Canons of St. John Cantius founder to face review board after removal amid misconduct claims

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Cardinal Blase Cupich with Fr. Frank Phillips of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius. Credit: Canons Regular of St. John Cantius

The pastor of Chicago’s St. John Cantius Church was removed from office last week for unspecified “credible” allegations of misconduct involving adult men, a response the Chicago archdiocese says is typical in such cases.
 
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago removed Father C. Frank Phillips, founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius and pastor of Chicago’s St. John Cantius Church.
 
“I am aware that this is difficult news to receive, but the Archdiocese of Chicago is committed to ensuring those serving our parishioners are fit for ministry,” the cardinal said in a statement. “Know that this decision was made after careful consideration. I will continue to pray for you and am confident the Lord will sustain the St. John Cantius community as you make this transition.”
 
Cardinal Cupich said he had to withdraw the priest’s faculties to minister in the archdiocese “after learning of credible allegations of improper conduct involving adult men.”
 
Susan Thomas, communications director for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told CNA that the priest is not accused of a canonical crime, known as a “delict,” and to the archdiocese’s knowledge he is not being investigated for a civil crime.

The archdiocese has referred the matter to Fr. Gene Szarek, C.R., the provincial superior of the Resurrectionists, to deal with the allegations and to decide on any further action. Phillips, though the founder of the Canons Regular, is canonically a member of the Resurrectionists.

Phillips’ attorney, Steve Komie of Komie and Associates, told CNA that he has been informed that the Resurrectionist provincial has directed a review board to review the priest’s situation.

“Father Philips has asked me to say that he’s looking forward to the convocation of the board under the decree of the provincial and he’s looking forward to appearing in front of the board, and he’s looking forward to have the board work its way through the claims being currently made,” Komie said.
 
“He looks forward to the report and in the meantime he’s praying for the peace and reconciliation of all involved.”
 
“That’s the extent of his statement, because at this time under the rules he is not allowed to comment further,” said the attorney.

In some Catholic circles, St. John Cantius Parish has become well-known for its liturgy and music. It celebrates some Masses in Latin, including the Extraordinary Form.
 
Phillips had served at the parish since 1988. In 1998 he founded the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, with the approval of Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George and the Congregation of the Resurrection. It follows the Rule of St. Augustine and seeks to “preserve and foster the devotional, musical, catechetical, and artistic traditions of the Catholic Church,” its website says.
 
Phillips will live away from the parish at a residence to be determined by his order.
 
Thomas told CNA that removal is “a typical response for misconduct of this nature.”
 
“Other cases have been handled in the same way,” she said.
 
The priest was removed in accordance with “the standard Archdiocesan process in addressing allegations of improper conduct with adults.” The allegations do not concern minors.

In 2015, Rev. Marco Mercado was removed from a Chicago archdiocesan parish because of what the archdiocese called an “inappropriate relationship with an adult man.” His priestly faculties were also revoked.

In the same year, Rev. Brendan Curran, O.P, was removed from ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago after he was reported to have had an inappropriate relationship with an unmarried adult woman. In addition to parish ministry, Curran was known as an immigration rights activist in the Chicago area.
 
Cardinal Cupich has appointed Fr. Scott Thelander, S.J.C., as administrator of St. John Cantius Parish and interim superior of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius.
 
“He is an experienced pastor who is committed to ensuring that the spiritual, pastoral and administrative services of your parish will continue without interruption,” the cardinal said. “The current services offered at the parish and schedule of Masses will continue.”
 
The service and training of the Canons Regular and members in seminary formation will continue, the cardinal said.

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