Sunday, May 27, 2012
Deacon Jonathan Joseph Slavinskas: "Father Joseph Coonan was a great influence and helped nourish my vocation"
Deacon Jonathan Joseph Slavinskas, one of four deacons to be ordained for the Worcester Diocese on June 2nd at Saint Paul Cathedral, is featured in an article by Tanya Connor in this week's "Catholic" Free Press. Deacon Slavinskas says that his vocation journey began with Bishop Timothy J. Harrington, who was known for being very dissent-friendly. I wrote Bishop Harrington many times over the years about various issues, most especially the column of dissident priest Father Richard P. McBrien which appeared in the diocesan newspaper with his approval. Bishop Harrington assured me in one letter that he didn't find anything wrong with Fr. McBrien's column. This came as no surprise at the time.
In the same article, Deacon Slavinskas is quoted as having said that, "Father (Joseph) Coonan, of course, was such a great influence, and helped nourish my vocation." (CFP, May 25, 2012 edition, p. 7).
It is troubling to hear that Fr. Joseph Coonan was "a great influence" on Deacon Slavinskas. I say this because some fifteen men came forward to share very similar stories about abuse, many involving Joseph Coonan's fondness for watching boys urinate, defecate or masturbate. According to an article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette (August 9, 2002 edition), two Oxford natives came forward with details of alleged sexual misconduct against Fr. Coonan, who was then serving at St. John's Church in Worcester. Both men said that Fr. Coonan had delved into sexual perversion and had urged them to urinate or defecate in his presence. See here. Fr. Coonan was also accused (twice) of assaulting his mother and sister while intoxicated. See here.
My prayers are with Deacon Slavinskas. Especially given some of the influences on his vocation. I urge you to keep him in your prayers as well. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul writes, "Do not be led astray: 'Bad company corrupts good morals'." (1 Cor 15: 33).