Janitor Jailed and Fired for Cutting Down Mary Poppins Mannequin in Nebraska Cathedral

by Christine Niles  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  March 14, 2016   

Mark Kenney is "at peace" with what he did

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Update, March 25, 2016: Mark Kenney had his sentencing hearing March 24, and reported that no victims appeared and there was no court-mandated restitution or further jail time. The only amount the court required Kenney to pay was $149 in court costs. Father Michael Gutgsell, parish priest at the cathedral, told the judge the cathedral was not seeking restitution. The archdiocese, represented by a female employee, also told the court it would not pursue the case against him.

According to Kenney, the representative "bravely spoke to the judge on my behalf, saying if she would have been there she would have helped me."

Kenney ended his commentary thus:

Many thanks to all who wrote letters, got the word out in social media and the press. I am grateful and appreciative as all your efforts, without a doubt, this response, not only helped me, but helped the church in her constant struggle to maintain our "sacred spaces," amidst the constant encroachment of the secular and the profane.

Again, many thanks. What a great time to be Catholic. A.M.D.G.


OMAHA (ChurchMilitant.com) - Mark Kenney, the custodian who sent a Mary Poppins mannequin crashing to the floor of the Omaha cathedral in January, is saying he is at peace with his actions.

Mark Kenney

Speaking with ChurchMilitant.com, Kenney said, "I am at peace with what I did."

"The way I went about letting my frustrations at this absurd and ridiculous sacrilege being allowed in the church I grew up in was probably not the best way of going about it," he admitted, "but there you have it. I just couldn't sit and do nothing and watch this culturally acceptable but absurd sacrilege continue."

On the morning of January 29, Kenney, former janitor of St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, Nebraska, took a pair of bolt cutters, scaled the stairs leading to the catwalk on the ceiling, and cut the steel cord holding a mannequin of Mary Poppins in place, the model falling and breaking into pieces on the church floor.

"Beauty and the Beast" display

Kenney went back downstairs, removing other mannequins dressed in period pieces from the film "The King and I," and threw out a cardboard cut-out of Buddha sitting in a side chapel. The displays had been put in place for the cathedral's 31st annual flower festival, with the accompanying theme "A Night at the Movies."

All told, Kenney is thought to have caused several thousand dollars' worth of damage.

After the parish priest, Fr. Michael Gutgsell, was alerted to the situation, Kenney admitted responsibility and told him to call the police. The priest then asked him why he threw out the displays, and Kenney shouted, "Father, this is bull****! We can't have this in the church. This isn't culture, it's Disney crap!"

He then knelt at the Communion rail to wait for police, who handcuffed him and jailed him for the night. He was bailed out the next morning, pleaded no contest, and his sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 24, Holy Thursday.

Kenney has been fired from his job as custodian at the cathedral, and the archdiocese has revoked his Safe Environment certificate, meaning he is no longer allowed to work around children in the archdiocese.

In spite of all this, Kenney is receiving a great deal of support from others. "I am kind of overwhelmed at the number of folks sending support and friend requests," he told ChurchMilitant.com. "I have been doing my best to sort through all the social media comments."

Elsewhere, Kenney writes: "The Lord is truly sending us many blessings."

Explaining his current legal situation, he told ChurchMilitant.com, "I have offered restitution for damaging property. The courts will determine the amount at my sentencing hearing [on] Holy Thursday."

In addition, Kenney said the judge has "ordered a victim impact statement for the damage I may have caused."

He went to confession for his actions. "[T]he priest not only absolved me of any wrongdoing," Kenney remarked, "but thanked me and gave me a big hug afterward."

Father Gutgsell, a canon lawyer and former chancellor of the Omaha archdiocese, believes the displays were justified in the church.

"The King and I" display

"Obviously, context is everything," Gutgsell told Omaha.com. "Cathedrals are kind of the epicenter for culture presentation and development."

Kenney responded in a March 11 Facebook post:

If our theologians and canon lawyers see no problem in displaying fantasy, occultic and false religious icons, and caricatures, and entertainment icons, amidst depictions of real-life saints and martyrs, let alone the living presence of our Lord and Savior, which we depict in His real-life passion, death and resurrection, I can only shake my head at the total absurdity of the position ... these educated Catholics are taking. It is our culture that is offering us the false, secular Gospel of just taking that "spoonful of sugar." This is not the Gospel of repentance and renewal, and taking up our own crosses, offered and made possible by our Lord's passion, death and resurrection. The "spoonful of sugar" gospel is a false gospel. As for this poor sinner, by the grace of God through the sacramental graces offered by His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, I will put my stock in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not the sugar-coated Gospel the world offers. AMDG

Kenney is now working as a night janitor in a nursing facility.

The Omaha archdiocese can be contacted here.


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