Public Watchdog.org

More Hubris From Fr. Carl Morello

09.26.08

According to what we hear from several Park Ridge aldermen, the PADS homeless shelter advocates have been putting on the full-court press of letters, e-mails and telephone calls in advance of this Monday night’s (9/29/08, 7:00 p.m.) City Council Committee-of-the-Whole meeting at Maine East High School, encouraging those aldermen to reject the zoning amendment – recommended by 7 of the 9 members of the City’s Planning & Zoning (“P&Z”) Commission at its meeting on September 8th – that would permit homeless shelters but require them to be located at least 500 feet from any school.

Everyone has the Constitutional right to petition the government, and one of the purposes for this site is to encourage people to get more involved in local government.  So we applaud those who do so, irrespective of their position on any given issue.  We are troubled, however, by the predominance of religious arguments in support of the PADS shelter for what should be nothing more than the public policy issue of land use.  And we are troubled even more by the overtly religious partisanship of the members of the Park Ridge Ministerial Association (the “PRMA”), who appear to be treating this public policy issue like a religious crusade, and their political opponents as neo-infidels.

We here at PublicWatchdog are no fans of the religious Right or the atheist Left – or, for that matter, anything in between which suggests that public policy should be based on any one organized religious view of what God wants.  We respect and embrace the fact that our Founding Fathers, virtually all of whom were unapologetically Christian, gave us a Constitution that wisely provided for the separation of church and state.

Unfortunately, many supporters of the PADS homeless shelter seem to view separation of church and state as something that exempts churches from many of the restrictions and requirements imposed by our civil laws, so long as those churches are engaging in anything they unilaterally deem to be part of their “ministry.” 

An illustration of that view is contained in a letter that was recently e-mailed to members of the Park Ridge City Council by Fr. Carl Morello, pastor of St. Paul of the Cross Church, whose school will not be able to serve as the site of the proposed PADS shelter if the City Council adopts the recommendation of the P&Z Commission that no shelter be allowed within 500 feet of any school.  Following is the text of that letter, with our comments interspersed throughout in bracketed bold, although those of you who wish to read the letter in its original, un-annotated form can do so by clicking here [pdf]):

*                  *                  *

I am Father Carl Morello, Pastor of St. Paul of the Cross parish, proposed site of the PADS ministry.  It is no surprise to you, nor am I trying to hide the fact that I, along with the Ministerial Association support this effort. [We agree that ever since you decided to offer St. Paul’s gymnasium for the PADS shelter back in June, you have not hid your support for that project. But you did “hide the fact” – from your own congregation! – that you were bringing the PADS shelter to St. Paul, first when you preached about PADS at the 9:00 a.m. Mass on Sunday, June 1st, without even a hint that you had already made the PADS hosting decision; and then again the very next evening, June 2nd, when you repeatedly encouraged the 8th grade graduating class to “take the higher road” but didn’t choose to do likewise by announcing that St. Paul would be hosting the shelter, even as your Social Service Minister was over at City Hall announcing that fact to the Park Ridge City Council. It’s way past time that you stopped the dissembling and the revisionist history, Fr. Morello, and finally accepted full accountability for what you personally, and your PRMA associates, have done in this regard.]  Currently the city building and zoning committee has stated that a PADS ministry site must be 500 feet from a building also used as a school.  This along with all the other proposed recommendations would make it difficult, if not impossible, to have this ministry in Park Ridge. [There are at least three, and perhaps as many as six, Park Ridge churches which are not affected by the 500-foot limit, so that restriction does not make a homeless shelter in Park Ridge “impossible” – and that’s not even taking into account all the other various locations that could hold a shelter, or the individual private homes that could shelter a homeless person for one night per week.] 

If you, as City Council vote for such recommendations to be passed it would be a low point in the history of Park Ridge. [We can’t even pretend to comprehend the degree of egotism, narcissism, or delusion that it takes to condemn – as “a low point” in our city’s history! – a change in the zoning code that would permit homeless shelters and also take measures to protect our children.]  This seems to me, and others watching this from near and far, to be nothing more than thinly veiled racial and economic bigotry. [That kind of inflammatory rhetoric is patently offensive, especially coming from a “man of the cloth” who has criticized milder comments about homeless shelters as “fear-mongering.”  Unlike you, we are more concerned about the opinions of those in this community than we are about the opinions of those “watching this from near and far.” And if there is “economic bigotry” in Park Ridge, we remind you of how readily you accepted the fruits of that attitude when you raked in the multi-millions of dollars this community donated to pay for the not-so-humbly named “Morello Parish Life Center” at St. Paul.]  I feel this is beneath the real strength and character of this community.  I personally feel deceived by some in city government who have led me to believe, all along, that if we followed the path of special use permit we could work together to make this valuable effort happen. [If you have been “deceived,” sir, it is most likely by those in City government who tried to shamelessly curry your favor with assurances that you would ultimately get whatever you wanted. That a 7-2 majority of duly appointed public officials on the P&Z Commission, after having held public hearings and considered the matter, recommended that the shelter not be located within 500 feet of a school because of a perceived risk to the safety of children, is not deception but, instead, is an example of local government actually doing its job rather than pandering to some special interest or another.  And even more remarkably, those 2 P&Z members who dissented from the recommendation did so not because the amendment was too restrictive but because it was not restrictive enough.] Instead, this has taken more and more of everyone’s precious time and energy on something that should have been simple to work out together and accomplish.  Shame on us all! [No, sir, the shame belongs squarely on the shoulders of you and your associates for not going public with your plans for a PADS shelter months before that “it’s a done deal” pronouncement was made by St. Mary’s Episcopal and the PRMA back in January. And don’t give us any more of that “maybe we would have done it differently if only we had known what the reaction would be” garbage that you and the PRMA started shoveling out once the spit hit the fan: you all cynically chose the “easier to ask for forgiveness than permission” strategy. Once again, it’s time for all of you to accept accountability for your actions and their divisive consequences rather than point your fingers everywhere else.] 

I have spent my life in training and in formation and preparation for the priesthood.  I have been a priest for 25 years and at the heart of our ministry are the corporal works of mercy, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter those in need, bury the dead and visit those in need of pastoral care. [As has been noted repeatedly, you have always been able to “shelter those in need” in your own (or, more accurately, the church’s) home, so why has it taken you 25 years to finally act on one of those corporal works of mercy at the heart of your “ministry”?  Why are you so easily satisfied by warehousing the homeless in a school gymnasium for only one night a week, after which they have to move to another town?  And why are you insisting that this religious “ministry” be outsourced to a secular agency like PADS?] Not to allow us to do what we are called to do hurts the entire community. [We’d prefer to let “the community” decide that for itself, through an advisory referendum on a PADS shelter in April’s election. And if you truly are concerned about what “hurts the entire community”, you will actively support such a referendum to put an end to the divisive and hurtful attacks you have tacitly encouraged by those who call other members of your own and other congregations “un-Christian” because they happen not to favor a PADS shelter in this community, or believe that their children deserve the protection of a 500-foot buffer.  But, then again, once there’s a vote total on the issue, you can no longer mobilize a bunch of people in white shirts and claim that they represent the majority of our citizens.] 

I urge you to take this into consideration when you discuss the requirements when you meet on September 29th.  It has been said that this issue is a source of divisiveness in the entire community. [Yes it is, because you and your fellow PRMA members caused it to be so by doing all of your planning under the radar rather than out in the open; and then letting those who disagree with you be labeled “un-Christian.”] I hope that we can work together for the good of this community to make this happen and restore a sense of dignity and unity for all. [The presumptuousness of this statement is nothing short of incredible!  Can you seriously believe that the only way this community can have its “dignity and unity” restored – assuming it’s been lost in the first place – is by you and the PRMA getting your way on the PADS shelter?  As we see it, the “dignity and unity” of this community is far better served by its refusal to allow you and the PRMA to dictate public policy from your pulpits.]

Sincerely,
Fr. Carl Morello
Pastor
St. Paul of the Cross Church

37 comments so far

Morello is one unbelievable and arrogant s.o.b. This economic bigot just turned off the donation spigot.

The “Morello Parish Life Center”? Isn’t the rule that you have to be dead before they can name a building after you, unless you paid for the building or you’re some self-important politician like Jim Thompson or John Stroger?

Talk about an ego!

As I sit at my computer working and getting internet flashes on all the political crap going on on both sides as our “leaders” try to save the economic future of our country, I find myself amazed and frustrated at the pace of government.

We elect these people, at what ever level of government, to serve “we the people” to the best of their ability. I am no so niave to think that means I will agree with every decision they make – but for christ sake do something!!!!!

The pace at which our elected representatives have digested and moved through the PADS issue has been abysmal!!!! Unless I am mistaken, it has been 8 months since this issue first broke – 8 MONTHS!!!! Wars have been won in less time – granted not Iraq. All this to decide if it fits for special use and have a few zoning meetings. That and a great deal of time for posturing and ass covering.

I liked your post today. As always, it was insightful, well written and amusing. But lets be honest. It was nothing new. Fr. Carl’s letter is exactly what I expected and your response is a restatement of positions that have been hashed out here for months.

The government drags their feet and we are left to throw stones at each other. With all this yammering not a single mind has been changed and not one legitimate solution is on the table.

Howard et al, get on with it for God’s sake!!!!

I have to say that I am surprised by this. I never thought Fr. Morello would stoop so low as this.

I don’t blame the City Aldermen for how this has gone on so long. I blame the PRMA.

I couldn’t have said it better myself – thank you for writing this – it is becomming increasingly more obvious that the intent is to open up more than one shelter – this IS going through the process quite well Fr. Carl is just upset that it’s been more difficult and not as much his way as he wants. Those white shirts are NOT reflective of the parents of the children. I encourage you all to attend the meeting – all of you in the community not just St. Paul Parishioners, but all of you with a stake in your community to come out and see and hear first hand what is going on. See how your aldermen behave and listen to the reasonings on both sides of the arguement.

Yes he has officially stooped and resorted to name calling. Also showing that he has not listened to the concern parents and what their true concern is – but only for the safety and health of the children. There has been no elitist, bigoted presentation.

BIGOT= “…intolerant of any opinions differing from their own…”

= CARL MORELLO

Mr. Morello’s written comments are an attempt to defame the Concerned Parents before Park Ridge’s elected officials. The defamation comes in the form of falsely labelling these people as racist and economic bigots just for attempting to protect their children.

Defamation by making a written false statement is LIBEL. This act can be adjudicated in a court and may even be a criminal act in the State of Illinois.

I hope the proper authorities look into this and I hope the Park Ridge City Council does not stand for this type of behavior.

anon on 9.26.08 11:44 AM:

Thanks for your compliment, but what exactly do you want “Howard, et al.” to “get on with”?

Unlike what we’re being told about the Wall Street bailout (which itself is even starting to look and sound a little bit like the boys – Paulson and Bernanke – who cried “wolf!”), there is no catastrophe-avoiding necessity for making an immediate decision on the zoning amendment to permit a homeless shelter. Even the PRMA itself diddled around for a couple of years before buying into the PADS franchise, so their own sense of urgency doesn’t seem overwhelming.

When it comes to government, we don’t subscribe to the “just don’t stand there, do something” philosophy. Bad laws tend to be far worse than no laws, and they also tend to be more difficult to get rid of once they’re passed.

If the PRMA and its camp followers don’t want to accept the zoning amendment as recommended by the P&Z Commission, then we suggest that they support the City Council putting that amendment to an advisory referendum on the April 2009 ballot – assuming the PRMA doesn’t lose interest by then and move on to its next “ministry” du jour.

anon 11:59:

So it is PRMA’s fault that our elected officials failed in a timely manner to look at a situation that was taking place in town, look at and interrpret the existing policies and apply those policies? It took almost 7 months to decide that special use was required.

I realize that PRMA is wearing the black hat in this little drama with good reason. They clearly did not think special use was required – they were wrong. Don’t you think it should have taken significantly less then 7 months for the city to have an opinion on this?

PD:

See my above post. I just don’t see the purpose in dragging out for months what should have been fairly basic decisions. I think a more expedient handling of this whole thing would have prevented this thing from continuing to fester like an open sore. Many blame PRMA and Fr. Carl for dividing the parish/community and they deserve their share but, if handled properly we could have been exactly where we are today 5 months ago. Of course what ever they decide, the other side is going to claim foul. I look forward to it taking an obscenely long time to hear from the city council as to if the agree with the ammendment from zoning.

Mean while everyone pick up a stone and throw it!

By the way, related to the crying wolf comment, I would suggest you ask an employee of Washingtom Mutual about that.

PRMA should NOT be allowed to pass off ANY of the blame for this fiasco. If PRMA had been upfront and “gone public” on its interest in opening a PADS shelter – or any other kind of homeless shelter – in Park Ridge when PRMA first started looking into it, the whole dynamic of the issue and the tenor of the debate would have been far different.

But springing the PADS shelter on the St. Mary’s neighbors as a “done deal” at St. Mary’s in January immediately created an adversary situation that the PRMA then exacerbated with it’s imperious super-Christian attitude, and then their insistence that they were above our zoning laws and didn’t even need a special use permit. I usually can find a lot to criticize in city government, but this mess is ALL PRMA’s doing.

Hoover:

I agree with what you say about PRMA mishandling this. There is no doubt about it. The difference you and I have is that somehow you assume that handling it better would have made a difference. While I agree it would have been the right thing to do, I can’t see how it would have made a difference. For it to have made a difference I would have to assume that IF PRMA had not “sprung” the St. Mary’s site and IF they had been less holier then thou the neighbors at St Mary’s would have accepted the shelter. I do not believe that for a second – no matter how or when the message was delivered.

So what would have happened? It might have delayed the adversarial tone but it still would have happened. PRMA wants a shelter, the neighbors don’t. I was going to get ugly either way. Yes the message was badly delivered but the messagee would have thought it sucked no matter how it was delivered.

And even if I buy your argument, 7 months is way to long to decide on special use.

A2:53,

You seem to be off in your timeline just a little bit. The first time the community was treated to what passes for an informational meeting by the members of the PRMA was at the end of April, which was only 5 months ago.

And the SPC Social Svc. Minister did not announce until June, only 3 months ago, that SPC intended to open a PADS shelter.

In July, only 2 months ago, SPC tried to hold another pseudo-informational meeting for their congregation.

While all these pseudo-informational meetings were taking place the members of the PRMA and their operatives were busy threatening everyone under God’s sun with the flexing of legal muscle by the Chicago Archdiocese.

The Council first took action on the topic of a special use permit at the end of July, only 2 months ago, referring the matter to the Planning and Zoning board for consideration.

City staff gathered information, such as it is, for the Planning and Zoning board, which then had to digest the information, hold a public hearing, and vote on a list of possible recommendations.

The Planning and Zoning board did that on September 9th, only 2 1/2 weeks ago.

The process sure looks to me to have been far shorter on the part of city government than you perceive it to be, but maybe you think 2 months is too long also? Two and 1/2 weeks is too long? I don’t.

This is a very hot button issue that will have long lasting ramification for our community for years to come. The time the city has spent actively engaged on this topic seems short, in my personal view.

Your mileage may vary.

Alpha:

I will stipulate my timeline may be colored by the fact that this “seems” to have gone for ever.

My memory is that it was early to mid-march when PRMA first announced publically that they were going to put a site at St. Marys. As far as I can tell there was no investigation or decision about how such a shelter might fit into existing PR policy. Then it moved to SPC. If they had done their due diligence on St. Mary’s, they would have already had an answer on SPC.

I guess I am just dissappointed that if an announcement came out in March it took until July to decide special use was in order. Have a meeting, do nothing for a month, have another meeting.

A3:51,

It was not until community members felt thoroughly stonewalled and began vehemently objecting to the handling of the issue by the PRMA and began requesting attention to the topic by elected officials that city government became involved.

While that entire time members of the PRMA and their operatives were insisting that any effort to vet the issues or provide regulation by local government through a special use permit process would be an illegal and unconstitutional action against their free exercise of their religion. Those kinds of claims demand legal research and debate, which the city then had to undertake.

I personally believe that city government has expedited this process in favor of the PRMA and PADS whiners. To look at it another way, if the PRMA and PADS whiners had agreed early on to comply with oversight, we might well not still be discussing this issue.

Since this involves the entire community, why doesn’t the city council put it on the ballot for the people who live here and pay taxes to decide?

Middle-Aged…

That is an EXCELLENT question! Why don’t you ask all the Aldermen to pass a resolution that will put the matter to a referendum vote? The responses should be…interesting, to say the least!

Middle-Aged

That is exactly what I have been thinking. I hope that everyone who is reading this right now, stop and take the time and send their aldermen a letter stating that this should be put to a vote by the citizens since the outcome will effect everyone. This way the aldermen will have no doubt on how their constituents feel.

Dear Middle-Aged Parishioner –

Are you really so oblivious to the way the world works that you truly believe that the only community that will be affected by this decision is the community of park ridge? It must be the infamous “bubble around park ridge” that will keep the PADS residents out of neighboring communities and businesses. I also disagree that the only people who have a say in this are the “people who live here and pay taxes”. What about the parents at SPC who pay tuition and volunteer their time? And the employees of park ridge businesses who may not live here but go to work here every day? And the teachers and staff of SPC who may not agree with Fr Carl but feel there is no forum for them to be heard? You should take the opportunity to spend the rest of your “middle aged life” thinking outside the box. It’s a surprisingly big world out there!!!

Former SPC Member,

Your point it taken…just because you don’t live in Park Rige and pay property taxes here doesn’t mean that you might not be affected by whatever decision the City Council makes. While non-resident parishioners and employees of local businesses have an interest, and I believe they also have a right to their “say”, what they don’t have is a vote on the matter, which ironically places them on equal footing with property tax paying residents, local business owners, and other non-elected officials…at this point in time.

However, very technically, Middle-Aged is right…the ordinance change and licesning restrictions would only affect the town of Park Ridge, and therefore only the voters in Park Ridge would have an active “say” in the matter if they were asked to vote on a referendum, as our local ordinances don’t change how other towns govern themselves.

Nobody elected Fr. Morello or any of the PRMA members to represent us, so I resent them speaking about what the people of Park Ridge want. If what the people of Park Ridge want matters at all, then it should be measured by the votes cast in a referendum in April. I don’t care how many white shirts, blue armbands, yellow caps or any other goofy attire show up anywhere – it’s either a vote or you’re just talking lying trash.

Is there REALLY anything left unsaid? I think not. It is obvious the aldermen plan to vote on this issue without a verifiable consensus of what the majority of people in Park Ridge want. So let the election in spring tell them how we really felt about it.

The aldermen said that very few people have asked for a referendum. If anyone is interested they should eml all the aldermen and put it in the subject line. I think that is the only solution.

I cut and pasted the following from the Park Ridge Underground from 9/25 from Anonymous:

I don’t understand why another shelter is needed – I just don’t get it.

The # of PADS guests has been declining over the years. (The #’s are a combination of Hope center & shelter guests)
2000 – 958 guests
2001 -1200
2002 – 800
2003 – 738
2004 – ?
2005 – 632
2006 – 670
2007 – 500
Fewer guests each year in 18 shelters – and now we MUST open the 19th shelter in a SCHOOL. Why? Who benefits?

That’s probably right. Howard will get at least 4 of his alderclowns (Allegretti, Bach, Carey, DiPietro, or Ryan) to suck to the PRMA and nuke the 500 ft. rule so that Howard can look for re-election support from the PRMA.

Fr Carl has gone and done it. I am offended that anyone would think I am a racist or economic bigot b/c I want my children to be safe.
I don’t think the city council has been too slow on this issue. I would be afraid that if they had jumped to a decision, it would have been a BAD one. The Concerned Parents have put together a TON of information on the pitfalls an unregulated homeless shelter will bring not only to the school, but the community as a whole.
Carl’s inflamitory remarks should and probably will be brought up in tomorrows meeting. I hope the rest of the parishoners of SPC start to see him for what he really is. I am personally saddened to see such a revered man take himself down in a such a lowly way.

they have P.A.D.S shelters in other communities why not in park ridge?

There are P.A.D.S shelters in other communities, why not in Park Ridge? I personally think people are being too hard on Fr. Morello!

Leave the poor guy alone. I think enough people including those in the city council, have raked Fr. Morello over the coals long enough!!!!

Jim Roper,

I do not believe anyone has been “too hard” on that Morello fellow. In fact, I believe he’s been treated with kid gloves, because he takes every opportunity to call forth his mystical connections to some higher being, while attempting to direct public policy in the here and now.

Upon my first meeting the man, some years ago, I came away believing I’d just met one of Park Ridge’s more offensive personalities. He breaths in ego and exhales arrogance.

I’ve seen absolutely nothing in the last 6 months that would change my initial reaction. In fact, I personally believe he’s an unmitigated disaster for his parish, which I would normally ignore…but in light of his disastrous personal conduct and the ramifications that go beyond his parish, his conduct cannot be ignored.

ETA: The question at the moment is not whether or not to have a PADS shelter in Park Ridge. The questions before the City Council are how to regulate ANY shelters that open in Park Ridge. PADS is merely one provider. I realize the subtlety of that is lost on the wild-eyed PADS fans.

As for PADS itself, many have written that it is a crap program that offers little in the way of any truly effective assistance to the “down on their luck” addicts and mental cases they cater to.

The only real “charity” I can find in the whole of the PADS model is keeping those with degrees in social work employed and off the govt. dole.

Funny, Fr.Morello has been nothing but pleasant when I’ve talked to him.

Dr. Anonymous,

That is funny. Why do you suppose your personal experience of that Morello fellow is so vastly different from the experience so many others have had?

Put a lid on the P.A.D.S thing already! this is getting OLD already!!!

“Fred Flinstone”, that name does suit you better than “Dr. Anonymous”.

Blasphemy.

I think Fr. Morello’s comments and conduct are extremely offensive, but I don’t think they rise to the level of “blasphemy.”



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