Thursday, September 27, 2012



Father Dan Mallette, pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish since 1977, and still pastor until Sunday, September 30 of that parish on the eastern stretches of my old neighborhood, is being forced out of the rectory by Cardinal George. Father Mallette contends that the Cardinal promised that Father Mallette and his dog Tuffy would be able to live at St. Margaret for life. “I love it here and I love the people.” Now, however, according to Father Dan, the Cardinal says the rectory at St. Margaret is unsafe and needs to be repaired and, according to Archdiocesan spokeswoman Colleen Dolan “his (Father Mallette’s) safety has not been assured there in recent years.”

So suddenly the rectory at St. Margaret needs to be repaired; it’s strange that the need to repair the rectory did not seem urgent until a new pastor is due to be installed. And as for Father’s safety not being assured, one would have thought the Archdiocese would have figured that out when two thugs broke into Father’s bedroom in 2002…and were promptly dispatched by the then 70 year old ex-boxer. Or maybe it should have become apparent last December, when two other thugs broke in and beat Father Mallette to within an inch of his life. The safety, or the need for repair, of the rectory was not an issue then, even for the man most directly involved. But now, when Father Mallette is being pushed out, the rectory, in which Father wants to live out his life, is in disrepair and Father is suddenly in danger? As Father Mallette said, “Bull----.”

A few stipulations before I go on:

--I know Father Mallette. Though he has never been my pastor, he has done wonderful things for me and for people close to me throughout the years. Though we live about fifty miles from St. Margaret and the church we normally attend in the old neighborhood is Sacred Heart, not St. Margaret, I make it a point to get to St. Margaret’s each Good Friday to pray along with Father Mallette and the parishioners who get there on that solemn day. The Church has done a lot of hurtful and harmful things of late, but this one is personal for me.

--No one is arguing that Father Mallette should not retire. He has been a wonderful pastor for his largely black, but, thanks to Father Mallette’s connections, charisma, personality, and efforts, still very diverse congregation. But he is 80 years old and has been pastor for 35 years, well beyond the mandated 12 year tenure for pastors. The issue is not his retirement but his ability to stay in the parish, in the home, and among the people he loves.

--Father Mallette has been described as “a living saint.” Though he would probably argue with that description, those of us who know him wouldn’t. But his being a living saint does not mean that Father Mallette is not a tough guy who can be irascible, stubborn, and, at times, profane. Those of you who read the New Testament will recall that St. Paul had the same qualities.

--The Cardinal is currently battling with cancer, so it is difficult to criticize him at this juncture. However, he did decide to stay on the job despite his cancer and thus cannot be exempted from criticism that comes with the job.

So what to make of the Cardinal’s being forced out of his residence at St. Margaret’s?

--The new pastor, a Father Bill O’Donnell, is stepping into some giant shoes and I can understand his wanting to establish his own identity and his desire to step out of Father Mallette’s giant shadow. However, a deal’s a deal and if the Cardinal said Dan Mallette and Tuffy could live at St. Margaret for life, they ought to be allowed to live there. The Cardinal, through his spokeswoman, Ms. Dolan, questions Mallette’s claim that the cited promise was ever made before launching into the now standard and incessant drivel about Father Mallette’s “safety” that has suddenly become an issue now that Bill O’Donnell wants to run his own show.

So whom do we believe, Father Mallette or Cardinal George? I know Father Mallette. I trust Father Mallette. I don’t know Cardinal George and I don’t reflexively trust anyone even if he is a Prince of the Church. For this, I have been accused of “not being a Catholic.” I disagree, but I digress. The point in this case is that I believe Father Mallette, not the Cardinal, or, rather, his spokeswoman.

--I don’t know Bill O’Donnell, but, given the type of guy who seems to be getting ahead in the Church of late, I am forming a pretty good picture of him in my mind. That Father Mallette has said of Father O’Donnell

“What I don’t understand is why he has to be so mean…he’s a genius at being a pain in the ass.”

only fortifies that image. Perhaps the old rectory on Throop needs refurbishing only because it is not up to Father O’Donnell’s expectations of the type of place in which a priest is entitled to reside.

--Yes, the rules say that pastors should serve only twelve years, but, as I said before, no one is arguing that Father Mallette should not retire, only that he should be able to live out his years among the people he loves, as he says the Cardinal promised him. Why would that be so hard? While it’s unusual for a pastor to stay on at his old parish, it’s not a completely foreign practice. And when one considers that, without Father Mallette, there may very well have been no St. Margaret of Scotland at this juncture, can’t the tough old guy’s wishes be respected after all he’s done for the church…and the Church?

If Bill O’Donnell is such a weakling that he can’t operate in the admittedly formidable shadow of Father Mallette, maybe he should get a nice, quiet parish in the suburbs somewhere. St. Margaret, with its many challenges and its diverse congregation, needs a tough guy like Father Mallette, just as the ancient church at Corinth, with is many challenges and diverse congregation, needed a tough guy like St. Paul.

For more of my thoughts on politics and the ironies that permeate life, along with a healthy dose of what some call cynicism but I call realism, see my other posts on The Insightful Pontificator.

For more of my thoughts on political issues, see Mighty Insights at Rant Political.

For some of my thoughts on financial issues, see Mighty Insights at Rant Finance.


Anonymous said...

THANK YOU!!!!!!! I agree!!!!
I too know Father Mallette and love him dearly!
He has done so much for our family, and for countless others!!!!
I'm glad you suggested that this new priest may be happier in a quiet suburb. Maybe he can make a fresh start wherer he has not yet hurt so many people. At this point I think that would be the wisest move for all involved.
We need more people to see how true all you have written really is!!
Thanks you Father Mallette for being such a strong, wonderful human being!

Tim said...

Oh Please. I am so sick of Father Mallette and everyone who thinks he is getting screwed. The archdiocese should have removed him years ago. This is what happens when someone becomes so entrenched. Add age to it and you have someone who can't accept the need to move on. Nobody is indispensible. None of us. Father has been a terrible administrator and money manager. Change is good and it is time for change.

The Pontificator said...

Thanks, Christine and thanks, Tim, for reading and commenting.

Christine, it’s great to hear from those who love Father Dan; there are a lot of us out here, and thank God for that!

Tim, no one is arguing that Father Mallette should stay on as pastor; he is too old for the job, his formerly robust physical condition has been compromised by his most recent run in with the thugs, and he probably has been pastor for too long, though the last is debatable. So while we don’t argue that he should stay on as pastor, we are saying he should be able to spend the rest of his days in the rectory, as the Cardinal promised him he could. It’s not too much to expect the Cardinal to live up to his promises in any case, but especially so in the case of promises made to Father Dan, who has done so much for his church, and for the Church.

Sure, it’s always tough for a new pastor to live in the shadow of an old pastor, and especially in the formidable shadow of Father Mallette. But the right man could do it.

Thanks again for reading and commenting.