This past February 19, 2017 marked the sixth anniversary of the passing of Bernard Brueggemann. We dedicated an article to him last year on the fifth anniversary of his death (see A Man for All Seasons); and we do so again this year. Bernie, as many recall, was SGG’s chief benefactor for a good number of years, until he left after the 2009 school scandals. The reason we’re writing here again, though, is not just to re-emphasize what was said before, but to drive home some new points – especially about the cult-masters and about those Gerties still there at SGG.
Those who knew Bernie – and that includes most of SGG’s Gerties – certainly remember him as a good and just man – a man who observed Catholicism’s spirit as well as its “letter.” It is clear to all who knew him that he led an exemplary life. But, in reading our previous article, someone might be tempted to say, ”Wow, they really made a fool out of Bernie, didn’t they?” And they might then surmise that he was “too gullible” in letting himself be so bamboozled by Dannie and Tony. And they might even deduce that his reasons for apparently “licking their boots” were merely to “score points” with them and to “please” them, in return for “recognition.” Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Yes, the cult-masters did exploit Bernie – and horribly so. And perhaps Bernie did what he did in order to please them. After all, it is only natural to try to do good for one’s fellow man. But that was only part of it – and certainly not the main part. Rather, his reason for doing what he did was supernatural: to please God. He did it for God, not them. Bernie was simply following the precepts of Our Lord’s two greatest commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind,” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Bernie was not your typical “gullible Gertie” who slaves away for the cult-masters for the wrong reasons: “brownie points.” Again, he did it for the right reason: he did it for God.
People tend to label those who let themselves be exploited as “fools.” But if that is the case, then Our Lord was a “fool,” for He succumbed to the ultimate “exploitation”: He -- Innocence Incarnate -- let Himself be crucified by evil men. Our Lord knew what the Pharisees were thinking – what “they were up to.” He wasn’t “taken in” by them. He knew all along that they would have Him crucified. But He submitted – in history’s supreme act of humility. Now in Bernie’s case, he may have been “taken in” by Dannie and Tony – at least to a degree. However, to be taken advantage of does not make one a fool. What makes one a fool, in the true sense of the word, is to do something for the wrong reasons. Bernie did what he did, again, for the right reason, i.e., for God.
Even when Bernie had his suspicions about Dannie and Tony back in 2009 (and even before -- especially about Schiavo),1 he still gave them “the benefit of the doubt,” and supported SGG – not in deference to those two scumbags, but because he felt an obligation to his fellow parishioners to “keep things going.” Only until such time that there was no doubt did he “cut the chord” with SGG. Bernie always tried to do what God would do: he gave them every chance to make amends; but they, of course, did not. They, being the shameless scum that they are, instead “took the moral high ground” and tried to “guilt-trip” him into coming back to SGG. They even enlisted Big Don’s help in their guilt-tripping efforts, having him write to Bernie, to try to shame him into returning. It didn’t work. (Click here for the letter.)
This, more than anything else, illustrates the stark contrast between Bernie and these worms: Bernie, giving them “every chance under the sun to come clean” -- and they, using every trick they could think of to “misrepresent the facts” and throw the blame on this innocent man. It doesn’t get any “starker” than that. To repay this man’s kindness and generosity with such treachery speaks volumes about just how low these creatures could stoop – and did stoop. And what was the outcome of their efforts to malign Bernie? The cult-masters got burnt, that’s what: half of SGG’s parish left; and in the process, their reputations were irreparably damaged.
During Bernie’s time at SGG, the cult-masters took complete material advantage of him, draining him of almost every cent he had, and then finished by discarding him. They probably thought they were pretty clever in doing so, for Bernie died virtually penniless. But, in trying to “fool” Bernie, these lepers were only making fools of themselves. God, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived, was “keeping score”; and while these conniving con men were “laughing all the way to the bank” in this world, Bernie was earning his supernatural reward in the next. It is they, not Bernie, who are the real fools here.
But the cult-masters are not the only fools in this drama. The other “co-starring” fools are those SGG parishioners who ignored “the hand-writing on the wall” back in 2009, but chose to remain at SGG with these lepers. In fact, they are the bigger fools, because, in spite of the clear evidence before them, they chose to stay there and continue to be exploited. But could it be that they were actually unaware of that evidence – of what was going on? Was it, as they say, a case of “invincible ignorance”? Not a chance. As we reported in our last article, they were aware of it all. The events that happened at SGG in 2009 were well publicized, and most of SGG’s parishioners were informed of them in writing. And in the case of Schiavo, Tony Cekada’s official position on that was publicized by the cult-masters themselves: it was included as an insert in SGG’s weekly church bulletin one Sunday (in addition to being published on SGG’s website). Hence, there’s no way that SGG’s Gerties could claim “invincible ignorance” on this. 2
So then, why did they choose to stay at SGG? Well, to repeat what we said in our last article, a big part of it is “the cult mentality.” And it’s also about their “inertia” and their inability to do without “the show”: they just can’t seem to do without the pontifical pageantry that Dannie puts on every week. They’d rather be exploited than give all that up.3 And in the years since 2009, that exploitation has continued unabated: the Gerties have been tapped for bankrolling all sorts of “improvements,” including fixing SGG’s ever-leaking roof, replacing its prematurely failing HVAC system, buying Tony a new organ (to replace one that was working perfectly well), financing Dannie’s vacations to sunny climes (aka “apostolates”), “etc., etc. etc.” (to quote the king of Siam).
And what do they get in return for having their wallets drained? Again, “the show.” (And, oh gosh, we almost forgot: they also get SGG’s “school” -- perhaps the biggest “wallet-drainer” of them all!) Well, Gerties, we hope that “the show” is worth all that exploitation, because, by backing these hirelings, you may endure the ultimate exploitation -- losing your souls – and thus become the ultimate “fools.” So, what say you, Gerties? Why don’t you stop fooling yourselves, stop pretending your “invincible ignorance,” and stop following your cult-masters into spiritual bankruptcy -- then start seeing what everybody else is seeing? Then, give these fools the “pink slip” they deserve. It’s long overdue.
1Bernie, along with many at SGG, deplored Cekada’s depraved justification of the murder of Terri Schiavo. But, nonetheless, Bernie reluctantly “overlooked” this, and continued to support SGG, because he probably thought it was worth staying there for “the sacraments” and having a functioning school. (However, if he knew how bad the school really was, we wonder if he would have stayed.) But 2009 was “the straw that broke camel’s back” for him: amongst other things, some of Bernie’s own relatives suffered personal abuse at the hands of SGG’s “school principal”; and when Bernie questioned Dolan about it, he was rebuffed in typical “cult-master” fashion. It was then that he finally made up his mind to exit SGG. (He also received a caustic reply from Sanborn. See A Tale of Two Letters.)
2 Not only were most parishioners informed in writing, but “word of mouth” news of it also “spread like wildfire” throughout the parish. There was nary a single parishioner who didn’t know what was going on. And in the case of Schiavo, several parishioners (including Bernie’s niece) exchanged lengthy correspondence with Cekada about it; but in every case, he rebuffed them in his usual arrogant, condescending way. (His correspondence with Bernie’s niece was particularly condescending. For more on this and other correspondence, click here.)
3 Of course, the biggest reason for the Gerties staying at SGG is, as we stated in our last article, pride: too proud to admit that they’ve been wrong all these years in backing Dannie and Tony – so they pretend “invincible ignorance” so that they can stay there and get their weekly dose of “fairyland fantasy.”