Musings in a New Year
December 25, 2020, was the fifth Christmas that Fr. Christopher has suffered from the unfair and completely unsubstantiated attacks of the Knott family from Baltimore and his bishop, Frank Dewane. Over four years ago, we remind you that Bishop Dewane threw Fr. Christopher out of the rectory and off the property, placing him on permanent leave, with no ability to to make a living, and, more importantly, no way too celebrate a public Mass. That was done in spite of the Bishop doing no investigation of his own, and in spite of the fact that the only investigation that had taken place was by the County, a two-year investigation that was dismissed six months before. That was not enough to prevent Bishop Dewane from treating Fr. Christopher like a criminal and a danger to the community.
One of the more painful dimensions for any pastor who “knows his flock,” is that the banishment included his inability to celebrate the funeral Masses of dear friends – beginning on the very day Fr. Christopher’s banishment started with the funeral of Carol Buckley, a funeral scheduled on October 19, 2016, less than an hour after Fr. Christopher was ordered to be off the church property. Requests to stay long enough to celebrate the funeral which had been planned on Carol’s deathbed were denied. In addition to Carol, the last four years has seen the deaths of many people Fr. Christopher knew well – Grace Daddato, Kay Suriani, Suzanne Amrein, Pat Kelley, Dick Kruse, Ray Dalbec, Marion McIntyre, Paul Ventura, Joanie Duncan, Frank Fallert, Liz Clark, Joe Bejin, Greg O’Neil, Richard Codair, Richard Chocol, Jack and Margie Harrington, Gill Gailius, Gordon Coughlin, Lenore Hoffman, John Boler, Jack Luke, Frank Klepacki, Judy Harding, Shirley Rigsby, Larry Oberhill, Marty Gallagher, Tom Conley, Jim Salzman, Don Vap, and Dan Valentine – just to name a few in no specific chronological order, that Fr. Christopher remembers so very well. In some cases, the requests by family for Fr. Christopher to celebrate their spouse’s or parent’s funeral was outright rejected by the Bishop. In some cases, funerals were never held at St. Isabel, so disgusted was the family with the actions of the Bishop and St. Isabel. And still in just a few cases, funerals were held at St. Isabel, but Fr. Christopher was not allowed to mourn with family on church property, particularly after the parish Office Manager convinced the Sanibel Police to issue a permanent no-trespassing citation to Fr. Christopher, a citation the Diocese has refused to alter. Many whose plans were to be buried in the St. Isabel Memorial Garden have changed their minds, especially after the Office Manager raised the costs of being buried in the garden over 300%, a type of gouging apparently condoned by Bishop Dewane, and easily ignored by caretaker pastors.
It might be easy for many of us to overlook the deep pain felt by a true shepherd when he loses one of his sheep, but for Fr. Christopher that pain is felt with the deaths of every parishioner he has ever ministered to in all three parishes where he was privileged to serve. True pastors accompany the people they serve, through the good times (weddings, anniversaries, etc.), and through the more difficult times (sickness,deaths, funerals, etc.). For four years now, that accompaniment has been made very difficult, if not impossible, for Fr. Christopher. For four years, Fr. Christopher has been treated like a criminal, indeed, worse than a criminal, unable to step foot on church property, unable to celebrate anything publicly, including the ability to celebrate the wedding of a member of his own family. What kind of an individual would do this? What kind of an individual wants to prolong this for the rest of Fr. Christopher’s life? We leave our readers to answer that question for themselves.
The recent curious letter sent to St. Isabel parishioners (that have not been purged from the rolls) at the end of November, proclaiming to give an update on “the projected finances through the end of our fiscal year on June 30, 2021,” is an interesting attempt to justify the current state of affairs at St. Isabel, all without talking about the “elephant in the room.” Surely, the virtual shutdown caused by Covid is a significant factor in the finally ‘admitted’ squeeze placed on parish finances. But that squeeze started in November of 2016, even if only admitted now. Indeed, the treatment of Fr. Christopher and the parish community by the Bishop and the present staff at St. Isabel, began the downward hit to St. Isabel’s finances, a hit which is only now being admitted in the light of increasing desperation. Indeed, there was a significant amount savings left when Fr. Christopher was unjustly removed, savings earned by treating people fairly and treating them like beloved sheep. Those savings no doubt allowed the powers-that-be to continue pretending that everything on the home front was normal. While it appears there are still some very generous people at St. Isabel who enable them to make their annual assessment, the reality is things have not been normal since the self-inflicted wounds of 2016 and beyond. The actions of the first replacement and second pastor, no doubt with the cheering on of the malicious Office Manager, have done much to insure that Covid will only exacerbate a problem that has existed for some time. The parish’s web site can continue to declare themselves “friendly and warm,” but it is anything but.
Fr. Martin brags in his recent letter about the “small staff,” made all the smaller by the recent untimely firing of the music minister who came to St. Isabel’s aid in a desperate time. His reward for helping was to be unceremoniously cut from the ranks. The music minister was surely making only a fraction of the largest salary given to the Office Manager. Was her salary cut when a full time Religious Education person was hired for a handful of children? Why is a full time Regious Ed person even needed for a parish as small as St. Isabel?
With all due respect Fr. Martin, did you pray long and hard for the Women’s Guild, whose organization you dissolved after a forty-plus year existence. You surely must remember that action and it must make you so proud, so proud that you have the nerve to try and fleece some of those former parishioners for money to pay for air conditioners which should be part of the operational budget.
While we won’t be making any large donation to St. Isabel, we do have some advice – look in the mirror! You, the present staff, and most of all the Bishop are responsible for all of the difficulties St. Isabel may experience. None of you have given Fr. Christopher or the former parishioners the respect that they deserved. If your pews are empty, blame yourselves. You have created the most unfriendly parish ever, and no matter how often you say the opposite it is not going to change anything for the better. Bishop Dewane has had within his hands the power to have avoided all of this upset, but he has done nothing except to further torture Fr. Christopher and parishioners. He has destroyed lives, and he has been helped by people like you and the Office Manager. Lies continue to be spread that have no foundation in anything resembling the truth (just ask former employees). So keep looking the other way Fr. Martin, with your hand extended for money, and continue spending as little time as possible with the sheep. They will insure that all at St. Isabel will get what they deserve.