The Godly Bishop
Richard Lennon Shows a Meaner, Nastier Catholic Church
Cleveland Scene [Cleveland OH]
January 31, 2007
Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon makes a brief appearance in a new documentary about sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Critics are hailing his performance as "richly dark," "menacing," yet "stunningly predictable."
The movie, Hand of God, recently aired on PBS's Frontline. (See Lennon in action at pbs.com/frontline.) In it, filmmaker Joe Cultrera chronicles the life of his brother Paul, who was molested as an altar boy by a Massachusetts priest.
Lennon, named Cleveland's bishop last May, was serving in Boston when the film was shot in 2004, the "supposed warm and gracious replacement" for Cardinal Bernard Law, Friend to Child Molesters Everywhere™. But Lennon appears about as kindly as a roundhouse to the pancreas.
As Cultrera films outside a Boston chancery, Lennon approaches, sticking his hand in Cultrera's lens. The filmmaker calmly explains that he needs shots of the building where his brother reported his abuse. When Lennon resists, Cultrera's emotions start to bubble. "I did 12 years of Catholic school," he tells Lennon. "My family put so much money into this church."
As PR opportunities go, this is a fastball down the middle: All Lennon has to do is apologize on the church's behalf -- even if he doesn't mean it -- and be hailed as warm and gracious, indeed.
But the bishop proves to be a complete dick. "Sir, if you think you're going to make me feel bad about this . . .," he says flatly.
"I know you guys don't feel bad," Cultrera responds. "You don't feel anything."
The back-and-forth continues before Lennon decides he's got better things to do -- save for one parting shot.
"It's all in your head, sir," he says, towering over the much smaller Cultrera. "You're a sad little man."
Cultrera, who lives in New York, says he wasn't surprised by Lennon's response. "What surprised me is that he did it in front of the camera."
Punch called the bishop, curious to see if he'd viewed his gut-wrenching performance. But Cleveland Diocese spokesman Robert Tayek says neither Lennon nor the diocese would comment: "We really don't talk to the tabloids." (Ouch. Coming from the flack for an organized pedophile ring, that really hurts.)
Cultrera, 48, says he's received several e-mails from Cleveland Catholics, ashamed at Lennon's cameo. Some parishioners have even written the bishop, Cultrera says. He doubts they'll get a response.
"He knows that it doesn't mater," Cultrera says. "He knows that nothing will happen to him. They all know that nothing will happen."
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