The dictionary defines the word complicit as “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others.”
There are many who wish to cast aspersions on Parishioners For Justice, vilifying them and portraying them in the most negative of lights. They are no longer seen as the most active and supportive parishioners that they were easily recognized as being before Friday, October 28, 2016. Newcomers to St. Isabel, and the parish administration, see them as disruptive trouble makers, who refuse to surrender their quest for justice, who refuse to deny their affection for Fr. Christopher, their pastor, who has done nothing wrong. The origins of Parishioners For Justice occurred in the stunning throes of the confusion that reigned when a Bishop unnecessarily and harshly intervened in the most public manner to place our pastor on administrative leave, banishing him from his rectory home and church property, and accusing him of criminal behavior that the State and County were unable to find evidence for. The Bishop did this with no sound investigation of his own, and he has spent the last thirty months concocting evidence to accuse Fr. Christopher of wrongdoing in the civil and Church spheres. Hundreds of parishioners whose experience of Fr. Christopher was vastly different from that of Bishop Dewane, immediately spoke up, requesting meetings with the Bishop so that they could tell him how terribly wrong he was believing the false accusations of Baltimore strangers. Had Bishop Dewane made any effort to listen to these most active of parishioners, had he shown the ability to engage in a fair and just investigation, had he been more sensitive to the large number of parishioners who were rightly upset, Parishioners For Justice might have never been formed.
But Parishioners For Justice was formed, and from its inception the only requirement for membership was to desire justice for Fr. Christopher, and, as substantive changes to church life became more and more numerous, justice for St. Isabel parish, which was becoming unrecognizable on account of the changes being made by a supposed caretaker priest and church staff. The lack of sensitivity towards those who were unwilling to rest until something resembling justice was done for Fr. Christopher caused the numbers of PFJ to grow, and as it grew its members independently searched for ways to get the attention of the Bishop and his minions – withholding contributions to St. Isabel and the Diocese, resigning from positions as readers, Eucharistic ministers, and ushers, and generally celebrating the Eucharist in churches that are perceived as far more welcoming than St. Isabel. The heavy handed and insensitive demeanor of those who dealt with the Women’s Guild and the Men’s Society has caused their numbers to dwindle and PFJ’s numbers to grow, and the unnecessary creation of an alternate women’s group at a small church like St. Isabel is correctly viewed as the threat it was intended to be. Nothing that has been done in the last thirty months at St. Isabel has shown any evidence that Bishop Dewane or the Church staff have ever really listened to what PFJ has been saying.
It is because there has been no evidence that anyone of authority has ever listened, that Parishioners For Justice continues to exist. PFJ will no doubt be told, as the entire parish was told, that Fr. Christopher’s case is over. The Bishop’s letter of March 29, 2019, to the parish was disingenuous, at best, deceitful, at worst. There is no evidence that Pope Francis was directly involved in the penalties levied against Fr. Christopher, and to even imply such a thing is wrong, and it does a great disservice to Pope Francis. Further, the extraordinarily harsh penalties, extending for up to ten years, inflicted on an innocent priest, are reprehensible. Not only do they not take into consideration the thirty months of suffering already endured, but they falsely claim to be necessary on account of the ecclesiastical upset caused by Fr. Christopher. The upset at St. Isabel parish is very real, but the upset has been unnecessarily caused by Bishop Dewane and the staff of St. Isabel parish who have been following an agenda that will never bring about justice for Fr. Christopher, it will never bring peace to a wounded parish.
For PFJ to do nothing, to pretend that “all is well” and move on as though nothing happened, is not an option. A gross injustice has been done, and sadly it has been done by those who were meant to care for Fr. Christopher and for the sheep of St. Isabel parish. To cease PFJ’s fight for justice would make us complicit in the perpetrating of evil, and that is not something we will ever allow.