The Scandals at St. Gertrude the Great

West Chester, Ohio

The Full Documented Story


January 20, 2010

School Dazed Revisited 2

The Editors

The second part of our series revisiting Fr. Cekada's distorted view of history in his article School Dazed, has as its primary focus the work of one man, Eamon Shea.  Since early 2008, Mr. Shea has been heaping out a helping of trouble for St. Gertrude the Great and its bemused pastors.  Several months of teaching at SGG was enough to convince this Notre-Dame graduate that the school was nothing more than a sham, duping parishioners and benefactors worldwide.    When he complained about the outdated textbooks, the charade of a  curriculum, and worst of all, the treatment of the students by a fanatical and bullying principal, he was fired.  From that time on, the name of Shea was a dirty word around St. Gertrude's.  On Christmas Eve, 2008, he was promoted several ranks in Fr. Cekada's "Enemies of God" lineup, after he sent out a mass e-mail to parishioners roundly attacking what he described as the "virtual catholicism" of St. Gertrude the Great Church and School.  Veiled threats were inferred in his writing by Fr. Cekada, who wasted no time in spreading the rumor that Mr. Shea would likely be attacking the congregation at Midnight Mass with an AK-47.  Mark Lotarski later admitted he almost didn't show up for services as off-duty police officers in the parish were drafted to attend, replete with all their weaponry.  Of course, the pen is mightier even than an AK-47, and Mr. Shea was content to write his attacks from the comparative safety of the newly established website  Whether or not you agree with everything Mr. Shea says and does, or with the way he says and does them, it should be remembered that he was to the present situation what Paul Revere was to the American War of Independence.  He was not content with being silenced for his beliefs, but stood up for them, shouted them from the rooftops, and continued ringing the alarm until other people listened.  For this at least, he deserves our gratitude.

School Dazed
(Part 2)

-- Rev. Anthony Cekada --

School Dazed Revisited
(Part 2)

--The Editors of SGG Info --

How a few complaints about our little parish school suddenly became a world-wide campaign of lies and calumny. How Bishop Dolan's bungling mis-management of his little empire suddenly backfired, exposing a sinister underworld of abusive behavior, misuse of authority and lost souls.
What got all this started?
Initially, the green-eyed monster of jealousy. Actually, there is no need for Fr. Cekada to dream up boogeymen here.  His problems began on Christmas Eve, 2008, when a troublesome little e-mail hit the airwaves, attacking his operation, and ruffling his feathers.  It was written by a man named Shea, Eamon Shea.
After we moved our parish and school operation to West Chester in 2005, two men, both former seminarians who had serious difficulties holding down steady jobs, had set their sights on becoming principal of St. Gertrude the Great School. One of them taught in the school for several months and was fired in 2007; the other ran a tutoring business. Mr. Shea was a highly successful teacher at SGG until he was fired for his complaints against the principal.  Neither he nor Michael DiSalvo, a private tutor, had ever actively sought the principalship of SGG.  But both were shocked and dismayed at the outrageous performance of Mark Lotarski, and each had independently offered their services to fill in until a priest could be ordained to take over. To suggest that it was mere jealousy and personal ambition that led them to criticize SGG is a very low blow against two men who chose to lead humble lives in the service of traditional Catholic education. 
Each one approached me on at least one occasion to propose that I fire our current principal and hire him. Now, neither man has any organizational skills; indeed, one of them is unstable, and later confided to some students that he was “the prophet of the last days,” not part of the ideal skill set I look for in a principal.  When I rebuffed these offers, both men made themselves into magnets for any and all petty gossip and criticism against our school and our principal. If one of them couldn’t have the principal’s job, well, neither could he. The criticism from these two men about Mark Lotarski was more than enough to get them fired and expelled from the parish.  In light of more recent events this should no longer be surprising to anyone.  It is the normal modus operandi at SGG.  Criticism of the Lotarski operation cannot be tolerated, and to protect it, Fr. Cekada will go to any lengths, happily destroying the reputations and lives of anyone who gets in his way.  Just read again through his last few paragraphs here: for all his pious sanctimony in condemning calumny where it doesn't even exist, Fr. Cekada shows no compunction whatsoever in taking apart the characters of these two men.  First he accuses them of being inspired by the "green-eyed monster of jealousy", then describes them as "former" (implication = "failed") seminarians, who can't keep a job (Did he ever ask Michael DiSalvo how much money he earned last year as a private tutor?). Although neither man, claims Fr. Cekada, has "any organizational skills", one of them has succeeded in organizing a very profitable tutoring business, while the other has managed to help create and organize a widely followed internet blog that Fr. Cekada himself claims is chiefly responsible for all the damage done to St. Gertrude's!  As for the "prophet of the last days" calumny, did he verify this story with those students?  Does he know that Eamon Shea vigorously denies ever saying this?  Or does he even care? ("If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it" - Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda)
So, beginning around Christmas 2008, they started cranking out e-mails and web-postings attacking our parish and our school. These included all sorts of wild calumnies, distortions, speculations and denunciations directed against our principal, his family, our students, Bishop Dolan and myself. After this five-course calumny against these men, Father Cekada goes on to criticize them for, yes, you've got it, calumny!  And look at the loaded terms he uses.  For his charges of "wild calumnies", we suggest "well-founded charges", for "distortions" we prefer "hard-hitting facts", and for "speculations" let's go with "well-grounded conjectures." But judge for yourselves: the writings of Mr. Shea and Mr. DiSalvo are easily obtained, and can now be seen with the benefit of hindsight to be an intelligent and accurate assessment of the ever-worsening situation at St. Gertrude's.
And then?
Everything metastasized, Anyone who had a gripe of any description against any of the targets piled on. Actually nothing much happened for quite a while.  With the exception of a couple of open letters from former parishioner Jim Gebel in the spring and then the celebrated Ode to Reality by Eamon Shea, there was very little other activity between Christmastide and the late summer.  There was no "piling on" by people with gripes.  But beneath the normal veneer of "business as usual", the walls were starting to crumble at St. Gertrude the Great.
Internet forums are ideal breeding grounds for sowing such dissension and wickedness. Postings can be made anonymously or under a pseudonym. Slackers who have nothing better to do can keep the controversies stoked. Lies and distortions stay posted forever, and merely by repetition, they are eventually assumed to be “true.” It is true that postings on the Internet can be made anonymously or under a pseudonym, as two of the most recent postings at Fr. Cekada's own blogsite, Quidlibet, demonstrate.  If controversies remained "stoked", however, it was because the cause was never removed.  In fact, things at SGG were only getting worse, and people's dissatisfaction was mounting. As the Internet is a most efficient medium to spread the truth and to demand justice, it was only natural for it to become the forum for people to voice their fears and vent some of their frustration.
If it’s all really lies and distortions, though, why can’t people see through it?
Traditional Catholics are particularly susceptible to any bad news, because they tend to be pessimists anyway — about the Church, politics, the economy, human nature, etc. So, it’s relatively easy to con them into believing or suspecting the absolute worst. Traditional Catholics know from bitter experience that their shepherds are often deeply flawed.  That's the problem with the absence of authority.  But being cautious and mindful of past disasters wrought by some clergy is not the same as being conned.  Fr. Cekada reveals here too for the first time how easy he thinks it is to con you into believing the worst.  His string of calumnies in the last paragraphs against Eamon Shea and Michael DiSalvo is one such example of his attempt to do just that.
And if you dress lies and distortions up like some great moral crusade (Stop child abuse! Save the children! Financial shenanigans!), the truth or falsehood of the underlying allegations becomes irrelevant in the fog of righteous indignation. Fr. Cekada would do well to examine his own "indignation" at his parishioners' criticism of himself and SGG, which appears to have made the truth of the allegations totally irrelevant for him.
How many times since this campaign started have I heard otherwise sensible traditional Catholics say “Well, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” The reason Fr. Cekada has heard this remark so often, is because it simply makes sense.  When so many people come forward with identical eye-witness accounts of the same intolerable behavior, then it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that just maybe there is a grain of truth here...  And one question for Fr. Cekada — would a sensible traditional Catholic really claim that all these people are lying?
But what they should be saying is, “Where there’s steam, there’s fresh manure.” And what should they say about Father Siordia's dream about bubbling fountains of black bile belching forth from beneath St. Gertrude's?
Soon, there was a torrent of lies flowing about our parish and school, so many that no one could possibly correct them all, even if he had the inclination to do so. Again, Fr. Cekada substitutes the word "lies" for what were actually legitimate accusations of abusive behavior by the principal and his family.  He excuses his failure to correct these abuses (oops, lies) by saying it was impossible as there were too many.  But just in case we might be tempted to believe he would have resolved a more manageable number of abuses (oops, lies), not to worry! He assures us that he had absolutely no inclination to do so anyway!
And that’s the “beauty” of how calumny works, and why it appeals. In Barber of Seville, a 19th-century comic opera, one character sings a satirical aria praising calumny, because what you start as a tiny breeze ends up “a mighty cannon roaring,” and your target (“reviled, trampled”) finally bursts under his public scourging. We like Rossini too.  We think that one of his lines earlier in the same scene perfectly describes Bp. Dolan's and his associate's strategy against Father Ramolla: "So with good grace we must begin inventing some kind of fable."  Surely that fable is School Dazed.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the character is both a tutor and a priest. We remember that the priest in question was, like Fr. Cekada, actually a music "professor".