On Saturday, May 28, it will be seven months since our pastor, Fr. Christopher Senk, was suddenly placed on administrative leave. This action was taken by the Bishop of Venice on account of a civil complaint of theft by a Baltimore family who, without any evidence whatsoever, persuaded the Lee County Sheriff’s office that there was the possibility of exploitation of an elderly and vulnerable adult taking place. Since that time the family has been enabled by the Bishop of Venice to wage war on Fr. Christopher’s reputation, and to all but destroy the vibrant and solid parish that existed at St. Isabel Church on Sanibel.
While the allegations and accusations against Fr. Christopher have increased over these months exponentially, the truth has been all but lost sight of. In April of 2016 the Baltimore family’s hopes for an arrest of Fr. Christopher were dashed when their civil case was dismissed by the Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney for “lack of evidence.” It was then that they deftly “passed the ball” to Bishop Frank Dewane who has been curiously willing, even eager, to carry on the fight for the Knott family and to assist them in bringing down a devoted and much-loved pastor. The Knott family letter to the Santiva Chronicle during these past seven months is evidence that the Baltimore family, who should have been absent from the scene thirteen months ago when their case was dismissed, has been standing on the sidelines, cheering the Bishop on, and no doubt contacting his office with predictable frequency to convey further fabrications that they thought might be helpful.
There is so much about the last seven months that is difficult to understand. How does a Bishop, in the exercise of his pastoral care for his clergy, decide to never meet with the accused priest and seek even the simplest of explanations? How does a Diocese decide to take the side of total strangers while never talking to those closest to the situation, the hundreds of parishioners at St. Isabel Church? Has there been any real effort on the part of the Diocese to establish the veracity of the Baltimore family’s accusations, especially since so many of their accusations have already been proven to be bogus?
What we do know to be true is that these last seven months have been extraordinarily painful, for Fr. Christopher Senk and for the parishioners of St. Isabel Church. What we do know to be true is that a grave injustice is being done, and while some have chosen to look the other way and just hope that a hopeless situation will disappear, there is every indication that that will never happen. Like any injustice, it will only disappear when men and women of good will stand up and confront that injustice head on.
Parishioners For Justice are here to tell you, Bishop Dewane, that we have every intention of confronting your injustice levied against Fr. Christopher and our parish Church. Our resolve is steadfast and our resources are manifold. We will not stop confronting you and beseeching you to choose mercy and forgiveness rather than pursuing your path of arrogance. Your actions have fractured our Parish family and shaken the faith of so many, yet it is not too late to begin the healing that must take place by choosing that which is good, and right, and decent, and just. Put an end to this and “Return Our Pastor”.