HOW CAN BISHOP DEWANE EXPLAIN THE DOUBLE STANDARD?
Less than 24 hours after Bishop Dewane divulged to Fr. Christopher Senk that he had been under investigation by the Lee County Sheriff’s Department for two years (an investigation that ended six months before he spoke with Fr. Christopher, and before conducting any investigation of his own), Bishop Dewane placed Fr. Christopher Senk on Administrative leave, called the print and broadcast media to descend on St. Isabel Church at the first Mass after your disclosure, and simultaneously published a prearranged letter in the weekend bulletin of St. Isabel, virtually suggesting that Fr. Christopher was a “predator” who preyed on vulnerable elder adults. While he had proof of absolutely nothing, he nevertheless treated Fr. Christopher as guilty from the very beginning (October 28, 2016).
Recently, Fr. Joseph Gates, with his employee, business manager, Mrs. Khristy Scheer, riding “shotgun,” was stopped for impaired driving after a short chase by the Sanibel police. Indeed, the description widely posted in the local and area news described a person seriously impaired, who presented credit cards to the officer instead of his license, who nearly hit a hydrant, who drove over a curb, and who seemed to ignore the flashing lights that would stop most normal people, attempting to drive into the rectory garage. The obvious questions that arise are: why did Fr. Gates put himself behind the wheel; why did Mrs. Scheer let him drive in such a state; how did she not recognize that he was in a state that should not have been behind the wheel; if she was equally impaired, why was she out until after midnight with the local pastor, and how did she get home to her husband?
Fr. Joseph Gates, the substitute priest at St. Isabel, was arrested and spent several hours in jail, causing him to miss Sunday Masses. It is unclear who posted the bail for Fr. Gates, but in a short time he was represented by a Naples lawyer who apparently convinced him to plead “not guilty” to an extraordinarily specific account of his arrest. Is Fr. Gates’ refusal to take responsibility for his actions, an example to be emulated by members of the parish community?
The overwhelming question, is how can Bishop Dewane explain his lack of comment and action in regards to Fr. Gates’ “situation” when, by comparison, knowing the investigation showed no offense, Bishop Dewane placed Fr. Christopher Senk on administrative leave, banished him from Church property, including his home (rectory), within twelve hours, and notified the media to exploit a distraught group of parishioners at the Saturday evening Mass? Why has no statement about Fr. Gates been issued by Bishop Dewane, when in contrast Bishop Dewane initiated negative publicity about Fr. Christopher? Why has there been nothing done to the priest-in-charge or business manager, Mrs. Scheer, when the obvious evidence in this case is dramatically clearer than the lies of total strangers from Baltimore which torpedoed Fr. Christopher’s stellar fifteen years at St. Isabel? How, we ask, is it possible that a Bishop with clear information from the respected local police, has done nothing to correct, or even acknowledge, the actions of two diocesan employees under his watch, when he was so swift to move against Fr. Christopher on the word of total strangers with no investigation of his own? It is difficult to imagine any believable answer.