“I want to be very clear about this: Abuse by churchmen and churchwomen — abuse of authority, abuse of power and sexual abuse – is a monstrosity, because the churchman or churchwoman, whether priest, religious man or woman, or layman or laywoman, is called to serve and to create unity, to make grow, and abuse always destroys.” Pope Francis The real contemplative [religious person] takes the whole world in and shelters it, reveres it, and protects it with a body made of the steely substance of a justice that springs from love. —Sr. Joan Chittister, Illuminated Life
On Friday, October 28, 2022, it will be exactly six years since the Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, ruined my life. This is not meant to imply that I have been unable to find any joy or happiness in life. Rather, it is meant to say that not a day has gone by since that date when the weight of near overwhelming sadness weighs on me, reminding me that through restrictions, penalties, and punishments, I have lost the most fundamental core of my being – my priesthood. There is also great sadness at the behavior of Church officials – bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and ordinary clergy – who are incapable, or who outright refuse, to show the kind of compassion and mercy which is at the heart of the gospels. While sadness can be ameliorated with pills and potions, it is never eradicated, for it continues to gnaw at your heart from morning till night. The disappointment in the Church, to whom I gave my life nearly fifty years ago, should not be underestimated. Pope Francis has been so clear in his teachings, so thoroughly rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, one might hear Jesus saying to many in the church, “You hypocrites!” for their professed religious sensibilities demand that, as Chittister says, they “must do justice, must speak justice, must insist on justice,” for “to contemplate the God of justice is to be committed to justice.” There has been no justice since October 28, 2016. It is the Italians who say “the fish stinks from the head,” and it is the head shepherd of the Diocese of Venice who is responsible for the enormous upset that has afflicted my life, and the lives of countless parishioners who, long before Ian, lost the parish that was so dear to them. Holiness and justice are intertwined. It is a central theme of the Old Testament. It is of primary importance in the teachings of Jesus. “God wills the care of the poor as well as the reward of the rich; so, therefore, must the true contemplative. God wills the end of oppressors who stand with the heel in the neck of the weak; so, therefore, does the true contemplative. God wills the liberation of all human beings; so, therefore, must the true contemplative. God desires the dignity and full development of all human beings. Thus, God takes the side of the defenseless, and so must the truly” religious person (Chittister). Our God is a just God, and that is why my fight continues. There is no real end to this battle waged against me by the person entrusted with my spiritual care until justice is brought to bear. Bishop Frank Dewane, as Pope Francis has so eloquently stated, has abused his authority, has abused his power, and it is a “monstrosity.” He has demeaned his office of bishop by spreading falsehoods, he has deceived the leadership of the church, he has engaged in a petty and vindictive crusade (with his mercenary Rev. Joseph Waters) to destroy the life of one of his priests, just as he has done with other priests, all the while pretending to be religious. While he didn’t start out to destroy a parish, he stood by and allowed it to happen, knowing so little about parish life. He enabled inept administrators, and lay men and women dazzled by his power, to make terrible and mean-spirited decisions, dragging what was once a thriving and active parish into the ground. There is pain involved in marking an anniversary such as this, pain that need not have been part of my life. I could never have imagined six years ago that my life would unfold in this way. Normal life has enough pain of its own. There are happy celebrations (weddings) I have not been allowed to be part of. There are moments of sorrow and hardship (funerals of family and friends) I have not been allowed to be part of. It appears the bishop would have my punishment be endless. I will hold on to what I have, and I will use the avenues that are open to me to espouse a more just outcome. To my parishioners of St. Isabel I express my deepest appreciation for continuing to stand up for me, and to stand by me, and I am deeply saddened at the hardship that has visited so many of you because of Ian. You can be assured of my deepest gratitude for all that you have done for me, and I pray that I can live long enough, to even in the smallest of ways, repay you for your kindness. May God bless you and your families, and what was the parish of St. Isabel.