A Little-Known Story About Cardinal Krol

Posted by Censor Librorum on Sep 5, 2022 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, History, Lesbians & Gays, Pious Trash, Politics, Scandals

Cardinal Krol (left) Pope John Paul II celebrating Mass

Cardinal John Krol, archbishop of Philadelphia (1961-1988), tried to dissuade Kirkridge, a Christian retreat house in Bangor, Pennsylvania, from hosting the first Conference for Catholic Lesbians in November 1982.  Nothing public, just behind-the-scenes pressure. The caller first asked, then threatened. The Cardinal’s office didn’t have any leverage, since Kirkridge Retreat Center is an interfaith Christian community, not a Roman Catholic institution or organization. The Kirkridge staff had backbone, the request came to naught.  Cardinal Krol did not want any public Catholic lesbian gathering in the neighboring diocese (Allentown) which was part of his ecclesiastical province. It would be a scandal.

I know this, because I received a call from my contact at Kirkridge to let me know that this had happened, and to reassure me we that we could still host our event there.

Who tipped Cardinal Krol’s office off, I don’t know, because at that time, we had barely begun to circulate notice of the conference.  They must have seen an invitation letter to a speaker, picked up gossip from Dignity, or heard a rumor via a gay clerical network.

Cardinal Krol was described by New York Times writer Peter Steinfels as “an outspoken defender of traditional theology, hierarchical authority and strict church discipline.” He was also one of the first Catholic prelates to align with Republic Party figures.  A photo taken in 1981 shows him with President Ronald Reagan. 

Krol was used to working behind the scenes to stop scandals.  In 2003, the report from a Philadelphia Grand Jury strafed Cardinal Krol and his successor, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, charging that they protected predator priests and concealed sexual abuse of boys and girls. On page 30 of the report it notes: “For most of Cardinal Krol’s tenure, concealment mainly entailed persuading victims’ parents not to report the priests’ crimes to police, and transferring priests to other parishes if parents demanded it or if “general scandal” seemed imminent.”

The Conference for Catholic Lesbians (CCL) had a second conference at Kirkridge in 1984.  There was no warning call from the Philadelphia Chancery this time.  My feeling is that Cardinal Krol had bigger fish to fry that year including preparing the opening invocation at the August 1984 Republican National Convention. In his remarks, Krol agreed with comments that President Reagan had made earlier in the day that religion and politics are inseparable. “Our Republic was conceived and survived only on moral and religious foundations,” Krol said. “The most important right of all,” Kroll emphasized, “is the right of life, which must be protected by the government.”

Protecting the unborn was a high priority for Cardinal Krol. Protecting the institutional Church from scandal was also very important to him–more important than the life and faith of abused children and their families. How else could he justify reassigning priests who sexually violated children and teens to a new parish to continue the cycle of abuse?

 

 

 

 

 

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