“Why? Why? Why did you let it go on for so long?” the cleric asks.
It wasn’t a terribly bold question to ask, and yet we were told that some 70+ clerics were “frozen in silence,” as they listened to one of their confreres ask the newly appointed administrator of the Diocese of Avignon in France: “Why? Why? Why did you let it go on for so long?” The priests were gathered for a discussion on what most thought was eighteen years of “abusive” leadership under their Ordinary, Archbishop Jean-Pierre Cattenoz.
The diocese was forced to wait for the Archbishop’s seventy-fifth birthday, even though over the years there were numerous priests and lay people who denounced Cattenoz for an “abuse of authority.” One after another the priests told the present temporary apostolic administrator, Archbishop Georges Pontier, what they were feeling. One priest spoke of the “dark years” he was forced to endure during Cattenoz’s tenure. Another priest said he felt as though he had “been robbed of a part of his priesthood.” One is left to wonder what lay people, had they been invited to the meeting, might have said about how the “abuse” affected them.
The temporary administrator of Avignon has heard plenty, as the Archbishop of Marseille (2006-2019), and the president of the Bishops Conference of France (2013-2019). During those years, says La Croix, Pontier heard plenty of priests and lay people denounce Cattenoz for “an abuse of authority.” When pressed on the issue Pontier seemed “shaken and somewhat defensive,” stating: “The situation can lead one to wonder about the possible abuse of authority, yes. It raises questions about the institutional structure of the Church: between the bishop and the pope, there are virtually no intermediate levels,” the archbishop told La Croix.”Shouldn’t the institution give itself the means to hear and accompany the suffering of those who encounter serious and lasting difficulties with their bishop?” he asked.
More than a dozen priests, we are told, who expressed some sympathy for Cattenoz, maintained that “his episcopal authority was exercised in an abusive manner.” NCR stated that they accused ”the archbishop of refusing to listen or consult others. They say he made decisions on his own that often seemed arbitrary (and sometimes contradictory). And they say he enforced them by bullying and using other types of pressure.”
The strange familiarity of all that has been said about a Diocese in France clearly shows that an abuse of ecclesiastical authority is widespread, and while it may not have the cache of sexual abuse, it is a problem the Church, and local Bishops Conferences, will be forced to face. The situation in Avignon saw the mass resignation of the entire (eight) presbyterial council, the diocesan climate was one of fear and suspicion, some priests left the priesthood, and others were forced into seeking psychological care, hospitalizations, or just lengthy periods outside of the Diocese. Is this the Church founded by Jesus Christ?
The same question could be raised about the Diocese of Venice, and while the personal ordeal of St. Isabel has lasted just shy of five years, the original complaints of ten pastors date back more than a decade, and like the good people in Avignon, we are forced to wait until the magic number 75, when the mandatory resignation can be accepted, and no bishop suffers any embarrassment in the process.
But what about the priests? What about the laity? Before Fr. Christopher there were other priests who were treated unfairly and bullied, many of who just left the priesthood rather than face years of abusive treatment. Many of the laity, who have suffered enormously, voted with their feet and their pocketbooks. When we say enormously, the word is not chosen lightly. A recent conversation about the only Catholic Church on Sanibel Island, pointed to the sense of loss by many, most of whom contributed greatly to its being rebuilt. Further it was noted, that many people no longer have that “Catholic diversion,” which was once such a big part of their lives. The parish provided the sacraments, yes, but it was also a place that was “home,” and it felt like “home.” For many of the disenfranchised it is nothing more than a place on the side of San Cap Road, a place which makes one’s heart ache, and serves only as a reminder of what was once there.
How sad that all the letters written to Nuncios, Bishops, Archbishops, Congregations of all kind, and even the Pope, have had no effect of changing for the better either Fr. Christopher’s life, or the lives of those former parishioners who once called St. Isabel home. Shame on the Church for not being a better listener!


  1. This is a Plague hitting every corner of the Catholic Church and destroying it from the inside. The Abuse is simply one symptom of the Plague . The TOTAL Absence of respect, care and dedication to the “Sheep” by the GREEDY in charge who are focusing on monetary gains have left a Desert Of Souls thirsty for TRUTH and GODS wrath on those responsible.
    Thank God for the Blessing of good honest Priests like Fr. Christopher Senk who showed us what can be done in a Church Parish Family and what is a solid foundation of love and prayer is like.
    Bishop Frank Dewane and the many like him with Power ,Greed and Ego will always be a Shadows of Darkness
    trying to cover the Light by destroying others.
    Those with Faith will continue to stand up against this Plague and all it represents . The Faithful will pray and stand by those who have been attacked and be assured Gods justice and that “Thy Will Be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven”.


  2. As a long time parishioner of St Isabels I feel abused having my church taken from me‼️‼️ It was more than a church ! It was home and family😢😢


  3. One thing that STILL troubles us so much is that the Bishops can say what they want about this case or any case—and some people in the church believe the bishops because of his hierarchal position —

    but no one bothers to ask the truth from the other side —-I guess the church doesn’t really REALLY want to hear it ! Doesn’t anyone in the Bishops office or commission want to hear for themselves the truth of the ‘accused’!
    Father Christopher is a good priest who has not been heard—- and yet people believe the Bishop.
    It is our sincerest hope and our frequent prayer that Fr Christopher can withstand the abuse he has already endured and continue his pleas for justice to be done to him—and that good Catholic people will hear and know and believe Father Christopher .
    He is an honest man and should be given his rightful opportunity to speak and really be heard by the Church
    (not just the Bishop who has not really ‘listened’ to the truth as we believe it to be )

    Father Christopher has faithfully served and loves his priestly vocation ! He is a good priest and always has been that! He needs to be heard! He needs to be allowed to be a priest with all priestly faculties given to him many years ago at his ordination !
    Who can make sure of that and allow that to take place?? Maybe the Bishop can help do that so as to help Father return soon. Our church needs him!
    Henry and Mary Jo Maher


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