August 7, 2018
Parishioners and Friends
St Isabel Catholic Church, Sanibel FL 33957
It has been almost two years since that Black Weekend, October 29, 2016 that Bishop Frank Dewane sent a letter to the St Isabel community advising us of his decision to place our pastor, Fr Christopher Senk, on administrative leave for allegedly exploiting an elderly parishioner. The Press was notified in advance by the dioceses’ Communications Department resulting in an ambush of parishioners leaving church that weekend. We’ve learned that such tactics are, unfortunately common place in our diocese.
Much has transpired in the months following Black Weekend. Parishioners for Justice was formed to support Fr Chris. Over eighty five percent of parishioners expressed their support with letters, petitions, prayer sessions and funds to launch a defense, even though the bishop prohibited Fr Chris from seeking any support from his loving parishioners.
A Canon lawyer was engaged to represent Fr Chris. Other civil and Canon attorneys were also engaged and the process was launched. Substantial efforts commenced to correct the unfounded negative press that was the immediate result of the press release from the diocese. We were successful. Investigations into the fact-less allegations by a litigious family in Baltimore produced the true facts which were presented to the appropriate authorities.
The result of our efforts are evident and made public in a communication from the State Attorney’s office on 2/8/16 denying any action against Fr Chris because of lack of evidence. This finding was made truly public through an open letter from Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott dated 2/23/17. His letter states that “the case is closed and you are not guilty of anything”. The letter further states “it seems that our system cleared you but the church (read Bishop Frank Dewane) is exerting pressure as though you were found guilty. That is regrettable”. We, all of us, could not agree more with the profound statement of our Lee County Sheriff.
The legal system, our American legal system’s finding, did not deter our bishop from his predetermined effort to seek the dismissal of our pastor. We found clear evidence of the bishop’s targeting efforts to remove from the priesthood anyone who in any way objects to “his way or the highway” administration of our diocese. In July of 2017 the bishop sent his request to have Fr Chris removed from the priesthood. The case, as of this date, remains under review.
Our actions in support and defense have included, but are not limited to:
.Investigations and statements from medical officials and administrative agents of our parishioner’s residence
.Development of legal arguments in opposition to the case submitted by the bishop
.Investigating and supporting narratives from other parishes within the diocese who have incurred similar vindictive actions•
- Securing affidavits from a score of parishioners who, by training, background, relationships etc. find reasons to support Fr Chris and who refute any and all allegations from the bishop
- Generating funds necessary to sustain to conclusion such a large and all-encompassing endeavo•r
- Educate the press on the facts surrounding this situation
.Submit to Rome the strongest possible defense package against the unsubstantiated attack on Fr Chris by the bishop.
We are now entering the final phase of our efforts. We hope and trust we will prevail. To emphasize our commitment to justice our, hopefully, final efforts include the following:
- A package of information, additional and detailed information, was sent this week, via FedEx, six separate binders to the Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy in The data provides the Congregation with reasons to doubt the rational behavior of the bishop based on his past performance and actions within the diocese. This data presents a powerful and damning look at how far from our Catholic faith and the path of Right and Reason the administration of the Diocese of Venice has traveled.
- Because of the coincidence of travel plans to Rome for two of our most influential parishioner families and the confluence of the data submission and case review timing it has been decided to send Fr David, a Canon lawyer, to Rome in He will coordinate meetings among our parishioners, the Congregation of Clergy and, of course, himself. This is an important display both of support for Fr Chris and the wellbeing of our St Isabel parish.
- A Public Relations firm has been retained to determine, define and broadcast the facts surrounding Fr Chris’s circumstances and the status of our parish within the Diocese of Venice. This is a most important extension of our support for this
- Letters and packages of information have already been sent to every Bishop in the United Similar letters have been sent to every priest in the diocese. The letters provide a comprehensive review of the facts surrounding Fr Chris’s circumstances and a request for their understanding and support with a warning that our church, our Catholic church, has strayed in many ways from the teachings of the Apostles. More actions are in process and will continue until we secure justice for our pastor and parish.
In summary, much has been accomplished, much is currently in process and more will follow. We will be heard! All of this comes with a cost. A cost in time, effort, planning and execution. If you are still willing to pray for our success, the survival of St Isabel’s parish and father’s life as our priest, pastor and friend then your continued support would be truly appreciated and needed. The magnitude of our efforts are directly proportionate to the seriousness of our cause; the injustice suffered by our pastor and our parish. The time to be heard is now. Only by being heard by the highest authority in our church can our communion be restored. We will prevail! Please send your thoughts, comments, and if able, your financial support to the address noted below. Checks can be made out to “Parishioners for Justice”
Thank you on behalf of Fr Chris and thanks for your continued support
Parishioners for Justice
Sanibel FL 339S7