewhere in this issue the article on the letter from Chile.)