Parishioners For Justice receive many letters, and many of them are unable to be posted. Our quest for justice for Fr. Christopher has been going on for such a long time that some of the more recent letters are from people who have never known Fr. Christopher, yet it does not keep them from forming a strong opinion about his guilt or making negative comments about PFJ. One such letter we quote from here:
“I am new to the parish and… I must say that I have formed a negative opinion of Father Senk because of the way in which he seems to be encouraging your negative actions. Father Senk should accept the will of his superiors and do what is asked of him…. You all really need to consider how UN-Christian your actions appear. Your obsessions about this issue seem, to me, to be very unhealthy for mind, body and spirit.
I am certainly not a perfect person and am trying to avoid judgement, but there is something wrong with the actions and agenda of Parishioners For Justice. It seems to me that you wrap yourselves in the mantle of words such as ‘’justice,’’ but are causing much harm and injustice to a fine priest such as Father Gates, as well as Parishioners who flood the pews at Saturday and Sunday Mass and enthusiastically join in the liturgy.”
Clearly the author of this letter was not around in 2016 when Bishop Dewane attacked Fr. Christopher without warning and sought from him, with no investigation of his own and with no effort to get at the truth, the equivalent of an ecclesiastical death penalty, asking Fr. Christopher to voluntarily surrender his priesthood. When it was clear that Fr. Christopher was never going to voluntarily give up his priesthood, Bishop Dewane with great malice decided to take his fight for Fr. Christopher’s priesthood to Rome, where he knew it would languish as all things do in the Eternal City. Clearly, the author of the above letter hasn’t been around for the frustrating years of fighting for justice, when a Bishop deaf to the pleas of hundreds of parishioners refused to meet and talk and discuss ways in which the upset at St. Isabel could be put to rest. And during those years the author was largely not around to watch a caretaker priest, who should never have been given the ability to pretend to play pastor, make substantive changes to our Church to an extent that it is barely recognizable to parishioners who have been invested in the parish for decades. Had the author been around for any significant time, the author might have recognized that the harm and injustice she has referenced was not done to Fr. Gates and the parish. Rather, the harm and injustice has been done to Fr. Christopher and the hundreds of parishioners who have been around for the last sixteen years and who can still remember what a parish managed by a loving pastor looks like.
We can’t expect newcomers to know Fr. Christopher, for they have never had the good fortune of journeying with him, worshipping with him, praying with him, celebrating with him, and do not suffer along with him. What we would ask is that you not form a “negative opinion about him,” especially on account of anything we might have done as Parishioners For Justice. Our association was formed spontaneously at the end of 2016 when hundreds of us who had come to know and love Fr. Christopher, and who could recognize the evil way that he was being treated, came together to support him and to work towards restoring a modicum of justice to him and to St. Isabel Parish. While there is the possibility in the last thirty months that we have not done some things perfectly, whatever we have done has been done without malice, something that cannot be said of the Bishop or the present administration of St. Isabel.
We encourage you to learn more about what has truly happened to Fr. Christopher and to the parish of St. Isabel. Fr. Christopher’s silence has been interpreted by some as an admission of guilt, but in reality he has been forbidden from speaking about these matters. We are the only voice that Fr. Christopher has, and we intend to keep speaking until there is no hope that justice can be done. If a member of your family or a loved one was being treated in the way Fr. Christopher has been treated, you too would be raising your voice with us and shouting until someone actually appears to be listening. We are sorry if that is upsetting to you, but our affection for that pastor and for what he has done for the parish of St. Isabel is far too great for us to do anything else.