Sanibel FL, August 16, 2018 —Parishioners for Justice for Father Christopher Senk today issued a statement mourning the loss of Richard Sipe, a psychiatrist, author, victims advocate, former priest and globally recognized authority on clerical sex abuse. The group of 500 Catholic laity from St. Isabel’s Parish on Sanibel Island, was formed in 2016 to protest a growing number of abuses of authority by Frank Dewane, the Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, Florida. These abuses include violations of civil and canon law, the most egregious being Bishop Dewane’s dismissal of their pastor, Father Christopher Senk, without cause or due process.
Since then, Parishioners for Justice has raised over $250,000 to support Father Senk’s legal defense and to protest Bishop Dewane’s continued prevarication and abuse. Noting that abuse of power is not confined to sexual behavior, Parishioners for Justice cites a range of abuses of authority by Bishop Dewane that span administrative, liturgical, financial, and personal elements.
The statement was issued by Joseph Anding, a founding member of Parishioners for Justice:
Members of Parishioners for Justice are deeply saddened by the death of Richard Sipe, whose tireless efforts to expose clerical sexual abuse spanned over three decades. A dedicated advocate for and counselor to victims, he used his extensive research and writings to shed new light on a complex and deep-rooted scandal that now, more than ever, threatens to destroy the Catholic Church. His studies of clerical sex abuse foresaw the widening of the issue to include exploitation, not just of minors but of seminarians by superiors and fellow students.
Mr. Sipe’s warnings and documented exposure of a culture of concealment and collusion were frequently ignored and rejected by the Roman Catholic hierarchy and in some cases, he was personally vilified. In 1986, Mr. Sipe presented his findings on the extent of sexual abuse in the American Church to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, but no meaningful action resulted.
Mr. Sipe was one of several concerned advocates who attempted to expose Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in a letter to Pope Benedict in 2008 and on an Internet blog in 2010. These clearly documented McCarrick’s relations with young seminarians at his summer home on the New Jersey Shore. Nothing was done about this until 2018 when McCarrick became the highest-ranking prelate in history to be accused and stripped of his titles and ministry by Pope Francis.
The recent revelations of horrific abuse by more than 300 priests in Pennsylvania, in several other US diocese and in India, Australia and Chile have caught the Roman Catholic Church in a global scandal. Their handling of this to date has been a disaster with many bishops, including Bishop Frank Dewane, failing to even address the issue. The Vatican has made no comment. Clearly, the hierarchy is ill-equipped to respond to this crisis. A scandal of this proportion requires transparency, accountability and a speedy response – none of which exist in the Vatican’s entrenched, clandestine bureaucracy.
The passing of Richard Sipe is a great loss to the many groups of Catholic laity who have effectively organized to fight this growing cancer within the Church. But thanks to his example of dedicated pursuit of the truth and providing help and comfort to many victims, we are determined to continue our pursuit of justice for Father Christopher Senk.
We offer our prayers for the repose of his soul and for his wife and son.
To learn more about the situation at St. Isabel Parish,
contact the at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anne Sweeney Public Relations
“Mr. Sipe’s warnings and documented exposure of a culture of concealment and collusion were frequently ignored and rejected by the Roman Catholic hierarchy and in some cases, he was personally vilified.”
Joseph Anding, Parishioners for Justice