Why the Fr. Luke Reese scandal is everybody’s business

This week, Fr. Luke Reese of Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis will stand trial for allegedly kidnapping, beating, and sexually assaulting his wife over the course of eighteen hours. Some of the alleged assault occurred in front of the altar of the church.

Why did we break this story, knowing that the couple’s children would read it? And why is it the business of some freelancer in New Hampshire who doesn’t even go to that church? What good can come of publicizing yet another scandal?

When Fr. Reese was arrested, the Holy Rosary pastor, who allegedly saw Mrs. Reese’s battered face, only informed his parishioners that Reese would be going on leave.  The pastor said in the bulletin:

 If you do ask [about what happened], I will politely but firmly tell you to “mind your own business.” Additionally, do not make Father Reese and his family the subject of speculation or gossip. This is a sin. Please do remember to pray for him and his family. I am very grateful for Father Reese’s service to our parish. He will be greatly missed during this leave.

But the Fr. Reese story is everybody’s business. Here’s why:

If a Catholic priest is accused of brutalizing his wife inside a church, it’s news. It just is. If someone who works in child protective services is accused of abusing children, it’s news, and the community has a right to know. If someone who prepares food to the public is accused of serving poison, it’s news, and the community has a right to know. If a priest whose job it is to act in persona Christi is accused of betraying his family in such a scandalous and public fashion, it’s news, and the community has a right to know.

But there’s more to these allegations than a compelling story.

Questions the parishioners of Holy Rosary Parish have a right to ask:

Is this the first time Fr. Reese has been accused of physically abusing his wife while he was parochial vicar at Holy Rosary? If not, who was aware of the allegations regarding his behavior? If there were other allegations, why did no one call the police, and why was Fr. Reese allowed to continue as priest?

The affidavit that describes the alleged brutalization of Mrs. Reese doesn’t describe a brief, intemperate lashing out in a moment of distress, but a many-hours-long ordeal wherein he allegedly drove her to various places, allegedly assaulted her in different ways, and even allegedly forced her bodily into his own church in front of the altar where he says Mass, allegedly continuing to assault her there.

In light of these accusations, we must ask what kind of advice Fr. Reese had been giving in confession? What would he say to a penitent who is beating his wife? What would he say to an abused wife? Was he involved in marriage preparation, and was he tasked with teaching young Catholics about the Church’s approach to married life? According to a statement by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in 2016, Reese’s duties included “offer[ing] pastoral counseling to people experiencing family difficulties.” Are those he counseled aware of the allegations made against him?

We ask again: Will Holy Rosary be reconsecrated, since the crimes alleged would clearly constitute desecration? The congregation has a right to know if their church and altar have been desecrated, just as they’d have a right to know what happened if someone stole the tabernacle, broke a window, or embezzled funds from the soup kitchen. It is their church.

Questions about the Church’s legal and financial responsibility:

Fr. Reese is a member of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which is a relatively new and growing institution established in 2012 to enable groups of Anglicans to join the Catholic Church “while preserving elements of their liturgical and spiritual patrimony.”

As more Anglican priests join the Ordinariate, often bringing their wives and children into the Church with them, the laity may reasonably wonder what the Church’s legal and financial responsibility is to these priests and their families.

Will the Ordinariate, which has authority over Fr. Reese, pay his legal fees? When Reese was ordained, the archdiocese of Indiana said that “leaders in the ordinariate and the archdiocese have worked to make sure that he’ll be able to financially support his family through what he’ll earn through his priestly ministry.” If the couple divorces, as the Reeses plan to do, will the Ordinariate or the Archdiocese of Indianapolis be legally responsible for Mrs. Reese’s alimony? If Reese is removed from ministry, will the Church help to support the Reese’s seven children? If he is convicted, is the Church legally responsible for what their priests do, especially if they are done inside the church building?

Questions about how Ordinariate priests are formed and vetted:

The Ordinariate can ordain its own laymen as priests, but it primarily receives former Anglican priests and then forms and ordains them as Catholic priests. This was the case with Fr. Reese.

What kind of formation do these formerly Anglican priests receive before they are ordained in the Ordinariate? Is their formation as extensive and comprehensive as seminarians not in the Ordinariate?

The Catholic Church makes an effort to filter out seminarians who are psychologically or temperamentally unfit for ordination. If an Anglican priest wants to join the Ordinariate, does the Catholic Church do its own vetting process, or does it rely on the vetting the Anglican Church has already done? Are priests sometimes hurried through the process, either as a courtesy to the Anglican Church, or because there is such a dire need for vocations in the Catholic Church?

What precedent will Bishop Lopes set?

After Fr. Reese’s legal case is complete, we will be watching very closely to see how Bishop Lopes and other ecclesial authorities will respond.  Because the Ordinariate is so new, whatever Bishop Lopes does will set a precedent. There is no reason to doubt his integrity as he faces the monumental challenge of developing an entirely new canonical structure; but by definition, he is making it up as he goes along. The Fr. Reese case will put severe pressure on a system that isn’t yet fully formed.

The Anglican Church is already understandably sensitive about the Ordinariate, and there is also some resistance to it from some corners of the Catholic Church. It’s already a difficult balance to proceed “as an instrument of Catholic unity.” No one hoped that the Ordinariate would  debut with an ugly scandal; and yet this is the challenge Bishop Lopes faces.

And so the bishop has a choice. He can, in the name of unity and charity, sweep this story under the rug, so as not to tarnish the reputation of the Ordinariate and further complicate relations between the Anglican and Catholic Churches.

Or, he can take this scandal as an opportunity to show the world that the Catholic Church is done sweeping scandal under the rug.

In a statement in February of 2018, the Ordinariate said:

Bishop Steven J. Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter has pledged the diocese’s full cooperation with the civil authorities conducting the investigation. The Ordinariate is committed to collaborating with authorities to ensure justice is provided for all concerned, and affirms the Catholic Church’s clear teaching that domestic violence is never justified.

It breaks my heart to say so, but in the year 2018, we do not have the luxury of assuming the Catholic Church will do the right thing. Wave upon wave of scandal still continue to break.

If Luke Reese is convicted, we hope and pray that Bishop Lopes will respond with a clear message: No more hiding abuse in the name of avoiding bad press. No more cover for predators in the name of Christ. Never again
 ****
Mugshot of Luke Reese courtesy of Fox59 News

17 thoughts on “Why the Fr. Luke Reese scandal is everybody’s business”

  1. First, understand that I did not attend the trial or hear the testimony of the witnesses. However, it seems likely that the jury verdict is supported by evidence that was heard at the trial. Of particular interest was the fact that the jury acquitted Fr. Reese on three of the counts, which means that the jury didn’t find Mrs. Reese credible with respect to every point of her testimony.

    A credible case can be made for asking the court to give Fr. Reese a relatively light sentence. The Indiana Code lists several mitigating factors that a court can consider when sentencing a defendant, many of which apply to Fr. Reese. I can think of two big ones immediately: 1) Fr. Reese has NO prior criminal history.
    2) The circumstances leading to the offense–catching Mrs. Reese with her lover–were such that he is unlikely to reoffend.

    The State may argue that due to his position in the Church a lighter sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the offense. However, it has been my experience that Indiana courts are VERY wary of increasing or decreasing punishment due to religious practice.

    I do think that Fr. Reese will serve some executed time, but probably on home detention. Given his lack of criminal history, I would be surprised if the court orders any prison time. I do expect a few years of probation as well.

    Finally, an editorial: From the beginning, I have stated that the Church never tried to hide anything here. Literally anybody could have walked into the City-County Building in Indianapolis and obtained a copy of the charges and probable cause affadavit. I know that a conspiracy of silence sounds more intiguing, but–in this case–there simply wasn’t one. It is my wish that reporters and bloggers would have mentioned this fact.

    P.S. Please, as I have posted before, do not bring up “alimony” in this case, because Indiana law does not provide for it! Sometimes (in very rare circumstances, such as when a spouse is disabled), a court will impose a short period of spousal support. We in Indiana are pretty close to being a “community property” state, which means that all assets go into a “marital pot” and are distributed upon dissolution of marriage.

  2. The trial happened over the last 2 days. I was there for both. Mrs Reese stated that there has NEVER been abuse of any kind in their marriage before this incident. She was questioned, cross examined and then requestioned and recross examined. She was deposed. Each time she insisted under oath that nothing even close to this response had ever happened before. They only agreed that a few days before he discovered the affair their “marriage felt like a charade.” Of course, we can see now that this was because she was carrying on an affair with Luke Reese’s personal, good friend and she must have been acting differently. I went in pro Mrs Reese. After her own testimony, Simcha you must obtain the transcripts and READ them, then correct your version and the way you have framed your articles. What actually happened was much more shocking, but the other way around from what we were all thinking. I am ashamed of myself for siding the way I did initially as most people here continue to do, without hearing the facts from her own mouth when she understood she was under oath and could be charged if she lied. Suddenly, she could not remember if she said there was abuse inside the church or anywhere else, other than a short time in the car when she kept insisting they “only held hands” and he slapped sideways across the car when he really did have a mental break from being tormented by her statements, which she admitted in court were untrue. On the stand she could not remember what he did or what she said, where, when AND IF all of the allegations she said in the PCA, happened. There were a few women, probably not christians, who looked like they worked for her divorce attorney or social workers, who appeared to be pushing her into this… I think she may have been coached at the time back in October to say more things than she felt comfortable with 3 days after that weekend of events, and now she regrets them and does not want God to see her repeat any of these things in open court. Simcha will you write an article about what happens to men when they are accused of crimes they did not commit, especially if they are priests? Will you have the bravery and integrity to do that? By the way everyone, her legal fees, Mrs Reese’s legal fees have been paid for by the Diocese of Indianapolis and Father McCarthy, and the Ordinate of the Chair of St Peter. It is her only source of funding and they have been completely supporting her and the whole family, including monetarily and spiritually, they have been supporting everyone and letting the court do its job. They are cooperating completely. This whole situation is a travesty. For those who fear complicity in sin, reserve your judgment and comments, no matter how a secular court finds, until you see what they both said, and then pray to see this as God does. May He forgive and heal us all.

    1. Typo that’s Ordinariate. We are all continuing to pray. What shall happen to the adorable little ones in this family? What does the church do now? Remember that a jury is chosen in a few minutes then they immediately hear the case. There is no time to research them, everyone has biases. Some believe in God, some definitely do not and that drives decision making before they even hear the evidence. Pray that the forces of good and truth will prevail above any personal feelings on their part. The church here is not made of money, they run the largest charity in the world, and have for 2,000 years. They have helped, fed, clothed, educated (invented schools for non-nobility so all could learn), healed through their non-profit hospitals, more people than ANY other organization in the world. Possibly more than all of them combined. What do we do in this case? I think it’s pretty clear, this did not happen as first stated in the PCA, but we can’t turn our backs on this family, neither can we agree with these actions and support those. None of this would have happened without the first betrayal, but what do we do in charity? There are other families in desperate need of help too. Maybe help with the child-support only? Or let that be the natural consequence and personal responsibility adults make for their own decisions? There is no possible way the court will agree to alimony, but they have never had a job. What is the ethical response now? Will pray at mass today and always for EVERYONE involved. Notice, all of us to our shame, certain parties have been vilified and have never defended themselves.

  3. This is true. I attend Holy Rosary sometimes. I have seen Mrs Reese bringing her children in to see Father McCarthy at different times. Most recently, to meet with Father McM about the trip to Rome, where they spent a little over a week and, yes, flew in today. Father McCarthy by the way took these 4 boys as he does every year, and they celebrated mass with him everyday. Father McCarthy is not the villain you try to portray with his comment about people minding their own business and not speculating about this family. Mrs Reese was never offended by his actions but had been grateful for his guidance and help, they obviously are still friends and she trusts Father McCarthy with her own son! People, err on the side of grace, and pray for all parties involved! May God forgive us all for our sins.

  4. One more time, please try to tell as many facts as possible. I read your article about clergy response to abuse. This IS what Father McCarthy did, he asked her to separate from him, at first she wanted to keep her family together under one roof, he set up a bank account immediately for her and the children. He told his parishioners to mind there own business to discourage gossip and BECAUSE Gina Reese asked him to tell people not to talk about it to any one! Someone put this in the actual Catholic response that Holy Rosary did have. The Reese family is being taken care of and welcome EVEN though Fr Reese is NOT part of Holy Rosary and the Indianapolis Diocese. He is from a Diocese in Texas, THEY are responsible for him and his expenses. Holy Rosary sends all of their altar boys on a pilgrimage to Rome when they graduate from high school. One of the Reese boys went this year and they flew back into Indianapolis TODAY, when his father was on trial. Take a look at the photos of them on the Holy Rosary Facebook page. As to everything else, you only have one version of how things happened. We have legal system to figure out the facts. Leave it to them to carry out a fair trial. If his Diocese in Texas fires him for breaking his behavior clause, he will be unemployable and the family will have no alimony and nothing to live on, no child support. Pray for this whole family and leave it at that. We do not know what happened, only God and these 2 people know.

  5. It is easy to ask scandalous questions – that appear to be one sided, judge mental, and ignorant of the facts or context which have yet to come out.

    THAT is what lazy people do well.

    May you be embarrassed greatly for your “contributions” to this subject.

  6. I’ve retyped this comment at least four times and can’t honestly voice any opinion that doesn’t make me wince for one person or another.
    This is a genuine no win scenario for all concerned, even me and I only read it.
    I’m starting the Saint Maria Goretti Novena tomorrow, one of her patronages is forgiveness.

  7. I am reading this while on pilgrimage in the Holy Land. I have been overwhelmed by the large number of churches here commemorating specific events in the life of Jesus. Our group has visited and prayed at many of these, causing me to think much more deeply than ever before about each event.

    We went to the church of the Agony of Christ. I reflected that after the events of that night Jesus was scourged, crowned with thorns, dragged through the streets and tortured to death by being nailed to the cross. But the event we refer to as His Agony is when He was praying, and his friends betrayed Him, first by falling asleep, then the betrayal by Judas. Betrayal is a very serious affront to the true unity of the Church. I do not know Fr. Reese, but he betrayed me because he is a priest of my church, and priests should not act like that.

    I do live in the Archdiocese of Washington, and I have been badly betrayed by Cardinal McCarrick and everyone who covered up for him. Yes, these betrayals are everybody’s business.

  8. “If the couple divorces, as the Reeses plan to do, will the Ordinariate or the Archdiocese of Indianapolis be legally responsible for Mrs. Reese’s alimony?”

    It would be interesting to know what the rate of divorce is among Anglican clergy, since they have been doing this married priest thing for much longer than Catholics, in the modern era.

    I would suppose some alimony in rare cases is small potatoes compared to all of the money scandals to do with the Vatican bank, and prelates that enjoy CEO style housing and amenities. (It makes me love Pope Francis that much more for standing up to “the Devil’s dung”. Doesn’t he have a way with words??)

    I was reading an article about the gargantuan clergy sex abuse settlement in the MN diocese, which while mind numbing, is smaller than the astounding Los Angeles settlements.

    Can you even imagine how much good could have been done with it all?

    I have adjusted the way we give.

    I didn’t pay for RE this year. Nope. I gave the money to homeless and poor people instead. Our Catholic school is leased to a Waldorf style school, and our thrift shop brings in a good sum. Our priest lives alone in a five million dollar house. He threatened to quit the priesthood if they moved him. I don’t begrudge him his lifestyle, and his desire to stay put, but I wish the poor priests from third world countries that get invited to fill in for summer vacation were teaching Catholic kids in our formerly Catholic school instead. Multiple priests (and their families!) could fit on each floor of our rectory. I used to put my head in the sand about the wealth of the Church, and the disparity between the poor southern Church and the rich Northern one. It’s scandalous. More scandalous than a strange isolated case of a crazy priest that snapped and went AWOL.

    I guess what I’m saying is that alimony for a divorce here and there –which is probably pretty uncommon, is the least of my worries.Abuse every which way you look is what’s disheartening.

    Has it always been this bad? Probably. We just didn’t hear about it until social media blew the lid off of the speed in which information is disseminated, and the wide accessibility of news.

    Anyway–*May God console the children of Mr. and Mrs Reese, and the other family as well.* How sad to hear of this tragic story.

  9. I am relieved that the truth is out. I wpild be upset if the Fishers had reported mere speculation or rumour; but these crimes were committed and had even *tried* to come to light through different means. I find the speculation that the Fishers were trying to make money off this story utterly ludicrous and a pathetic attempt at gaslighting. We see you, secretive and abusive church. Your days are numbered.

  10. Thank you for following this story. I’m a member of the Ordinariate, a recent convert to Catholicism, and I’m already sick of Catholic leaders covering up scandal. I am grateful for good members of the laity like you who help shine light into the darkness.

    1. I’d add that the answer to some of the very good questions your asking can be found on the Ordinariate’s website, which prominently features their safe environment policies. https://ordinariate.net/safe-environment. Obviously there was a huge failure here, and whatever can be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again should be done.

      Keep digging.

  11. “Why did we break this story, knowing that the couple’s children would read it?”

    Good question. Here are a few more clarifying questions along this line.

    Was breaking the story best for a fair outcome at trial?
    Was it best for the children, who would read the report and learn a one-sided version of events?
    Was it best for the wider church?
    Was it best for the Fisher’s bottom line?

    1. I don’t know that any of that passes the smell test. Would you apply any of these qualifications on any other crime or perpetrator?

      In fact, I would argue that the Church has been harmed a thousand fold more in “avoiding the appearance of scandal” than in actually confronting the scandal itself. Apply your criteria to the abuse scandal. Have we learned nothing?

    2. Also, I would bet you $10,000 that the Fishers are not making bank off of a story mainly published on a website. Do you know how websites work? Or journalism?

      Ooo…Simcha Fisher bought the NAME BRAND cottage cheese this week from her ill-gotten gains!

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