A STATEMENT ABOUT WHO WE ARE AND WHY WE EXIST
It is truly regrettable that Parishioners For Justice exists. There is no joy to be found in standing on either side of a line that divides parishioner from parishioner. What does give joy, however, is the feeling one has when standing with others who feel passionate about things that are right and just. When hundreds of people found themselves standing with others declaring “THIS IS WRONG!,” Parishioners For Justice was formed.
The remarkably distorted view of reality expressed by Mr. Kroeger (see letter below) in his recent letter does nothing to ease the tensions or heal the wounds created by Bishop Dewane and the present staff of St. Isabel Church. Indeed, Mr. Kroeger, and others like him, would have people believe that Fr. Christopher or Parishioners For Justice are responsible for the present condition of St. Isabel parish. There is only one person fully responsible for the present state of affairs at St. Isabel and that is Bishop Frank Dewane. Although he has sadly enlisted the help of priest and staff, who even more sadly appear so willing to do his bidding, it is Bishop Dewane who is responsible for the division and strife presently experienced by all.
Parishioners For Justice has never attempted or pretended to speak for all the parishioners, but it has desired to speak for a significant majority of parishioners who continue to feel strongly that most everything that has occurred since October 28, 2016, is wrong, and they have rightly discerned that no one has any interest in listening to their genuine concerns.
It is the Bishop and the Diocese who quickly attempted to demonize the parishioners demanding justice, virtually pushing them out of the parish with its memo of January 25, 2017, declaring that PFJ “is not a parish organization” and they “should not be recognized as such.” Sadly, the inexperienced priest in residence, Fr. Gates, has decided to reinforce the division in the church with his February 5, 2019, Flock Note stating that a “group” of concerned parishioners is not “sponsored by St. Isabel’s” and they “have no affiliation with St. Isabel Church.” The present church leadership defines itself as separate from all those who built and generously supported St. Isabel for years, and they have made it clear that there is no room for anyone at St. Isabel who won’t simply pray, pay, and obey.
Mr. Kroeger is correct and bold in identifying that the “bishop’s heavy handed and clearly un-Christian handling of his grievances with Father Christopher began the troubles in our parish.” What Mr. Kroeger might have added is that the bishop’s actions were also untruthful, and had had no connection to the prescriptions of Canon Law. Indeed, the bishop’s actions over the past two years have greatly damaged St. Isabel parish, and that includes his appointment of an inexperienced, unseasoned, and insensitive priest to play pastor in the absence of Fr. Christopher. A bishop who truly cared about his priests would never have placed Fr. Gates in such an unwinnable situation. Mr. Kroeger would have us believe that members of the parish made a conscious decision to “attack Fr. Joseph.” That is not the case. To be rightly critical of a priest in any parish does not constitute an attack, especially in a climate of righteous anger fostered by bishop, staff, and the priest playing pastor.
Mr. Hendrick’s recent offering of the words of Pope Francis to the discussion highlights one of the most troublesome dimensions of the last two years. Bishop Dewane’s arrogant refusal to engage in any real dialogue is truly astounding. Long before the case was sent to Rome there were numerous opportunities for the bishop to meet with Fr. Christopher, and to meet with parishioners who were frequently asking for the bishop to meet with them. Except for the bishop’s two secret meetings with a select group of parishioners, there was no effort to meet with the parishioners who were in such a state of upset at the removal of Fr. Christopher from St. Isabel. It is difficult to understand how Pope Francis could be happy with the work of Bishop Dewane, for as bishop he has hardly “stood in the midst of his people with his unassuming and merciful presence.” Further, Bishop Dewane has never fostered the kind of “pastoral dialogue” that Pope Francis has encouraged, and he has “no desire to listen to everyone and not simply to those who would tell him what he would like to hear.”
It is because Bishop Dewane has had zero interest in listening to the concerns of a significant number of St. Isabel parishioners; because of the lack of a genuine “merciful presence” at the parish of St. Isabel; because the members of the parish are not being spiritually nourished; because there is no “normal” possible after what has been done to Fr. Christopher and after the way parishioners have been treated, that Parishioners For Justice was formed. The Bishop and the church staff are undeserving of our support, and until justice is achieved we will not contribute financially to the church, nor will we be “engaged,” acting as though a grave evil has not been done to Fr. Christopher and St. Isabel.
A quote frequently attributed to Edmund Burke, but in reality more likely written first by John Stuart Mill, states: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” We are parishioners, regardless of what the Bishop and the priest in residence says, and we refuse, in the face of evil, to do nothing. We will continue to support Fr. Christopher whose defense is, sadly, a daily challenge for the last two and one-half years, and we will continue to do whatever it takes to get the attention of those who have the power and the will to create justice.
Thank you for your email Gerry but I won’t be attending this or any other meeting sponsored by the PFJ group. While the bishop’s heavy handed and clearly un-Christian handling of his grievances with Father Christopher began the troubles in our parish, the words and actions of many of those who call themselves “parishioners for justice” over the past two years have done at least as much damage to our parish community as has the bishop.
This group started out with the noble goal of providing a defense for Father Christopher but soon changed their rallying cry to “Bishop Dwayne is going down”. That soon morphed into attacking Father Joseph and anyone who continued to support the parish. I for one have been called “ a lackey of the bishop” and “ misguided in my Catholic faith”.
Frankly, it’s offensive to many of us who have continued to support the parish to the best of our ability to have those who have chosen not to be active, engaged, financially supportive members of the parish community call for unity and healing. I’m not sure I understand what “parishioners for justice is all about now that the stated goal of presenting a defense for Father Christopher has been completed but as I’ve said before they have no basis to hold themselves out as spokespersons for the entire parish community.