A Family is heard. Siblings speak to the Bishop…why Bishop why? A Letter to Bishop Dewane.
October 11, 2018
Dear Bishop Dewane,
It has been nearly two years since we took the time to write to you expressing our outrage over the treatment that our brother, Fr. Christopher Senk, has received at your hands. When we last wrote we could never have imagined that this nightmare would go on for two years, nor could we have expected the pain to be so broadly distributed to those we number as friends in the St. Isabel parish community. Your extraordinary lack of mercy and compassion is so blatantly obvious that we find ourselves agreeing with so many who have written suggesting that you are not the type of person who should have ever been asked to take on the role of shepherding a diocese.
We are certain that you are not interested in hearing from people who wish to inform you about the tragedy you are responsible for on Sanibel Island. Nevertheless, we take this opportunity to boldly share with you some of our thoughts on this frightening two year anniversary.
You have caused our brother great emotional and physical pain, the kind of pain that would make a sadist truly happy. Without due cause or process, you separated him from the home he lived in for fourteen years and from the church he loved. You have done everything possible to destroy his priesthood, making it impossible for him to exercise his God-given vocation. You have callously prevented him from celebrating the funerals of parishioners and friends, denying the requests of families, as if our brother was some sort of danger to the local community. You have made every effort to destroy his reputation, and this following the judgement of Florida’s legal authorities that the claims were without merit. Indeed, the Sheriff of Lee County publicly wrote that Fr. Christopher was guilty of nothing! The excessive stress that your actions have caused has surely resulted in irreparable harm to our brother’s physical health. Happily though, you have been unable to break his spirit, or the spirits of the hundreds of parishioners who continue to support him.
In spite of the many medical challenges our brother faced, he devoted his energies to the rebuilding of St. Isabel Church and to the creation of a genuine community which was widely recognized as generous, welcoming and loving. How is it Bishop that you could never recognize that? What shred of decency is missing that when the lies and falsehoods of the despicable Baltimore family were shared with you, you chose to believe them, without ever having talked to our brother, without ever having done any investigation? With no assurance that anything being reported to you was true, you chose to humiliate and malign our brother, and you did it in a way for all the world to see.
With malice, Bishop Dewane, you deliberately chose to “pass the buck” and send our brother’s case to Rome, knowing that it would take years before it was settled. Your request to his canon lawyer that “no defense fund” be formed showed your desire to further cripple his efforts to challenge your abusive behavior. You could not have envisioned the resolve of those who truly knew Fr. Christopher best, the parishioners of St. Isabel, who have been so extraordinarily generous and unwavering in their support of him. We are grateful for their courage in continuing to support our brother, and we applaud their efforts to persuade you to act with justice.
It is difficult to remain Catholic at the present time when the Church is so beset by the widespread problems of priestly abuse. However, your abuse of our brother, Bishop Dewane, is on a scale we could never have expected from a so-called shepherd of the Church. Your example of cruelty towards our brother and all those you might have disagreements with is astounding, and makes the challenge of remaining Catholic even greater. Does your arrogance keep you from recognizing how much harm you have done to our brother, and how much harm you have done to the good people of St. Isabel?
We beg you Bishop, as so many others already have, to correct the egregious wrong you have done to our brother and to the parish of St. Isabel. We plead with you to restore our brother to his rightful position of Pastor, and let the Church on Sanibel begin the process of healing. Put a stop to the anguish that is felt by so many, and renew their faith in the Church. Prove that all those who say you are incapable of mercy and forgiveness are wrong, and demonstrate to the Church that you are capable of love and forgiveness. While we acknowledge that doing what is right will be humbling for you, we see your restoration of our brother’s reputation and position as the only path possible to fully correct this tragic situation you have solely created. You have a choice, Bishop Dewane, to redeem your own reputation or do nothing, and further reinforce your growing notoriety as a heartless non-caring bishop without a supportive flock.
Fr. Christopher Senk’s Brother: Fr. Christopher Senk’s Sister:
Mr. Lynn Senk Mrs. Cheryl Munger