A Year Anniversary
One year ago on October 28th, 2016, Fr. Christopher was blindsided by Bishop Frank Dewane with false accusations that he had taken advantage of and stolen from a vulnerable parishioner. He was immediately placed on administrative leave, was forced to leave the St. Isabel property, was banned from stepping foot on that property, could not celebrate a public liturgy, and was separated from the bulk of his worldly possessions. On the following evening, October 29th, the Bishop released a statement to the press, although no one, the press included, was clamoring for a statement from anyone since no one except the Bishop and the accusing family, and the State and County, were even aware that any investigation had taken place. For several weeks, Fr. Christopher had to endure the slings and arrows of an insensitive press, who only followed the lead of the Bishop and the reprehensible Baltimore family, in assuming Fr. Christopher was guilty of something. In the months that followed, the Diocese attempted to build a broader case against Fr. Christopher, all the while never speaking to him personally or making any effort to get at the truth.
Since October 28th, like the 24 plus months that preceded, there was frequent contact on the part of the Diocese with the accusing family, who realized their only hope of successfully harming Fr. Christopher rested with the Bishop and the Diocese. Indeed, it is a full twelve months now, and no reasonable effort has ever been made to sit down with Fr. Christopher, or with members of the parish community, to seek what is true, in spite of continued evidence that the Diocese continues to be in contact with the accusing Baltimore family. For some months now the Bishop’s complaint, and his request to have Fr. Christopher’s priesthood forcibly removed, has been in the hands of the Congregation for the Clergy. I understand that the specific complaints of the Bishop that were sent to Rome have not been shared with Fr. Christopher or his counsel. It is hard for me to conceive of the malice that would wish to end forty-two years of priesthood in such an uninformed state. I, like so many others, am hoping that more balanced, more loving, more just individuals in Rome will recognize the petition for what it is, a profound example of hubris and deep-seated malice.
I can only surmise what the last twelve months have been like for Fr. Christopher. What is it like to be attacked by the very Bishop who is responsible for your welfare? What does it feel like to never be given the opportunity to tell one’s side of the story? What does it feel like to be attacked by a family of total strangers who really don’t know you, but pretend to speak about the most intimate details of your entire life? What might it be like to be separated from the bulk of your worldly possessions, banished from the property you cultivated and nurtured for fourteen years, and ordered to not celebrate a public Mass, something that Fr. Christopher always did so well? What does it feel like to be betrayed by a Parish staff and others, who you strove so hard, through health challenges and through hardship (hurricane) to nurture, support and guide? What was it like to be mercilessly attacked by the press, all the while knowing nothing that they said was true? There is only one person who could answer these questions, and yet Fr. Christopher cannot speak up for himself.
How pathetically sad that one year later we have not only not drawn any closer to exposing the truth, but we have managed to have the Parish life we once knew destroyed by those who pretend to know what is best for us. There are those who might think that the issues of Fr. Christopher and the state of parish life are two separate things. In reality they cannot be successfully separated, for it is the injustice levied on Fr. Christopher which provided the opportunity for the Diocese to create a parish which is built solely on the issue of control. It will always be a matter that “Father knows best,” and while some may desire to negotiate with a Diocese which has demonstrated that it cannot be trusted, Fr. Christopher’s situation will remain painfully unchanged.
I, and many others I have spoken to, demand justice for Fr. Christopher. There is nothing else that is more important. The petty interruptions in our parish lifestyle are insignificant compared to the gross injustice against Fr. Christopher, and the sooner all acknowledge this, the sooner we can get down to the work of rebuilding and healing a parish that is clearly very much in need of healing.