In October, I wrote a piece for The American Spectator titled, "'Conservative' Steubenville Is Becoming Liberal Notre Dame." I had tried to interview Fr. Sean Sheridan, the president of the school, for the article, but he dodged my request. Sheridan, who comes out of the modernist and troubled Third Order Regular branch of the Franciscan order, has been trying to liberalize the university through a "diversity" initiative largely overseen by a former Cdl. Donald Wuerl staffer, William Gorman, who holds the title of COO but in fact operates as a de facto executive vice president.
A source connected to Wuerl's chancery had told me that Sheridan hired Gorman (in January 2018) to curry favor with Wuerl, then the chief bishop-maker for the United States from his seat on the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.
"Sheridan hired Gorman to liberalize the school because he wants Wuerl to get Pope Francis to name him a bishop," said this source. "Sheridan desperately wants to be a bishop and sees Steubenville as a conservative backwater that is beneath him."
Had Sheridan spoken with me, I would have asked him about his background, which included canon law studies at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where he rubbed shoulders with members of Wuerl's Gay Mafia. Gorman, whom Sheridan hand picked to oversee the Notre Dame-ization of Steubenville, had worked in Wuerl's chancery under Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout, whose ruthless service for the molester Theodore McCarrick and Wuerl resulted in his promotion to head up the large archdiocese of Richmond, Virginia.
Knestout adopted on his coat of arms the image of a golden lion from McCarrick's coat of arms to honor his service to him, as he explained at the time of his January 2018 installation. Since the subsequent revelations about McCarrick's sexual abuse, Knestout has sought to minimize the significance of his work for him.
Knestout was a vicious fixer for McCarrick and Wuerl. Knestout once sent me a letter threatening to unleash the police on me if I dared to poke around Wuerl's palatial Embassy Row penthouse. In my experience, Gorman, who served as a two-faced enforcer for Knestout as associate moderator of the D.C. Curia, was an astonishingly oily operator who would play every angle to protect the corrupt interests of Wuerl's power cabal.
In December of 2015, Gorman, in an encounter at Wuerl's chancery in Hyattsville, Maryland, lectured me that I needed to "pray" about my reporting on the cardinal's misuse of the faithful's donations to renovate his "personal" penthouse. He later delivered Knestout's defamatory letter to me, along with a comically fake cover note in which he wished me "Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ" and said that I should "be assured of [his] prayers during this season of Advent." (I don't think I can count on those prayers this season of Advent; I have been told by multiple sources that he has spent the last few months defaming me with a wild and false story that I had gone through Wuerl's trash.)
Earlier this year, I started getting calls from concerned Steubenville alumni, parents, students and faculty members about the Sheridan-Gorman scheme to liberalize the school. I hadn't paid much attention to Gorman's career path after he left Wuerl's employ, though I knew he did a stint of consulting work for Gay Mafia bishops through an outfit called "GP Catholic Services." I was amazed to hear that he had turned up at Steubenville.
It became clear to me that Sheridan and Gorman had hatched their liberalizing plan on the assumption that the ostensible popularity of Francis' "progressive" pontificate would protect them. Little did they realize that it would start collapsing in on itself under the weight of scandals caused largely by Gorman's old bosses.
Before my American Spectator article complicated their plans — in its wake, Sheridan has launched a PR campaign to refurbish the "orthodox" image of the school through conservative-sounding op-eds in outlets such as Real Clear Religion — they had every intention of inviting gay-rights propagandists to speak on Steubenville's campus, and Gorman had been pushing for transgender protections, among other heterodox anomalies.
In May of this year, Sheridan had written a pandering letter to liberal critics of the school who were trolling its conservative Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life. Sheridan's letter included a pathetic offer to let the liberal trolls participate in planning a "forum to discuss how a diversity of opinions can be expressed in a manner that brings faithful intellectual clarity and concomitantly builds and sustains unity within the Body of Christ."
"I invite you," the letter continued, "to assist Franciscan by providing suggestions for planning such a symposium. Dr. Daniel Kempton, our chief academic officer, would lead this effort, and should you accept my invitation, I will put you in touch with him so we can begin planning."
The letter gave off the same toxic whiff as Notre Dame's heretic-coddling programs. Under the banner of "dialogue" and "diversity," the orthodoxy of Notre Dame has vanished. Sheridan and Gorman sought to unfurl that same banner at Steubenville. In a grimly ironic touch, Sheridan has been recently citing the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public life as proof of the school's orthodoxy — the very program that he deputized Gorman to subvert and that he encouraged heretics to troll.
He wrote in a recent Franciscan University newsletter:
[D]uring my tenure as president, Franciscan has sought to expand our reach in the culture by bringing a faithful Catholic voice to bear on the most pressing issues of the day. Through the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life, founded in 2013, we've enabled top Catholic scholars to more vigorously make the case for the Church's teachings on life, marriage, family, gender, sexuality, and religious freedom.
In fact, Gorman has been trying to chill their speech, creating an atmosphere so unfavorable to vigorous orthodoxy that Franciscan University professor Timothy Williams has written that he can no longer recommend the school to orthodox Catholic professors.
"Look at the excellent and faithful professors who have been denied tenure in recent years," Williams wrote in an October Facebook posting. "Look at the writers for the university's own Veritas Center who have been attacked publicly, left undefended on orders of the administration, and pressured privately. Look at the faculty who have spoken, written or posted on the obvious crises in the Church, only to be reprimanded by the administration."
Franciscan is "not a university," Williams concluded, that "I would recommend to a young, committed Catholic scholar in search of employment."
Other Franciscan alumni, students and faculty members with whom I have spoken agree, albeit more quietly. They note the school's pockets of orthodoxy but say that overall "it is a mess," which, if it stays on its present Sheridan-Gorman course, will soon resemble little more than a half-baked Notre Dame.