The Politician and the Priest: Two brothers and a fall from grace

One brother is Obama’s chief of staff. The other is an embattled former top deputy to St. Paul’s Archbishop, charged with covering up sex abuse and refusing to cooperate with the police. Put together, the McDonough brothers show how bad timing and bad moral decisions may push two former “superstars” into very public and very embarrassing falls from grace.

Denis McDonough, the politician
Denis McDonough – The Politician


Denis the Politician

Appointed White House Chief of Staff in January 2013 after a career as a foreign policy advisor, “hard-charging” Denis has been called one of the most efficient chiefs of staff in recent memory. Insiders on both sides of the political spectrum say that the White House “has never worked better.”

Unfortunately, that may be not enough to save him. According to the New York Times:

Mr. McDonough’s failure to head off the health care problems surprised those who see him as a man of discipline and attention to detail. But current and former administration officials say that after 10 months on the job, one problem may have been that he stretched himself too thin and tried to do too much himself.

“Denis is playing the role of chief of staff, legislative director, chief strategist and head of the accountability and implementation office,” said a former colleague who asked for anonymity to speak more candidly. “One man can’t play all of the infield.”

In the months before the rollout, Mr. McDonough worked closely with Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, but did not see the warning signs clearly. He expressed confidence in the system only hours before the Oct. 1 kickoff. “There’s hundreds of people who worked all through last weekend as they have now through many, many weekends, to make sure that everything is in place, tested, firm, ready to roll,” he said as he walked the South Lawn.

While the ACA rollout was in the works far before he started the job, its utter failure will require a “fall guy.” After Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Denis’ fall might be next—the result of bad timing and too much trust.

Kevin McDonough - The Priest
Kevin McDonough – The Priest

Kevin the Priest

Older brother Kevin is facing a fall from grace of his own. But unlike Denis, this fall is of his own making—what many are calling his “insidious and criminal” cover-up of child sex abuse in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Now, he’s refusing to cooperate with the police.

For 17 years, Kevin was top-deputy to the archbishop, one of the most powerful jobs in the archdiocese. As Vicar General, McDonough was. according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “revered for his work with the poor” and “charmed legislators as chaplain of the Minnesota Senate.” But while he was charming cops and politicians alike, recently exposed documents show that he was actively covering up for child sex offenders in the priesthood.

Although McDonough was the chief child protection officer in the Archdiocese, he, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “had a key role in at least three cases of alleged priest sexual misconduct that, combined, have resulted in a lawsuit against the archdiocese, a priest in jail, the resignation of a top archdiocesan official and calls for the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt.

Since allegations of the cover-up of abuse came to light, McDonough has been removed as Vicar General and stripped of his position on the board of St. Thomas University.

Yesterday, the St. Paul Police Department announced that McDonough is refusing to cooperate with their investigation of child sex abuse and cover-up. He has also retained his own lawyer. The Archdiocese is claiming full cooperation, but says that they “cannot speak for Fr. McDonough and his choice not to speak with the police.”

The politician and the priest: One is in need of prayers. The other? He doesn’t have a prayer.

13 thoughts on “The Politician and the Priest: Two brothers and a fall from grace

  1. Kevin McDonough is a cruel individual and should no longer be a priest. He is a liar and has been ruthless to me when I went to him for help. He is an evil person pretending to be a holy, caring priest. Everyone should stay far away from this man.

  2. Hi Michael and Rosemary. What I’m doing here is not criticizing but *challenging”. Rosemary, I have seen you speaking out, and that’s great. However, do you really need six or seven hours of mass *every* week? Do you really need to be on your knees all those hours when you should be on your feet instead? How does a busy doctor have the luxury of the self-indulgence of hours of mass attendance a week? Family practitioners should be working 50-60 hours a week as the norm, as there is a shortage of family practitioners throughout the country. Do patients have to wait extra in your waiting room until you get there after going to mass? (I personally never wait more than 10 minutes to see my primary care doctor and often no more than 2 minutes, who works a very full schedule.) Prayer can be said and done anytime, anywhere as needed, and that’s all good. But hours and hours *in a church building*? Are you that weak? Faith commitment in one’s heart is one thing, but it smacks of Stockholm Syndrome to be enthralled to RCC Inc and dependent on it for prayer and religousness. Praying with/under the auspices of RCC Inc is as I said — as useful as a bandage is to a corpse. Personal, individual prayer accompanied by action is a great thing. Rosemary, I have nothing against you at all and appreciate all you do for us, but I question *anyone* who spends that much time on their knees, especially in an RCC Inc church. You might have divided loyalties. As someone in power, you might have a relationship that is not in the best interests of the abused because you’re part of the power structure instead of outside of it/squashed by it. Being and staying in power is typically the raison d’etre of those in power, and siding with the powerless is against that motivation. I don’t trust anyone with conventional power in mundane society because chances are good you’re really against people like me.

    (If it makes you feel any better, I don’t trust Tom Doyle or Maureen Turlish either, even though they’ve done a lot for survivors/victims. Tom’s 1985 document smacks of settling to cover up rather than exposure and settlement and empowerment for victims, and he also says that healing can ***only*** come through jesus christ, NO OTHER OPTIONS, so those of us who aren’t believers are pretty much screwed in his estimation. Maureen is still in the female clerical system, and I trust nuns/sisters even less because they abused me more. I don’t really see her getting up in the faces of the LCRW and stuff.)

    Rosemary, how much speaking out do you do *at the church you attend*? Do you keep a low profile, or are you a “troublemaker”? Are you afraid you’ll be kicked out of your parish for speaking out in that venue? (It happens a lot, especially to the abused.) It’s easy to speak out elsewhere, but do you speak out on your home turf? Just how public are you in your area in speaking out against abuse? I hope you’re doing a lot, risking your career for us survivors. It’s always the powerful that minimize and dismiss us. Well, you should be powerful in theory, as a “pillar of the community” and a doctor. Are you one of the powerful that is actively working to create a new worldview about abuse and abusers and survivors, are you turning it upside down from a world where the victors (abusers) write history to one where the abused write it?

    Michael, thank you for your comments here and rocking things in Philly! I’m glad you clarified some things about Rosemary. I’ve seen your posts around and I personally love them because you’re “in your face” too! We need as many people as possible speaking truth to power, and we also need people *in power* to speak truth to others in power to change the people in power paradigm. I am at the bottom of the survivor food chain as a nonbeliever, non SNAP person (I was attacked on SNAP message boards by higher-status survivors), and anti-religionist — I am not a Big Name Survivor like you are. I know my place, but I refuse to stay in it, not even with other survivors and those who defend us.

    1. ClevelandGirl,

      You criticized Rosemary in 2013 for wasting time by attending daily Mass, for spending so much time “on her knees”, and accused her of suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. As you are someone who “doesn’t believe”, this may go completely over your head, but I’ll try it anyway: on our knees in a Catholic Church, before Our Lord in the Eucharist, is the best place to spend as much time as possible – especially today. Rosemary deserves your thanks rather than your ire.

      It’s understandable how someone can miss the distinction between a “church building” and the Real Presence of Christ in the tabernacle of a Catholic church, especially for one who doesn’t believe. But His presence – which is the closest you can come to God on earth – doesn’t depend on the the holiness of the clergy at that church. It’s a gratuitous gift from God. Sinful clergy and parishioners detract nothing from Christ’s physical presence to those who are on their knees before him there and only there.

      I suspect Rosemary understands that, as well as the need for God’s guidance and intervention in dealing with, as Pope Paul VI put it, the “smoke of Satan [that] has entered the Church.” Your anger and disdain will bring nothing but more conflict. Rosemary’s prayers have the greater assurance of bringing justice and peace to you and all who have suffered at the hands of evil men.

  3. ClevelandGirl……..from where I stand, I have seen Dr. McHugh speak up and speak out on many different occasions and in many forums. Strangely enough, this horror of clergy sexual abuse and leadership coverup has refocused many in their faith commitment ( NOT commitment to the Church) including this writer.

    I feel your criticism of Dr. McHugh is off the mark and unwarraned.

  4. Dr. McHugh, as an MD and family practitioner, you are a mandated reporter. Do you report it to the police whenever you see a child with torn personal parts? *Every* time? How much abuse of women and children have you witnessed? You are a prominent member of the community as a doctor, someone potentially with power and influence, and people like you need to *speak out*. You don’t need to go to mass every day — why not take that hour out of your day when you would have gone to mass and *do* real things to help the abused. You on your knees praying for us for an hour a day is as useful as a bandage is to a corpse. We need people to stop praying and start DOING. Don’t pray for us (or anyone) — take *action*. Praying don’t do jack for *real* people living *real* lives — it’s all a SELFISH pseudospiritual mental masturbation exercise/fantasy. Only *action* makes a difference. Prayers are SELFISH — DO-ers are generous.

    1. I believe both prayer and action are needed. Prayer helps one to discern the best way to direct the actions in achieving meaningful results. Thankyou for sharing your view. Peace!

  5. I think I see the problem here. For the rest of society, CANDOR means “the quality of being open and honest in expression; frankness”. For the Nienstedt crew and leadership in many other Catholic dioceses throughout the country, CANDOR means:







    1. Very well said, Michael. As a cradle Catholic who still goes to daily Mass if at all possible, it saddens me greatly to learn that the sexual abuse of innocent children and vulnerable adults in the USA and around the world has been part of the culture of the popes and hierarchy for centuries, with no desire to clean-up these crimes and no desire to protect the innocence of children. It is horrendous what the clergy are still getting away with even today, because of their arrogance and lack of shame, which good people would have a conscience about. Pope Francis did say that the hierarchy are full of narcissistic people. Narcissists never feel guilty, so the governments and civil law around the world must begin to make them accountable to do prison time as needed. Recently I learned that there have been at least 50 young men in a small area of Australia who have committed suicide when they gave up hope that anyone would believe their stories of having been sexually abused by the religious order of brothers and priests who were their teachers, because of the secrecy and denial of the truth by the predators and their superiors. This has to stop. The church cannot be allowed to investigate its own crimes and its own criminals.

    1. You don’t have to endure any of it. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid and leave. There. How simple must we make it for you?

      Remember, all religions are started by ruthless people to control others. Especially their sex lives. But, most especially, their money.

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