Chicago Roman Catholic Cardinal John Cody has received meager editorial support so far from Catholic journals outside his own diocese in the controversy over charges that he diverted church funds improperly and channeled some of the funds to a woman stepcousin.
Most Catholic editors have remained silent, dealing with the issue only by running the news stories distributed by the National Catholic News Service or other sources. They appeared to share the dilemma of Dale Francis, editor of the Washington-based Catholic Standard, who said, "I didn't have enough facts about it to go to an editorial."
But some of the Catholic editors and columnists who have ventured an opinion on the unprecedented charges have questioned Cody's handling of the controversy. Specifically, they have taken issue with Cody's counter-accusation that the investigation of him by the Chicago Sun-Times, which first reported the allegations, was prompted by anti-Catholicism on the part of the newspaper. They have also criticized his failure to comply with a federal grand jury subpoena of his financial records.
"In our view, this was precisely the wrong response to make," said the influential Jesuit weekly America. "To a nation that retains vivid memories of a president resisting impeachment by pleading national security and executive privilege, the cardinal's words were ill-advised and inevitably sounded defensive . . . .
"Catholics across the land would have much preferred to hear the cardinal say that he has instructed his attorneys to cooperate fully with the investigation, that as Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago he claims no special privilege before the law, but that when all the facts are known and his innocence of any wrongdoing is established, attorneys will proceed with legal action against the Sun-Times for defamation of character."
There was little solace for Cody in national papers at either end of the theological spectrum. An article in the conservative The Wanderer of Oct. l struck a pox-on-both-your-houses theme, dismissing the Sun-Times "for inhabiting a great moral sewer in which its positions on the great moral issues of the times are for the most part exactly opposite of the teaching of the church."
But the allegations of misuse of funds, which The Wanderer speculates "may even be proven some day . . . pale in significance when compared with the really malignant diseases" of the archdiocese, such as sex education in parochial schools and the tendency of teachers in the archdiocesan seminary to question church teachings on birth control, The Wanderer said.
The liberal National Catholic Reporter, which has been crusading for years for Cody's removal from Chicago, weighed in with a commentary branding the accusations "unsurprising and trivial" although "regrettable." The crucial issue in Chicago, wrote the Rev. Charles W. Dahm, a Dominican priest, is the use of power in the Catholic Church. Dahm has just finished a dissertation on that subject.
The Rev. John Reedy of the Notre Dame-based Ave Maria Press strikes a similar note in his most recent column, syndicated through numerous diocesan publications. Reedy took issue with a statement of Cody's legal counsel that the cardinal is answerable to Rome and to God but not to the Sun-Times.
In the Catholic Church today, Reedy wrote, "a bishop is not accountable to his local church in the sense that the majority can vote him out of office. But he certainly is accountable to his people insofar as the welfare of the local church calls for his accountability, honesty and candor in facing the problems of the local church and in explaining the reasons for official policy."
One priest-editor who made a forthright defense of Cody is the Rev. Vincent J. Giese of Our Sunday Visitor, a middle-of-the-road national weekly. Giese wrote that Cody "needs all the love, compassion and support we . . . can now muster." Without making a judgment on the charges against Cody, Giese added that "not all promptings of the heart can be explained by the head, and Cardinal Cody's greatest fault, in the end, may be his paternal love for his own. If he erred, it was on the side of love."