Cardinal Cody Declares Wanderer Report “Misleading”


Cardinal Cody Declares Wanderer Report “Misleading”


128 East Tenth Street
St. Paul, Minnesota 55101
January 19, 1973

A report published in the January 18th, 1973 issue of THE WANDERER headlined “Cardinal Cody Ponders School Revolution” asserted that a plan for the reorganization of the Chicago Archdiocesan school system would result, if implemented, in the “wholesale secularization” and “de-Catholicization” of Chicago’s Catholic schools. In a letter to THE WANDERER dated January 19th, 1973, the Archbishop of Chicago, John Cardinal Cody, charged that that report was “utterly irresponsible” and “misleading.”

Following is the complete text of Cardinal Cody’s letter with a response by William H. Marshner of THE WANDERER’S staff who authored the original report published on January 18th. The text of Cardinal Cody’s letter to THE WANDERER having appeared on the front page of THE NEW WORLD, official paper of the Archdiocese of Chicago, it is to be expected that Mr. Marshner’s, response, as well as the controverted article, will also be published in that paper to enable its readers to grasp the vital issues involved in this matter.



The Wanderer’s “Special” for January 18th, headlined “Cardinal Cody Ponders School Revolution,” is an utterly irresponsible, misleading report. It also is a personal insult for which I expect a prompt apology.

Neither the report’s author nor anybody on The Wanderer’s staff has bothered to consult me about the preposterous assertions in The Wanderer’s article. Yet, I am publicly accused of “having on my desk” and of giving serious consideration to a “radical plan” for “wholesale secularization” of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Allegedly I am an accomplice in a plot “to laicize” and “ultimately de-Catholicize” schools under my jurisdiction. Moreover, The Wanderer says I am “pondering” the possibility of violating Canon Law by depriving pastors of their right to supervise religious education in the schools.

I am dismayed that a Catholic weekly, which incessantly proclaims its undeviating loyalty to magisterial authority in the Church, would print these libelous assertions which undercut my authority in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

If The Wanderer is interested in truth about the School Study Commission’s report and about present and projected archdiocesan school policies, its editors might find it useful to confer with Mr. Lawrence Klinger, Chairman of the Archdiocesan School Board, and with Father Robert Clark, Archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools. I do not wish to expose myself to any further vilification in The Wanderer’s columns.

I ask that this letter be published and be given no less prominence in your paper than was the headlined article to which I have vigorously objected.

Very truly yours,
John Cardinal Cody
Archbishop of Chicago

P.S. If the type of reporting indicated in this article, which was brought to my attention, is typical of your journalistic approach, I am happy that I do not consider myself as a reader of your paper, and would be even happier if the complimentary copy that I now receive was not delivered to my home.


The author is grateful to His Eminence, John Cardinal Cody for the personal attention which His Eminence has evidently given to the news item entitled “Cardinal Cody Ponders School Revolution.” It is not often that high-ranking churchmen are disposed to notice the efforts of journalists, and this situation is surely one which serves neither the mission of the Church nor the interests of the press.

In the present case, however, there seems to be an enormous and altogether unlooked-for misunderstanding. The Cardinal accuses the author of irresponsibility, personal insult, undercutting his magisterial authority, and if all that were not enough, of “vilification.” The author, hapless creature, can only answer that he intended His Eminence no offense and that the interpretation which the Cardinal has chosen to put upon the article in question is so singular that, had any lesser man so interpreted his work, the author would not have hesitated to call the result “perverse.”

The author is prepared to treat temperately with those who argue that he was misinformed concerning the content or implications of Archdiocesan school board policy; he is not prepared, however, to entertain slurs upon his professional probity, nor upon his loyalty to the Magisterium, regardless of how high the source from which these slurs proceed.

To say that an ordinary is “pondering” or “has on his desk” a plan is not to say that he approves of it. To say further that this plan has revolutionary implications or would, if approved, have deleterious effects, is not to say (nor even to imply!) that the Cardinal intends these implications or desires these effects. The elementary rule of denotation and semantics, therefore rule out the interpretation presented in the Cardinal’s letter. Nay, more: These rule simply an opposite interpretation. For when the author wrote (at the beginning of the article under attack) that the Cardinal had “rejected” the school plan once before and (at the end) that it is now in the Cardinal’s power once again to “prevent” an unhappy turn of events, the clear implication, in context, is that the Cardinal’s personal thinking is worlds removed from any of the improprieties alleged to exist in the plan itself. Therefore, the author judges that no personal apology to the Cardinal is in any way due.

Consider the following irony. It is a matter of public record that on June 14th of last year, Cardinal Cody ordered that several major aspects of the proposed school plan be “reconsidered” by the Archdiocesan School Board. The order was based on several discovered defects of the plan, including inadequate provision for the authority of pastors. In a letter to Board chairman, Lawrence Klinger, the Cardinal himself, at that time, spoke of the “far- reaching consequences” of the plan. Now: what if a journalist had stated on, say, June 1st, that Cardinal Cody was “pondering” a revolutionary school plan and that this plan had several defects? Would this hypothetical journalist have been guilty of vilification? Or would not, rather, the Cardinal have been the first to agree with him. The question answers itself.

Now as to the charge of irresponsibility, the author takes it to be identical with the question of whether or not he took proper pains to be accurately informed. In response, the author thinks it adequate to state: (1.) that he had before him the documents of the School Study Commission; 2.) that he was acquainted with the statements of School Board Chairman, Lawrence Klinger, and School Superintendent Fr. Robert Clark, as published in The New World; 3.) that he held extensive conversations with several persons in the Archdiocese of Chicago whom he had every reason to consider well-informed. Beyond this general statement, a disclosure of sources would be inappropriate.

There remains, of course, the possibility that the author, despite reasonable pains to achieve accuracy, was in fact mistaken in what he published in The Wanderer on January 18th. On this point, the author wishes to reply with a distinction. On the one hand, he conceded that several pieces of information concerning the school policy business have come to his attention since January 18th which would require modification of the original article. On the other hand, it is still the author’s opinion that the modification of school policy currently underway in Chicago remains seriously defective and open to the gravest hazards. Let us explore the facts.

First of all, The Wanderer article in question quoted extensively from a blueprint (Directions for the Future) prepared by the School Study Commission. Not one of the quotations is challenged. From these quotations, certain “revolutionary” and secularizing implications seem to the author to be obvious. These implications are not denied. Moreover, the Cardinal’s letter nowhere repudiates the blueprint.

The New World, however, in its editorial of January 26th, 1973, on The Wanderer’s report, insists that the School Study Commission’s report “bears no relationship” to the amendments in school board policy which the Cardinal is considering. Obviously, if The New World is correct, The Wanderer article of January 18th falls to the ground. However, The New World seems to have forgotten what it itself published on June 9th, 1972. I refer to the article entitled “Local School, Boards Get Policymaking Power” by Fr. Vincent J. Giese. I quote:

“The new policy revisions are also a first step in the implementation of the School Study Commission Report, published last Summer, according to Board Chairman, Lawrence E. Klinger, which recommended that the Catholic school system work toward decentralization.”

And again I quote:

“In commenting on the policy decisions taken by the board, Klinger said that ‘all of these changes made tonight reflect the spirit and sense of many of the recommendations of the Archdiocesan School Study Commission…’.”

Therefore the author suggests that instead of quarrelling with The Wanderer, The New World would do better to take its complaint to Fr. Giese and to Chairman Klinger.

There remains one outstanding fact which could reasonably be said to challenge the accuracy of what The Wanderer published. This is the fact that on January 8th, (after The Wanderer article was researched and written, though before it was published) the Archdiocesan School Board gave final approval to a policy amendment which appears to give full power to the pastor to determine religious education in the parish school. This is policy No. 1140, entitled Pastor, which reads as follows:

“By virtue of his office, the pastor is responsible for those matters within the school which affect worship, the ministry of the word, and the spiritual welfare of the students. It is his duty to see that the teachings of the Church are clearly and accurately presented. In such matters he is responsible to the Archbishop and, consequently, is subject to the general policies of the Archdiocese and the particular policies of the Archdiocesan School Board which have had the approval of the Archbishop.

“All policies of the parish school board concerning religion education are subject to the pastor’s approval. All faculty assignments are subject to the pastor’s confirmation insofar as they affect his above-mentioned responsibilities.

“The pastor’s administrative responsibility for the school includes those matters which are not included within the authority of the parish school board by reason of its constitution or within the professional competency of the principal.

“The pastor shall be a member of the parish school board. He shall have the option of being a voting or non-voting member and of having or not having veto power over the board’s decisions, except that he must have veto power over the board’s decisions in the field of religious education. The pastor’s status should be clearly set forth in the parish school board’s constitution.”

The author salutes this new policy and takes delight in bringing it to the attention of The Wanderer’s readers. However, he would be derelict in his duty if he did not also raise certain troublesome questions.

According to Policy No. 1140, the pastor has a veto only over those matters pertaining to religious education which are deliberated by the local school board. Neither the individual pastor nor any organization of pastors has the power to block decisions taken by the Archdiocesan School Board. Therefore, in the face of a decision by the Archdiocesan School Board to limit the Catholic character of certain schools (making them community schools, etc.) or to grant to the local board the authority to choose this secularizing pattern, might not the pastor be defenseless? And if the pastor claims that such a choice is subject to his veto, could not the Archdiocesan Board rule that it is not?

A concrete example of how the pastor’s ostensible veto over religious policy is in fact abrogated can be seen from Policy No. 4152, entitled: Religious Education. It reads:

“It is the task of the principal, working with the religion chairman, to choose textbooks and determine teaching methods that will accomplish the agreed-upon goals of the religious education program. The choice of textbooks is to be made from the list approved by the Archdiocesan School Office. This choice is subject to the confirmation of the pastor.”

In other words, in the crucial matter of textbooks, the initiative belongs to the principal and the ultimate authority belongs to the Archdiocesan School Board.

Well, it might be said that this situation is inevitable. After all, the pastor can’t claim an authority independent of the Archbishop and the Archdiocesan School Board might be characterized as an extension of the Archbishop’s authority. But whatever may be true in theory, it seems that in practice some startling anomalies result if the Archdiocesan Board is. viewed in this light.

For example, on November 15th, 1972, the Board decreed that the Our Sunday Visitor religion series may not be used in any of the schools of the Archdiocese. Various flimsy reasons were given, including the absurd charge that this series, written well after Vatican II, was pre-conciliar! Now, let us suppose per argumentum that this arbitrary decree represents Cardinal Cody’s own magisterial authority. The result is a conflict between the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago and the Hierarchy of Australia which has approved this series. If Cardinal Cody is forbidding the OSV series by his proper authority, it follows that he must view the Australian Bishops, whose cultural situation is, after all, indistinguishable from our own, as delinquent or heterodox: delinquent if they are showing the children to be educated from a series that is not good enough for the children of Chicago; or heterodox if the series in question presents an unacceptable theology!

All this of course, is nonsense. Cardinal Cody has no more quarrel with the Bishops of Australia than the man in the moon. Whence it follows that the decree of the Archdiocesan School Board is a bureaucratic-administrative decision which does not engage the Cardinal’s proper magisterial authority. Whence it follows, too, that no slight to His Eminence is involved in combatting or rejecting the policies of the Board.

Nevertheless, pastors and people both remain entangled in the coils of this bureaucracy with little hope of escape. Therefore, in balance, and despite Policy No. 1140, it seems clear to this writer that 1.) Chicago’s Catholic school system under the regulations now being proposed and adopted, can be decatholocized and secularized any time the Archdiocesan School Board chooses to pursue such a policy, e.g., by implementing the plan set forth in Directions for the Future, and 2.) that only Cardinal Cody can prevent this turn of events. But these are precisely the two conclusions published by the author on January 18th,

— William H. Marshner

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