On Saturday October 28, it will be one year since Bishop Dewane made a decision to place Fr. Christopher on administrative leave, and place St Isabel Parish , Sanibel FL, in a constant state of upset. The initial announcement was marked by confusion, not helped by the Diocesan invitation to the local press to display our pain and suffering on the evening news.
The human body is an amazing creation. It can be wounded and then miraculously heal itself. From a paper cut to a stab wound, it can heal so well that the injury might never be detected after some passing of time.
Father Christopher and St. Isabel Church have been wounded. Unjustly stabbed.
The bogus accusations made by the family of Marion McIntyre composed the knife that Bishop Dewane used to brutally stab Father Christopher, resulting in a gash that has widened and is now not only causing Fr. Christopher, but also St. Isabel Church, to painfully bleed to death.
Fr. Christopher has been unjustly accused and attacked. The county and state authorities realized this and subsequently pulled out the knife yet Bishop Dewane plunged it in with brute force with the sole intention of killing one of his own priests. He never had to do what he consciously chose to do. This was a premeditated act that he planned for over two years waiting for the right time to annihilate his unsuspecting victim.
It is not a pretty or pleasant image, but it is the harsh reality that Fr. Christopher and the St. Isabel parish is facing, and has been facing for a year now. The wound is deep. The wound is severe and the pain is real.
When I think of wounds and the way they often heal themselves, I think back to my childhood. If I had suffered a scrape or cut of some kind my mother would sometimes have to tell me, “Don’t pick at it or it will never heal”.
Literally hundreds of St. Isabel parishioners, and hundreds of others, are praying for Fr. Christopher to win the battle he is fighting to be exonerated and returned to his priestly vocation of over forty years. They have faith in God and the belief that “the truth shall set you free”. The truth will indeed exonerate Fr. Christopher if those determining the outcome of this injustice are truly just. But as Fr. Christopher suffers, St. Isabel’s wound is open, hurting, painful, and with no signs of healing. How will it heal? How can it heal when someone keeps picking at the wound? It is being kept open to fester by those who seem to be deliberately doing things to worsen the infection actually preventing any healing to take place.
Since Bishop Dewane’s assault on Fr. Christopher, October 28, 2016, no one from the Diocese, and no one connected with the St. Isabel church staff has done anything to heal the wound inflicted on the parish.
Depending on the severity of a wound it is sometimes possible to heal itself just by leaving it alone. Instead of supporting a search for the truth, or encouraging healing in the terrible situation the Diocese had created, from the outset St. Isabel office staff seemed to do everything they could to aggravate and divide the parish. When Fr. Gates, a young, inexperienced, TEMPORARY priest, should have been listening to and comforting a congregation that was in pain he chose to tell parishioners the way they did things was incorrect and change procedures as if he had been told he was there to stay. From the start Fr. Gates displayed his lack of experience, and compassion by using his homilies to threaten the closure of the church and stating that unhappy parishioners should go somewhere else and “cool off”. Contrary to what Fr. Gates apparently believes, saying “My dear brothers and sisters” every other sentence does not make someone a caring priest.
Together Fr Gates and Khristy Scheer banned prayers for Fr. Christopher in the church and chased reporters from the property whenever the story to be covered was in support of Fr. Christopher and the parish members’ divulging of the truth. Some of these reporters were the same journalists and photographers that were conveniently notified in time to ambush stunned parishioners leaving the vigil Mass at which they had just heard of Fr. Christopher’s administrative leave. These reporters, there specifically to spread the humiliating (false and dismissed) accusations against Fr. Christopher, were NOT asked under those circumstances to leave the property by Ms. Scheer or anyone else from the office staff.
After the initial attack on Fr. Christopher, Ms. Scheer did not hesitate to worsen the wound. Not only were parishioners that supported their pastor told they could not pray for him in the church, but Ms. Scheer forbade the men attending their Men’s Society meeting to discuss the upset happening in their parish within the walls of their own parish hall. When objecting to Ms. Scheer’s interference, Ms. Scheer proclaimed that the men were not being Christian. Not too long after that Ms. Scheer also questioned the Christianity of a member of the Women’s Guild face to face.
Ms. Scheer’s divisive actions did not end with insulting parishioners and creating a hostile environment. Perpetuating it, Ms. Scheer, supported by Fr. Gates, transformed the peaceful, welcoming atmosphere of St. Isabel Church into a locked compound. Under this new regime all buildings were suddenly locked and unavailable to all parishioners. Supplies purchased by the various church-affiliated organizations were locked up requiring supervision to access them. Parishioners who supported the church as volunteers and ministers for years, once trusted with keys that enabled their efforts, were stripped of their keys. Then, ironically, many of the faithful, honest parishioners, who had recently been told from the pulpit to go somewhere else, were then criticized for not continuing to do their ministries that they once, but no longer, enjoyed.
Publicly, Ms. Scheer has offended and enraged parishioners claiming that diocesan-wide regulations regarding the use of the kitchen in the church hall will now be enforced, making it impossible, actually forbidden, to cook in the kitchen that was intended, and has been used for just that purpose for decades with no negative consequences. Ms. Sheer’s claim that the rules she is trying to enforce are exercised throughout the diocese is a blatant lie. Picking at the wound further, for reasons still to be determined, Ms. Scheer instructed a subordinate staff member to take pictures of parishioners’ cars’ license plates in the church parking lot.
Covertly, Ms. Scheer has successfully “stacked” the finance council suggesting and installing “her best friend” which is specifically forbidden by parish/diocesan regulations. At the meeting in which two new members of the council were added, the chancellor from the diocese just happened to attend to intimidate and strong-arm any resistance Fr. Gates and Ms. Scheer might have encountered. The customary consultation with current members was never initiated and their concerns about how it was handled were condescendingly ignored.
Even acknowledging Ms. Scheer’s capability to upset the parish, it comes as a surprise that she would go to such lengths as to fabricate the stories she has. Ms. Scheer has actually accused parishioners of posing dead rodents in the office area! This is not only absurd, but the locking of all the church doors made this impossible to even be true. Equally untrue are Ms. Scheer’s allegations that there have been incidents of vandalism. Ms. Scheer maintains that there were police reports filed and yet she has been unable to produce these records when asked. Parishioners themselves have contacted the police department about these matters and the officials have absolutely no records of any such reports.
Ms. Scheer’s negative presence at St. Isabel is palpable. Earlier this year she, along with Fr. Gates caused an uproar with the women’s bereavement committee before Ms. Scheer left for her annual summer vacation in Michigan. This salaried employee spends three PAID months away from the parish each year as a benefit “grandfathered” to her through an arrangement with Fr. George Ratzmann, she was not back from Michigan more than a week when she restated the rules not allowing cooking in the hall kitchen, forcing the Women’s Guild to stop publicizing their calendar of events.
Recently, Kim Scott, the receptionist/secretary on St. Isabel’s office staff, posted this on her Facebook page, “Next week we will be taking up a collection. Don’t know how it’s going to go with the crazies, but hopefully it will be more than we collected for Harvey and Irma.” Any reasonably intelligent person knows that what is “out there” on Facebook and the internet is public, even a child is taught that, and yet Ms. Scott still thought it was appropriate to publicly disparage the over 500 parishioners that support Fr. Christopher and question the entire congregation’s generosity…publicly! Ms. Scott was hired by Fr. Christopher to serve and represent the parishioners of St. Isabel in her office position, NOT to publicly insult them. If Ms. Scott likes to make public statements she should make a public apology to the St. Isabel parish. The St. Isabel congregation who pays Ms. Scott’s salary deserves an office staff member who is grateful for her position and respects the people she is paid to serve and represent.
In a church community that was once filled with so much love and joy, it is heartbreaking to see what has become of St. Isabel Church today. There is no joy! Fr. Gates homilies speak of saints being raped and stabbed. He harps on how sinful people are and leaves us not only feeling that we are destined to spend eternity in hell. There is nothing uplifting, hopeful or joyous in his homilies. Fr. Gates does not provide us with guidance or give us reassurance, instead he focuses on what horrible, unworthy sinners we all are. Fr. Gates has taken the joy out of our church, but he is not alone, even the church website focuses on the negative. When visiting the St. Isabel website the first thing a person sees is a reference to Bishop Dewane’s letter condemning Fr. Christopher and a letter telling readers that hundreds of people that support their pastor should not be recognized as a part of the parish. You certainly don’t see the Vatican’s website saying “Welcome. Click on this to see the turmoil in the Catholic Church”.
Fr. Gates and the office staff, have picked at St. Isabel Church’s wound to the point that there will be a permanent scar, but perhaps it is unfair to say that they haven’t done anything to heal the parish. They have made three feeble attempts. Mere weeks after Fr. Christopher was ripped from St. Isabel, parishioners received an infuriating Christmas card filled with holiday cheer from Fr. Gates and the office staff. The winter tourist season ended with a cocktail party for parishioners. It was not at all surprising that many of the people who were hurt, insulted, threatened, locked out, and told to go elsewhere did not attend. Now, this season, Fr. Gates and the office staff have hosted a “Welcome Back Party”. The invitation encouraged parishioners to RSVP because space is limited. Limited? The church hall has held functions for over two hundred dining guests many times! There is ample room for all the parishioners who have not felt alienated enough to stay away.
Bishop Dewane must exonerate Fr. Christopher and Fr. Christopher must be returned to St. Isabel Church. The only thing that can heal our church is to be able to say, “Welcome back, Fr. Christopher”.
As was stated when PFJ was formed, our purpose “has not been to intimidate or promote hostility toward anyone. We seek to support Fr. Christopher in his defense and, most importantly, in the pursuit of the truth and the justice that will flow from that truth. We also seek to restore the parish community we have supported and loved for so many years.”.
Our ongoing efforts include personal, prayerful and financial support on
Father Chris’s behalf and on behalf of the parish. Should you choose to financially support our efforts seeking the vindication of our pastor your contribution to “Parishioners for Justice”, our mailing address is: P.O.Box 302 , Sanibel FL 33957. Your full support is needed and appreciated! Our efforts are happening, will continue to happen and you will be informed as they happen!