A Cardinal Arrives, Sins in Tow

So according to local media reports, there was a bit of to-do earlier this month out at McGhee Tyson Airport, where Bishop Richard Stika of the Knoxville Catholic Diocese organized a warm welcome for an old friend of his who is retiring to East Tennessee. Students from Catholic High School, a local church choir, and nuns, priests, and parishioners all turned out to give a Rocky Top greeting to Cardinal Justin Rigali, who just stepped down as archbishop of Philadelphia. Apparently unmentioned in all the hoopla, however, were the circumstances of Rigali's relocation. His tenure as archbishop was marked by the revelation of sexual abuse by Philadelphia priests and what many critics say was a culture of cover-ups and denials by church officials. As The New York Times reported this summer, "A grand jury report in February accused the archdiocese of failing to report or remove predatory priests over the decades and said that as many as 37 priests remained active in the ministry despite accusations against them of sexual abuse or other inappropriate behavior with minors." Three former priests and a Catholic teacher are facing charges of serial rape and abuse of boys as young as 10, and a monsignor is charged with, as Rolling Stone puts it, "having been the archdiocese's sex-abuse fixer, the man who covered up for its priests." Rigali suspended more than 20 priests after the Grand Jury report was issued. The Vatican accepted Rigali's resignation in July, and officials said it was just a matter of age (Rigali is 76). But, the Times wrote, "Cardinal Rigali's tenure in Philadelphia will inevitably be linked to the mishandling of sexual-abuse cases." With due respect to the friendship between Stika and Rigali, no wonder East Tennessee seems like safer ground.