I would like to respond to the letter written by parishioners Kroeger from St. Isabel Church (see the link above). It is a curiously written letter which seems to ignore some incredibly important facts, and sadly it does nothing for “parish unity.”
There is nothing “conciliatory” about the Kroeger letter. While it heaps faint praise on the “self-appointed” Parishioners for Justice it is scathingly critical of those parishioners whose only desire is for justice. To speak of “dysfunction” at the parish seems to imply that Parishioners for Justice is the source of that dysfunction. They fail to acknowledge, out of some distorted sense of loyalty to the Church, that if there is dysfunction its origin is in the actions of the Bishop, the parish staff, and the resident priest, who have done nothing but divide and upset a parish that was healthy and vibrant before October 28th.
The Parishioners for Justice represents a very large portion of the parish community who are not so much “self-appointed” as they are “self-identified.” They are men and women who from the start recognized the glaring injustice of the Diocesan actions against Fr. Christopher. They came together to provide a voice for Fr. Christopher, who was ordered not to speak, not to defend himself. The Parishioners for Justice can be rightly proud that, regardless of what the Bishop or Rome does, they have stood steadfastly on the side of justice, the exact place where Jesus encouraged his followers to stand.
Regarding the self-righteous points made by the Kroegers, I suggest they have done a great disservice to their fellow Parishioners by labeling the past year’s discourse as “vitriolic and divisive.” Those are their words, and they could just as easily be used about their so-called “conciliatory” letter. Their invitation to “come back to your church” highlights the critical issue that it is no longer “our” church. Our church is barely recognizable in the heavy-handed reconstruction foisted on us by Diocesan personnel and an out-of-control parish staff who have no idea what “healing” is all about. Even if we could check our “anger and hostility at the door,” there is nothing but anger and hostility inside, placed there by those who continue to create a “them” and “us.” Lastly, we all have respect for Fr. Gates and his priesthood, but “Father” doesn’t always “know best,” and since his arrival he has chosen to pursue a specific agenda, taking the parish in a direction that is making it unrecognizable. Fr. Gates should have had some humility and acknowledge that he knew nothing about running a parish, and he knew nothing about the parishioners of St. Isabel. His only perception of the parishioners was distorted by the power-hungry office manager and staff who seem more intent on settling scores, than on bringing healing to a parish so desperately in need of healing.
I would agree with Kroeger’s last point that it is time for “acrimony and discord” to end, and the Bishop could have and should have ended it a long time ago. The actions of Parishioners for Justice have highlighted what is at stake, and if justice does not prevail for Fr. Christopher and the parish of St. Isabel, the peace and serenity we all desire, and which was present before October 28, 2016, will be nothing but a far off dream.