But Always A Priest:
Bishop Thomas Daily walked into the church office in Douglaston which will be his work space next week and handed a folded newspaper to his spokesperson. The sports page was on top. Inside was a front page about a funeral taking place at that moment in Forest Hills.
mass was for a man who had ingested anti-freeze, a plaintiff in the sexual
abuse case against the Bishop’s Diocese.
The Bishop said the front page should be read, and then focused on an interview about his 13 years as the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens.
were years that would have been marked only by his innovative outreach to
young Catholics and to new immigrants, if they had not included the
devastation of the terrorist attacks and the eclipse of sexual misconduct
allegations against priests and charges that the Church failed to protect
when Daily began to talk, there was no sign of the careful phrasing used by
those who find themselves quoted on the front page. And he didn’t speak
with the weariness of a man facing lawsuits or the burden of leading a
congregation of almost two million through a tremendous test to their faith
and their the values of their church.
he ministered in the easy tones of a parish priest.
wandered in his subject from time to time, but his theme never left the path
and it seemed to comfort him and give him direction no matter what the
subject. It was a path of utter faith in God.
23 marked Daily’s 76th birthday, and in anticipation of the Oct. 3
installation of his successor as leader of the diocese, he spoke of the
transition process free of its formality.
explained that on his 75th birthday and according to “the rules,” he
wrote to the “Holy Father” and sent in his resignation. The Pope sent
back the message that he “accepted it and I’ll let you know when” it
Aug. 1 of this year, the word came back that the resignation was accepted.
Daily has since been serving as “interim administrator” until the new
bishop takes up the post. Church services will install Bishop Nicholas
DiMarzio of the Camden Diocese as the new Bishop of Brooklyn and Queens this
that time, Daily will take up residence in Queens at the Immaculate
Conception Center in Douglaston, and Bishop DiMarzio will reside in the
Bishop’s residence in Brooklyn. Daily will have office space, living
quarters, and is expected to be in demand to visit local parishes.
explained, “A bishop is kind of married to his diocese, just a priest is
to his people” and now, “they’ve got to take care of me” he smiled,
implying the role some wives play in caring for their recently-retired
husbands. But he’s not expecting a “great Nirvana and to put my feet up
. . . please God, I’ll have heaven for that.
has given me generally good health . . . I just want to be a priest,” he
said in a theme that repeated itself throughout the interview.
as for being free of his regular schedule, he admitted he couldn’t quite
recall what that is like and couldn’t quite imagine what he would do with
the free time. When he was a “young guy,” he enjoyed “the violent
stuff” like hockey and football, where the physical strain offered a
stress relief. And he admitted to often considering “putting a punching
bag on the second floor” of the Center just for stressful moments.
over and over, he characterized himself and his life – as Bishop and in
retirement – the same.
figure I’m a priest . . . doing God’s work.
enjoy being a priest . . . doing what priests do. People’s response is
tremendous . . . you are someone who speaks for God . . . they just want to
be around you.”
did not hesitate to take on the subject of how the Church and Catholic
parents go forward in the wake of the sexual misconduct charges and
lawsuits. However he didn’t focus on a plan of action or a process
revision. He spoke about healing and faith.
a question of children’s safety and the victims . . . the victims who have
been abused . . . the first thing is that we must take care of these
children, wherever they are. The Church has betrayed them and that has
ruined their faith . . . we have to see the reality of that. They have to
live their own lives and save their own souls,” and the Church’s first
priority now has to be supporting them as they find their way back from
described what has happened in the Church as an “evil” – that there
are children and parents who trusted their priest were betrayed, but he
believes the saving hope for the victims – and the Church – in this
scandal is prayer. “They’ve got to pray. God is always faithful . . .
his Church is made up of mere human beings” who can betray trust, but God
is constant, he said.
paused for a moment at the thought of the “poor soul” whose mass was
going on in Forest Hills, and the desperation he must have felt, and the
essential need to reach out to all people who feel lost.
again to his advice for parents in the wake of so many accusations against
the Church, he spoke of a quote from St. John’s gospel he had seen
inscribed on a chapel ceiling: “He loved them to the end . . . God has to
be faithful to us — the victims and all of us. We really have to turn
around [and to God].”
a loyalty thing in a sense, to be hurt so badly by people [you trusted so
much] . . . but where do we go? There is only one way really left. We have
to work through this,” Daily explained.
the scandal broke and Daily’s administrative choices were questioned by a
lawsuit still pending in Boston, someone said he was “tarnished,” Daily
recalled. I said yes that’s me I’m tarnished . . . [Everyone is] going
to see me in the light of what has happened. It’s not easy . . . given the
total reality of the situation . . . keeping the faith. There is no real
closure to it for these victims . . . you have to live with that.”
spoke about waking up with a pain in your stomach that just doesn’t go
a lot of people, this will destroy them. Some will reach out to other
religions – even though this has happened in other places [faiths] . . .
perhaps it’s the age we’re living in.” Even if people had to leave his
Church to do it, “you have got to fall back on your faith, otherwise there
is no meaning. That is where I come to some sense of peace.”
spoke of answering questions for some deacons as the scandal started to
control the headlines and his decisions as an administrator in the Boston
diocese were coming into question,
“I told them I’m going to be here, trying to be a priest. If the
Holy Father says I should go, I will go quietly or if the people of God want
me to go, I will go. But until then, I am just going to keep trying to be a
aren’t any solutions . . . you’ve just got to go to God.”
said, “We live in a culture of death,” but what we need to remember is
that “we want to live . . . please God, all I want to do is save my soul .
. . [the loses of Sept. 11] will get behind us,
[but only] in time.
[when you’re Catholic], you don’t forget your dead . . . you remember
them and you pray for them.” He stressed the message of Christ as “the
way, the truth, and the light.”
spoke of the upcoming Mel Gibson movie about the passion of Christ and
described a clip of it that he has seen as “awesome in its cruelty.” He
said that in today’s pop culture, “everything is reality . . . the gore
in movies . . . maybe (the Gibson movie) is an answer to the reality TV . .
. it was gory . . . the ugliness of sin, what sin did to Jesus Christ . . .
but in that suffering there was redemption.”
he said the message to New Yorkers and Americans is that we must “unite in
suffering . . . and help find meaning for the poor souls left behind.”
for the days ahead, Daily was ever confident about the work of the Church,
the work of the congregants and the work of God.
his final words on his work – and his retirement – were “It will
unfold . . . I’ll take one day as it comes, and try to live by faith, hope
and love as a priest and a bishop should, keeping the faith to the end.”
The only totally urban diocese of the 195 archdiocese and diocese in the
The smallest diocese or archdiocese geographically in the U.S. at 179.25
The diocese with the largest Catholic population at 1,824,642. There are
only four larger archdioceses: Los Angeles (4,206,875); New York
(2,488,146); Chicago (2,446,000); and Boston (2,083,899).
It is estimated that more than half of the Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens
speak English as a second language.
The diocese was founded July 29, 1853 and is celebrating its 150th
information compiled by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn