The Scandals at St. Gertrude the Great

West Chester, Ohio

The Full Documented Story


January 22, 2010

School Dazed Revisited 3

The Editors

Our third installment of School Dazed Revisited starts way back with the Terri Schiavo case.  You may remember that Fr. Cekada stood virtually alone among traditional clergy in defending the murder of this poor woman.  More interested in making himself look clever than in the real facts of the case, Fr. Cekada quoted theologians out of context and misapplied church teaching in what ended up being a total embarrassment both to himself and his parishioners.  His current total loss of public credibility dates from this first unhappy attempt to make reality fit in with his own writings.  Rightly or wrongly, this has earned for him the reputation of arrogance and an inability to retract his positions even when proven wrong.

During that sorry episode, Fr. Cekada became involved in public correspondence with a Dr. James M. Gebel, Jr. It apparently did not occur to him that this man could possibly be the son of his parishioner, Mr. James M. Gebel, Sr.  No matter!  He would treat this world-renowned physician with public contempt, only serving to severely weaken his own position.  And when he finally apologized to the doctor's father (not in person as he says, but in writing), Mr. Gebel did in fact forgive his outrageous behavior, returning to St. Gertrude's and his job there as usher.

The Legend of the Palm Sunday Bell proved to be another distortion by those who run SGG.  We provide here Mr. Gebel's account of what actually happened, replete with witnesses who will verify that the official SGG story is simply another fabrication from their factory of fiction.

School Dazed
(Part 3)

-- Rev. Anthony Cekada --

School Dazed Revisited
(Part 3)

--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.
One of your former ushers got involved. If all this stuff isn’t true, why would he say what he said?
I had inadvertently gored his ox in 2005, when I wrote an article criticizing a pompous doctor who presumed to pronounce on matters of moral theology. It turned out to be the usher’s son. Ouch! Though I personally apologized to the man for giving offense, it seems he never got over it. The "pompous doctor" in question is actually a world-renowned physician with years of professional training and experience who pronounced not on moral theology but on sound medical fact.  Fr. Cekada had treated the good doctor's learned treatise with arrogant disdain as part of his embarrassingly amateur attempt to play theologian in the Terri Schiavo case.  And judge for yourself the sincerity of Fr. Cekada's apology to Jim Gebel for giving offense, when four years later he is still publicly deriding his son as "pompous"!  No wonder Mr. Gebel "never got over it."
When on Palm Sunday 2009 our school principal (also the head usher) tried to get the usher to ring the bell at the proper time during the procession, said usher took offense. Later in the week, he wrote to tell us he was leaving the parish. This usher, Jim Gebel, was actually ringing the bell when the bell cord got stuck, probably falling off-track somewhere above the ceiling.  This prevented him from ringing the bell any more, as is attested to by fellow-usher Dale Wilker.  Keith Monnin, who also witnessed the problem, ran and got a ladder, then climbed up on the church roof to get the cord back on track, but failed.  Mr. Gebel silently motioned to the bishop that it was stuck, and was given an understanding nod.  Even Mark Lotarski then tried to pull on the cord to ring the bell; and after a couple of hard tugs at it, gave up as well. 
But this wasn’t enough. In July 2009, he produced a nine-page letter denouncing the school (he had no kids in it, and no first-hand knowledge about how it ran), where we located the church, procedures for ushers, koi fish in the grotto pond, my article on his son, my opinion on the Terry Schiavo case, my taste in restaurants, staff management, elaborate liturgical ceremonies, church flowers, my ideas on SSPX, building an “extravagant” rectory (at $127 a square foot?), pastoral trips to Europe, funeral costs and a “kitty spa” (he misunderstood a joke in the church bulletin). Ah, here's the point.  When Mr. Gebel joined the ranks of those criticizing the parish, the character assassination began.  The Legend of the Palm Sunday Bell distorted into an account of how the now-to-be-disgraced usher "took offense" at being told to ring it, lies were printed in the bulletin that he had left the parish for doctrinal reasons, and so on.  And of course, another of Fr. Cekada's mocking lists appears where he again mixes Mr. Gebel's legitimate complaints (the Terri Schiavo case, the wanton extravagance of the clergy, for example) with the usual trivial distractions of koi fish and kitty spas.
All this sounds petty, and it is. I mention it only to illustrate one sad truth that resurfaces throughout this whole affair. Many people seem to nurse smoldering resentments forever; they simply can’t let go. One perceived offense or even a simple misunderstanding is enough to dredge up everything — everything — you can think of against your target. Abuse of discretion, mismanagement of resources, and theological error are by no means petty.  They are grave transgressions and demand denunciation. 
So, if I’ve criticized your son four years ago, or if the school principal uses the wrong tone of voice when he asks you to ring the bell, well, you have the automatic right by any means available to portray me as venal and the school principal as a nasty child abuser. There is cause and there is effect, and Fr. Cekada deliberately throws in a non sequitur here, which is as off-track as the Palm Sunday Bell.  Fr. Cekada may well be portrayed as "venal" and the school principal as a "nasty child abuser", but not for the silly childish reasons he here provides.  No, there were quite serious reasons for leveling these accusations, and they remain valid to this day.
Never forget, never forgive. And if anything bad is said about someone who once crossed you, believe every word and put it on the Internet. I'm sure that all of SGG's former parishioners would have been only too happy to forget and forgive, if only Fr. Cekada had acted to protect their children, and not their children's tormentor.
Was this sour outlook common among your parishioners?
Only with a few. But the lies and distortions these folks believed and then endlessly repeated eventually upset other, more charitable souls, who then began to swallow at least some of the lies. They mistook steam for real smoke, and then assumed there was fire. There was no mistake.  The school is dreadfully run; souls are in peril.  And when people began to see that anyone who criticized this ended up getting fired, banned from the property, deported, and so on, they quickly realized that it was more than just the smell of smoke belching from St. Gertrude's, it was more like the smell of brimstone.
And remember: anyone who has been in a position of authority in a church for a long time — priest, principal, teacher, choir director — will have inevitably offended someone, no matter how hard he may try not to. It is true that everyone manages to offend someone.  But things have reached quite a different level with Mark Lotarski, who has mastered the technique of someone managing to offend everyone. 
Some offendees keep score. So in a dispute like this, all the old baggage has to be sent up the chute and ride around the conveyor belt for anyone to claim. The problem for Fr. Cekada is that nobody wants to claim his old baggage of appeasement and maintenance of the abusive status quo.  In fact most people would be only too happy to shove it back down Fr. Cekada's proverbial chute and get rid of it once and for all. 
But the Gospel, the faith, prayer, and the sacraments are supposed to be the antidote to such bitterness. Fr. Cekada suddenly remembers his priest hat, and attempts to suggest godly antidotes to the resentment his parishioners feel towards him and Bp. Dolan.  However, he misses the point that the true antidote to all this righteous anger was always in his own hands and those of his bishop.  By effectively ruling the parish with the interest of their parishioners' souls as their prime concern, they could have so easily avoided this whole debacle.  Faith, without charity, is dead.