I find it hard to believe, that you would sit down to personally address and sign, hundreds of Easter Greeting Cards to the Parishioners of St Isabel’s Parish on Sanibel.
To me it was a waste of your time, materials, and postage. I find it hypocritical of a true “Shepherd,” as you so often refer to yourself, to make such a hollow and disingenuous gesture. You have not shown any true pastoral leadership to me, and I truly believe I am not alone in this feeling. Your thinking that your card would be welcomed confirms how completely out of touch you are with the Catholic people of Sanibel.
Perhaps my vision would be different had you come to our parish, met with the members of the Men’s Society, Women’s Guild, Financial Council, and ALL parishioners – talked with us, asked us questions, allowed us to talk with you about how our parish has grown under the leadership and council of our PASTOR, Fr. Christopher Senk over the past 14 years. You could have even asked hard questions about Fr. Senk’s interaction with the poor, the elderly, the vulnerable, the aging, the youth, and all the people of our parish. You could have attempted to know Fr. Senk, to know the people that he leads and cares for so deeply and effectively.
A “personal” Easter card from you has no meaning. What were you thinking you’d gain from this gesture? Contributions to the CFA, an increase in the weekly parish collections, a suspicion that you might not be as much of a failure as bishop that you have shown yourself to be?
I was told by the Office Manager, Khristy Scheer, that “the Bishop doesn’t care that parishioners are withholding their weekly contributions” – I think YOU DO CARE – hence the castigation of the people by Fr. Gates from the altar for diminished contributions and your Easter Greeting which, like the tomb, was so empty! On May 28th, it will be 7 months that we the faithful of St Isabel’s have been torn apart as a parish family. Fr Gates and Khristy Scheer, the Business Manager, have interfered with our attempts to pray together, discouraged even social gatherings, and overall have made it very difficult for our programs to continue with a sense of Christian fellowship and parish family spirit.
If you have listened to the teachings of Jesus throughout this Holy Season of Lent, during Holy Week, and most especially on Divine Mercy Sunday, you will have heard that Jesus was merciful, thoughtful, kind, truthful, and understanding serving only to draw all people to God. I don’t see any of these characteristics in you. If you had any of these Jesus-like qualities, you would never have attacked Fr. Senk, the people of St. Isabel, and the Diocese of Venice so viciously. If you had any of these qualities, you would repent of your failures, allow Father Senk to return to Saint Isabel’s Church to heal the division in our parish (which you created by blindsiding us with the Oct. 28th 5PM announcement of Father’s Administrative Leave -complete with news release and TV coverage!), allow Fr. Senk to retire with faculties as a priest, and make an effort to restore the good programs at St. Isabel that serve the poor in this region through action, prayers, and financial support of these programs. Without this action, your continuing waste of funds on an extra priest at St. Isabel, on investigators, lawyers, and indeed empty Easter cards will be your legacy.
As the Diocesan Shepherd you are charged with care for all people who live in the boundaries of the Diocese of Venice not just those who are Catholic, those who agree with you, or those who line your pockets. The people of this diocese, scandalized by your actions, are in need of a real shepherd, not an individual who relentlessly damages the Church while asserting his power.
An Active Parishioner of St Isabel’s
Response from the Parishioner Back to Bishop Dewane
June 28, 2017
I have received your letter and find it shocking that someone who has administrative responsibilities as you do, has constructed such an outrageous and inept response. Your letter accuses me of personal animosity, anger, acrimony, and uncharity. It is startling, but not surprising, that you make such charges based on my letter which was honest, direct, and heartfelt. Indeed you are the bishop. What I expressed to you is what I know to be true and what harm has been done to the spiritual life of the parishioners of St. Isabel and the Church. You cannot dismiss the facts of my experience by calling me names, attacking my character, and accusing me of being hateful and uncharitable. You are wrong in your assessments. I and many others have pointed this out only to be rebuffed by insults, a shallow offer of prayer, and continuing persecution of individuals, our parish life, and the response of people to the call of Jesus.
You expressed your “forgiveness for the personal disregard you showed for me, Father Gates, and the Parish Staff of St. Isabel.” I have been nothing but courteous and respectful to Fr. Gates in my personal interactions with him. I have also been courteous in my dealings with the parish staff. Your statement decrying what you read as an “angry tone” rather than as an honest unpleasant assessment is totally without foundation or merit. The fact of the matter is that I continue to cooperate fully with your functionaries in my parish. I take on a number of ministerial roles at liturgy and serve on parish social committees. I have not missed a single assignment and carry out my duties to the best of my ability. The parish staff has also been difficult. How can you say I have personal disregard for the office staff and I need your forgiveness, because I have noted that the staff interferes with attempts to pray, discourages social gatherings, interferes with programs of the people? For example: On both June 8th and June 15th, while our weekly prayer service was being held in church, Khristy Scheer instructed Frankette Rinaldi (PT Parish Nurse / PT Receptionist) to take pictures of our cars and license plates. Why? Are we not allowed to park on our parish parking lot while we attend Mass & Prayer Service? What games are being played by Khristy Scheer, who seems to assume “She is running St Isabel’s Parish”! It is true that these actions, carried out with your apparent support, are attacks on the people of St. Isabel parish. You can change this situation if you wish.
Sheriff Mike Scott has stated that the justice system of Lee County has cleared Fr. Senk of the charge against him. He has stated further that although his system cleared Fr. Senk, the Church is exerting pressure as though he were found guilty. Sheriff Scott categorizes this state of affairs as “regrettable.” Your statement that the fact that “there was no prosecution cannot reasonably be understood as a finding of innocence” directly contradicts Sheriff Scott. Despite this fact, you not only began an investigation, you have carried this out in a way cunningly designed to embarrass, disgrace, and harm Fr. Senk. You must know that this is the first charge against Fr. Senk in his 41 years as a priest. It is a charge made by an individual who exhibits all the traits of animosity, acrimony, and uncharitably that you bemoan. This individual was more than 1000 miles away from St. Isabel, away from a cadre of people who cared for the supposedly exploited individual. Yet the accuser is wealthy, influential in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and has potential to line the pockets of the hierarchy. This has led to an investigation seemingly having the sole purpose of discrediting Fr. Christopher by seeking to construct an artificial case based on hearsay. The people of St. Isabel want the truth to come out.
You claim that your actions, and they are your actions not actions of the Diocese of Venice, are motivated by a sense of pastoral duty. I submit that this is yet another fabrication. It is clear to me that your actions are motivated by what can only be construed as a misuse of the priesthood if not outright loathing of the priesthood. Fr. Senk was called to be a priest by God. He has served extremely well over his forty-one years and has faced challenges to his health that would have caused lesser men or a man only “doing his job” to retire on disability. Fr. Senk has la- bored on as best he could and has cared for all his parishioners, including Marion McIntyre who was also ministered to by many in the parish. We know the situation despite your pontificating about a so-called thorough investigation. Yet you treat Fr. Senk’s priesthood, his call from God, as nothing more than a position that you have the power to manipulate, control, and destroy at your own whim. It is unconscionable that you view the priesthood as a weapon for you to wield against sincere individuals called by God to serve His people.
Fr. Gates is a young and inexperienced priest. He does not understand homilies. You have set him up to fail as a priest. He needs a strong mentor who can help him spiritually. He needs to learn how to be a pastor and the challenges involved. Rather than providing him with the help and guidance that he needs, it appears that you merely manipulate him for your purposes, use his inexperience as a weapon against the church, and blame the parishioners of St. Isabel’s because he is young and inexperienced. You do nothing that shows you cherish his priesthood. In many ways, you treat him as poorly as you treat Fr. Senk and many other priests of the diocese.
Your declarations of prayer for people seen in conjunction with the absence of action on behalf of those same people rings very hollow. I continue to act on behalf of Fr. Senk, Fr. Gates, the people of St. Isabel, and the Catholic Church. I also pray for them and pray that the Holy Spirit will fill them with grace and wisdom.
An Active Parishioner of St Isabel’s