Richmond Catholic correspondent John Plessington forwards a recent article from Style, the weekly tabloid of the capital city’s smart set. The article explores Bishop Walter F. Sullivan’s legacy and the “Vatican III” pinings of Phyllis Theroux, occasional Catholic, Hollywood mom, and author of “The Good Bishop: the Life of Walter F. Sullivan.”
Richmond Catholic will spare its readers a lengthy summary. Suffice it to say that the article glowingly recounts several of the late Richmond bishop’s “bold” stands against American militarism and social injustice, and his persecution at the hands of that “hard-line traditionalist,” Pope John Paul II.
And what of the pederast scandals that hounded the “Good Bishop” during his final years in his chair?
Theroux writes that Sullivan didn’t do enough to deal with the sex abuse issues, such as involve law enforcement quickly. She says there was a “disconnect” between the “outstanding pastoral aspects of Bishop Sullivan’s ministry and his less-than-stellar treatment of sexual abuse cases.”
While Theroux sees disconnect, others see cause and effect. In a sharp retort to Style a week later, J. F. Goodreau of Chesterfield County provided his own analysis of the Sullivan legacy:
His policies were directly responsible for parishioners leaving the church in droves. Bishop Sullivan, by not demonstrating diocese control over rogue priests, condoned their behavior. Church personnel have stated that his retirement letter to the Vatican was accepted immediately. When my father visited us during the later part of Bishop Sullivan’s tenure, he remarked, “You’re right John, this is a Catholic Church — it says so right in the church bulletin.” His lack of orthodox Catholicism left the diocese in a disaster.
Richmond Catholic was pleased to read that the Catholic Virginian has declined to accept advertisements for Theroux’s Sullivan biography, a decision we suspect was made by an authority higher than Sullivanista editor Steve Neill.
But Wally World lives on. In some parishes in the diocese – including Saint Bridget in Richmond – disciples of the ancient regime gather to read and study The Good Bishop, and there is even a study guide on the parish website.