An alumni group is asking the Vatican to look into a slew of incidents they say has tarnished the private Catholic school’s reputation.
The group, led by former basketball player Brian Culhane, has sent a “fat package of allegations and grievances” to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees issues of morality in the Roman Catholic Church, according to an investigative report by the sports gossip website Deadspin.
The allegations surround the varsity basketball team and its head coach, Joe Wootten.
Deadspin reports that Wootten sought the transfer of Congolese basketball player Junior Etou, who was the key figure on the team’s 2013 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship. The site found that Etou was very likely 21 years old when he played for O’Connell, two years too old to be eligible for high school play.
Etou, who was living with Malone at the time, produced a passport and visa that said he was born in 1994. While he was living in the Congo, however, he had earlier provided a birth certificate to basketball’s governing body stating he was born in 1992.
The report also alleges a cover-up by school officials after two basketball players allegedly filmed a sex act with a female student at the school. The players transferred before the last school year. Via Deadspin:
The talk was that Wootten’s latest exiles had left under an ugly cloud — that one of the players had shot a video in which a female student performed oral sex on the other player inside the school, then, according to an O’Connell employee, “posted his work on Instagram.” All of those alleged to be involved were juveniles and underclassmen.
Students found to have committed what is described in memos from O’Connell alumni to school and local Catholic officials as “a sexually immoral act” on campus are generally expelled, Culhane says; however, according to the rumors, the two boys were allowed to leave without any formal finding, while the girl alleged to have been involved remained enrolled at O’Connell. Culhane says alums who inquired about the incident were told by school administrators that she faced no punishment because “the [sex] act was not consensual.” Yet no charges were ever filed.
The Arlington County Police Department investigated the video, but spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said no charges were filed and the identity of the subjects could not be revealed because they were minors.
The confluence of events – without a satisfactory response from O’Connell administration of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington – prompted Culhane and his alumni to request Pope Francis step in. If the CDF and the Vatican decide it’s worth pursuing, according to Deadspin, it will compel Bishop Paul Loverde to investigate the school and the program.
O’Connell administration has not responded to a request for comment.
Update at 4:20 p.m. – The Catholic Diocese of Arlington has provided ARLnow.com with the following statement:
The Diocese of Arlington regrets that concerns about the basketball program at Bishop O’Connell remain a source of frustration for some members of the school community.
As stated previously in 2013, Bishop O’Connell received official documentation regarding the age of former student Junior Etou, confirming his eligibility to participate in athletics during the 2012-13 academic year.
With regard to any allegations involving other students, the Diocese of Arlington cannot comment on individual disciplinary matters. As a matter of policy and practice if a school has reason to believe a student’s actions have violated the law, the proper law enforcement agency is contacted.
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The Rev. Horace “Tuck” Grinnell, who has served as the pastor for St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Virginia Square since 2010, has been transferred out of Arlington in the aftermath of the church’s impending school closing.
Grinnell sent a letter to his parishioners in the church’s June newsletter announcing he would be transferring to a church in Rappahannock County, Va., but he said the decision was made by Arlington Diocese Bishop Paul Loverde without his consent.
“The alleged reason the Bishop gave for my transfer — against my will — was that I was not a sufficient supporter of Catholic education,” Grinnell wrote. “This is untrue, as I demonstrated to him and his advisors. I have been pastor of Parishes with Catholic schools for the past 28 years and in every parish I have been in I have worked to support and increase the enrollment of each school… Both the Bishop and the Superintendent of Catholic schools not only signed off on, but were in agreement to, the closing of the school.”
The school announced it would be closing its K-8 school in January due to a lack of enrollment. In the school’s announcement, Grinnell said a private school needed to operate at 90 percent capacity to remain viable, but the 117 students this school year only brought the school to 57 percent capacity. “No Catholic school can survive with such low numbers,” he wrote at the time.
The church announced it would restructure the school as an early childhood center, in a letter to parents given to children in their backpacks. Some parents said the closure was announced too abruptly, without allowing its community to have any input.
“[F]or things to end this way is unacceptable and disrespectful,” A parent, Kayleen Fitzgerald, wrote in a letter to ARLnow.com in January. “We were never afforded the respect and dignity to be invited into the process. We were never given financial information or analyses. We were never notified of the warnings that were apparently delivered from the Diocese to the school. We were never rallied and given a goal to try to attain. We were never given a chance to go down swinging.”
The Catholic Diocese of Arlington declined to comment on why Grinnell was transferred, saying “Bishop Loverde is attending the USCCB Spring General Assembly, and it is the policy of the Diocese of Arlington not to discuss personnel matters,” through its spokesman, Michael Donohue.
Grinnell went on to say he believed the decision to transfer him to a church more than 80 miles away was not justified based on how he handled church operations.
“They wanted me out of the parish,” he said. “In the end, I truly believe that this transfer was ‘personal’ and not ‘business’… I love you, the people of St. Charles, and I will miss you! I had hoped to continue to minister here until I turned 75 in eight years. It is not to be. As one of my uncles used to say, ‘paybacks are hell!’”
The Most Rev. Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of Arlington, issued a statement (below) last night on the appointment of the new Pope.
Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, is the Catholic church’s 266th pontiff, and the first from Latin America.
Habemus Papam! I rejoice that Pope Francis has answered the Lord’s call to serve as Successor to Saint Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth. On behalf of the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese of Arlington, I offer our new Pope Francis the support of our daily prayers, loyalty and fidelity.
As the white smoke billowed forth from the chimney and the bells of the Basilica began to ring jubilantly, I eagerly awaited the announcement of our new Pope. When he walked out onto the balcony, my heart was filled with joy. In his first moments as our Pontiff, I was so touched by Pope Francis’ humble petition that we first pray for him, before he then bestowed his first papal blessing on the world.
This is a very exciting and hope-filled time for Catholics the world over, and most assuredly for our brothers and sisters in Latin America who cannot but take great delight in the election of a native son from Argentina. Throughout my life, I have become increasingly aware how the Lord has provided for the Church the shepherd best suited to the particular needs and challenges of the time. I know that this is the case once more. I ask our diocesan family of faith to join me in continued prayers for the pontificate of Pope Francis and for the entire Church.
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Today, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would resign the papal office at the end of the month.
The Pope said his age and declining energy level is preventing him from carrying out the duties of the office. The announcement surprised many local Catholics, including leaders of local parishes.
“With the startling news that Pope Benedict is resigning at the end of the month, we pray for the church and its leaders to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in choosing a new Pope,” Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, at 2700 19th Street S., said on its Facebook page.
This afternoon, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington also commented on the Pope’s announcement.
In a statement, Bishop Paul S. Loverde said Catholics are “deeply grateful for his eight years of faithful and selfless service.”
As I reflect on the life and ministry of Pope Benedict XVI, I am unfailingly impressed by his serenity; a quiet, peaceful yet certain manner of speaking and acting. This serenity is rooted in his deep faith in the Lord Jesus, a faith that underlies hope and leads to love of God and neighbor. His decision to resign the Petrine Ministry on February 28th reflects this spirit of serenity.
Certainly, we are deeply grateful for his eight years of faithful and selfless service so evident in his homilies, encyclicals and addresses; in his numerous trips around the world, including his visit to our country in 2008; and his sensitive and pastoral concern for the faithful world-wide.
Thinking of the welfare of the Church which he loves so dearly and is serving so faithfully, our Holy Father is confident that his stepping aside for the election of a new pope truly will benefit the Church and allow him to continue his ministry of prayer for the Church.
I urge my brothers and sisters in the Church and beyond to pray for the welfare of Pope Benedict XVI and also to ask the Holy Spirit, Who inspired the Pope’s decision, to guide the Cardinals in the upcoming Conclave to elect a new Vicar of Christ and successor to St. Peter. With a similar serenity of spirit, let us pray for and support the Holy Father each day as he moves forward into a new chapter in his journey of faith. We remain confident about the future, recalling Christ’s words: “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (cf. Mt 28:20).
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A group of nuns critical of Republican budget plans launched a one-day bus tour of Virginia today (Friday) in Arlington.
The advocacy group Nuns on the Bus held a reception, speaking program and press conference this morning at St. Charles Borromeo Church (3304 Washington Blvd) near Clarendon. The event was the launch of a one-day bus tour of Virginia, which includes planned stops in Richmond and Virginia Beach.
A reported crowd of nearly 200 supporters, and a few critics, turned out for the event. The nuns spoke about “moral budget priorities” and argued against cutting social welfare programs — a move they say would “further [enrich] the wealthiest Americans at the expense of struggling, impoverished families.” They singled out the budget proposal of Republican Vice Presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan as a plan that would hurt the needy.
A few protesters held signs at the rally critical of the Obama administration’s requirement that larger employers — including some religious employers — pay for for health insurance that includes coverage of contraception.
Photos courtesy James Webster
The suit was filed in response to the County Board’s denial of a request by Bishop O’Connell high school to add lights to its athletic fields.
The Diocese issued the following statement tonight about its legal action.
“The Catholic Diocese of Arlington has filed an action in Arlington County Circuit Court challenging the Arlington County Board of Supervisors’ March 15, 2011, denial of a proposal to add lighting to existing athletic fields at Bishop J. O’Connell High School in Arlington – the addition of which would afford its students the same opportunities as public high schools in the region.
Arlington County had previously approved similar lights at its own public high schools which, like Bishop O’Connell, are located adjacent to residential neighborhoods. In fact, the fields of the public high schools – Washington-Lee, Yorktown and Wakefield – are close to a greater number of homes than those of Bishop O’Connell, as O’Connell’s football field is located across the street from a county elementary school and park.
As a matter of law and of fundamental fairness, there is no reasonable basis for the Board to treat Bishop O’Connell in a very different manner than the county treats its own high schools. The Diocese’s circuit court complaint, filed April 12, 2011, notes that “Bishop O’Connell and the County’s public high schools are similarly situated in all relevant respects with regard to lighted athletic fields. The Board’s denial treats Bishop O’Connell and the Diocese, religious institutions, on terms that are different from the public high schools.”
The Board’s denial of Bishop O’Connell’s application for a Use Permit amendment therefore was discriminatory, the complaint concludes, because “there is no basis, rational or otherwise, for the Board’s discrimination between such applications.”
“We want to continue to improve the school and continue to offer an excellent faith-based education to the citizens of Arlington who choose it for their children,” said diocesan Superintendent of Schools Sr. Bernadette McManigal, B.V.M. “Athletics are but one aspect of a total high school education, but it is an important one. Allowing us to improve the athletic fields helps us to continue to offer excellent faith-based education.”
The proposed lighting would benefit not only Bishop O’Connell students, but the whole community, as the proposal included use of the fields by Arlington County’s recreation department. The fields also could be used by Marymount University’s NCAA Division III track, field hockey and baseball teams.
Bishop O’Connell has been located on the same site on Little Falls Road in Arlington for 50 years. It is one of five Catholic schools in Arlington County – Bishop O’Connell and four parochial elementary/middle schools – with a combined enrollment of 2,140 students. Based upon the Arlington Public Schools’ expenditures per student, these five Catholic schools save the taxpayers over $41.7 million per year. Bishop O’Connell alone saves taxpayers over $21 million per year.”
Earlier this week county officials declined to comment about the suit.
ACFD 9/11 Memorial to be Landscaped — Last week the Department of Defense gave Arlington County’s first responders a chunk of limestone recovered from the Pentagon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. That stone now sits near a steel beam from the World Trade Center, in a field outside Fire Station 5 in Pentagon City. The county is planning to landscape the area around the two memorials, in advance of the upcoming 10th anniversary of Sept. 11. [Arlington Connection]
Missed Connections in Arlington — Someone is looking for a “Persian goddess in pink” who was spotted shopping for chickpea salad at the Clarendon Whole Foods. Also: a woman is looking for the “armsleeve tattoo man” she ogled at the Golds Gym. [Clarendon Culture]
Whipple Fights Abortion Amendment — Arlington’s retiring state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple is fighting an amendment inserted into a General Assembly-approved bill by Gov. Bob McDonnell. The bill would establish a health insurance exchange in Virginia as part of the federal health care reform law. However, McDonnell’s amendment would prohibit any insurance plan in the exchange from offering coverage for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk. [Washington Post]
Arlington Diocese Fights Porn — The Catholic Diocese of Arlington continues its campaign against “the very real danger of pornography in our culture” with a blog post. The post notes that an anti-porn pamphlet authored by Bishop Paul Loverde is so popular that it’s now in its second printing. Also, the post says that Bishop Loverde has been active in the fight against pornography on cell phones. [Encourage and Teach]
Heavy Rains Bring Flooding – Persistent, often heavy rain made for a miserable weekend weather-wise. But the real misery is happening in nearby Alexandria, where part of Old Town is under more than a foot of water. More from NBC4.
Board Passes Temporary Snow Removal Ordinance — The Arlington County Board passed a 60-day emergency snow removal ordinance by a vote of 3-2. Dissenting board members Jay Fisette and Barbara Favola joined the Arlington Chamber of Commerce in questioning why an ordinance should be rushed into law, saying it will be difficult to enforce in the unlikely event that Arlington gets a significant snowfall between now and May.
Arlington Diocese Declares Monday a Day of Prayer — Bishop Paul Loverde says Arlington Catholics should pray and fast today (Monday) to ask God for passage of a health care bill that does not “come at the expense of the respect for life at all stages, from natural conception to natural death.” More from LifeSiteNews.