Various members of this informal cadre advised JFK, welcomed the 1967 rebellion of Catholic universities against Church authority led by Notre Dame, and carefully managed the reputation rehab of Teddy Kennedy after he killed Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick two years later.
A key player in the leftward descent of the Catholic Church since the 1960s emerged during the same era. Bishop Joseph Bernardin, who eventually became Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, was the major influence guiding the Catholic bishops’ conference from 1969 until his death in 1996.
At Notre Dame in 2009, Barack Obama repeatedly invoked Cardinal Bernardin, whom he had first met at a community organizing meeting on Chicago’s South Side. Bernardin had a “profound influence” on his life, he later told journalists.
Bernardin also had a profound influence on the life of Bishop Lynch. Russell Shaw, longtime spokesman for the USCCB, identifies Lynch as a key player among the “Bernardin Bishops.” Lynch joined Bernardin at the headquarters of the bishops’ conference in 1972, and served as his alter-ego there for a quarter-century. He became bishop of St. Petersburg the year that Cardinal Bernardin died.