Fr. Luke Reese loses court appeal after savage beating; still calls himself priest in good standing

Fr. Luke Reese’s wife-beating conviction stands. Reese, Indiana’s first married Catholic priest, has lost his court appeal to overturn his conviction for confining and beating his wife in a jealous rage. Reese’s priestly faculties are suspended, but as of January this year, he is still referring to himself as “a priest in good standing,” according to court records we obtained.

A.G. Stockstill, Business Manager for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which ordained Reese, stated in an email on Tuesday that Reese’s faculties were suspended in 2017, soon after his arrest. 

“Father Luke Reese was removed from ministry in the Ordinariate by Bishop Lopes on September 27, 2017, at which time his faculties were suspended.  Any further or permanent determination of Father Reese’s status as a priest is the competency of the Holy See,” Stockstill wrote.

But in recent court documents we obtained, Reese still describes himself as “a priest in good standing, although he is not active at this time.”

Reese was an Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism with his family and was ordained as a Catholic priest in the Ordinariate in 2016. He served as Parochial Vicar of Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis until September of 2017, when he was placed on leave after assaulting his wife.

Reese was employed by the church as a priest for another six months after the arrest, until his conviction in March of 2018, according to court documents. In August of 2018, the Ordinariate said in a statement that “steps are being taken to change Reese’s status as a priest.” Parishioners of Holy Rosary said on social media that they believed Reese had been “defrocked.”

There has been no public announcement regarding Reese’s canonical status. The Ordinariate, which functions like an archdiocese, does not have a legal or canonical obligation to report or publicize the status of a priest. There may be an exception if a laicized priest is not complying with the requirements set out in the decree of laicization — for instance, if he is dressing as a priest or publicly celebrating sacraments after he has been barred from doing so. In that case, the bishop would probably inform the parish that the priest has been barred from functioning. 

The Ordinariate did not confirm or deny that there is an ongoing canonical penal process against Reese.

Reese is currently working as the manager of a seafood restaurant, according to court documents.

Reese was found guilty of one felony and two misdemeanors: One count of criminal confinement with bodily injury, one count of domestic battery, and one count of battery resulting in bodily injury. He appealed his conviction, and the appeal was rejected on May 22 of 2019.    

“The whole thing is my wife’s fault.”

In his appeal, Reese argued he was only trying to protect his wife because he thought she was suicidal. According to court documents, “Reese asserts that he was justified in committing the offense because he was simply protecting [his wife.]”

In other court documents we obtained, Reese stated, “I have never been
violent or abusive in any of my relationships or to my wife.”

Reese argued in his appeal that the court denied him due process by not preserving “photographs and text messages as evidence” that “could have been used to impeach [his wife’s] testimony as to the causes of her injuries and credibility in general.”

According to various court records, the photographs and text messages were on his wife’s phone, which he confiscated during the protracted assault. He gave the phone to his superior, Fr. Ryan McCarthy, pastor of Holy Rosary, when McCarthy visited the couple in their home after the assault, according to the appeal. McCarthy reportedly returned the phone to Reese’s wife a few days later. 

In his appeal, Reese argued that that the court “failed to establish that he had committed the offense knowingly.”

During the course of the assault, which lasted over twenty-four hours, according to court documents we obtained, Reese hit his wife in the stomach and head and punched her in time to heavy metal music while he drove her to her grandmother’s house to make her confess to wrongdoing. He hit her in the eye, confiscated her keys and phone, drove her to a cemetery, pushed her onto her knees on the marble floor of the sanctuary of the church, violently pulled her hair, applied pressure to her neck and threatened to choke her while they were in front of the altar, and shoved her against the church wall, according to the documents. He reportedly continued to punch, degrade, threaten and otherwise assault her when they finally reached their home.  According to court documents we obtained, Reese’s wife sustained permanent eye damage from the assault. 

Reese asserted in various documents we obtained that he was merely defending himself from aggression by his wife, and attempting to protect her from herself. Shortly after the assault, he stated, “This whole thing is my wife’s fault,” according to the documents.

Reese also argued in his appeal that “the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support his conviction for criminal confinement” and”failed to prove that his actions were done without [his wife’s] consent” and “failed to prove that he had caused any bodily injury to [his wife].”

The court rejected his appeal and affirmed his conviction on May 22, 2019. Reese was sentenced in August of 2018 to three years of home confinement with electronic monitoring. Two years of his sentence were suspended, and he will be on probation for one year.

Reese filed for divorce from his wife on December 19 0f 2017. The Reeses have been married for 26 years and have seven children, four of whom are minors.

Reese’s lawyer, Oliver Younge, did not respond to my call or email. 

How did the church respond to Reese’s behavior before and after the assault?

According to documents we obtained, Mrs. Reese said that, some time before the assault, Reese shared a website containing pornographic and white supremacist material with his then-teenaged son, and directed him to share it with his friends. The church responded by sending Reese to counseling. It’s not clear whether the Ordinariate, which is based in Houston, was informed of Reese’s behavior, or whether Holy Rosary of Indianapolis made decisions about how to manage Reese before the assault.  

According to the court documents, his wife says he psychologically abused her and their children and sexually abused her throughout their 26-year marriage. Mrs. Reese said her husband has been ousted from three churches due to his behavior. She said that he holds white supremacist, racist, and misogynist views which he has attempted to pass on to his older children, and she submitted to the court “letters from other individuals who supported these concerns about Mr. Reese’s character, beliefs and temper,” according to court documents.

According to the same documents, Reese had a long history of hitting his wife, making his children sit alone in a dark basement as punishment, threatening them with hell for not praying the rosary correctly, and subjecting the family to constant harsh criticism and ridicule.

According to court documents describing the assault, Fr. Ryan McCarthy, the pastor of Holy Rosary where Reese was Parochial Vicar, went to the Reese house the day after the assault and saw Mrs. Reese’s black eye and swollen mouth. In response, McCarthy “recommended that [Reese’s wife] stay somewhere else.” He also accepted the phone that Reese had confiscated from his wife. Days later, he returned the phone to Mrs. Reese.

After Reese was arrested, Fr. McCarthy announced in the church bulletin that Reese would go on “leave” that would last “at least a few months.” He admonished the parishioners, “mind your own business.” Although he had  seen clear evidence of a violent crime against Mrs. Reese, he announced “I am very grateful for Father Reese’s service to our parish. He will be greatly missed during this leave.” The day Reese was convicted, his parish offered Mass to commemorate the anniversary of his ordination. Reese’s name was not removed from the parish directory until after we broke the story of his arrest.

Although he defended Reese during and after his criminal conviction, there is no evidence that Fr. McCarthy faces sanctions by the diocese of Indianapolis or by the Ordinariate for his response. Parishioners on social media referred to McCarthy as a good and holy priest and called him a hero.

What has the Ordinariate learned?

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.

If an Anglican priest wants to join the Ordinariate, it’s not clear whether the Catholic Church does its own vetting process, or if it relies on the vetting the Anglican Church has already done. Because there is a dire need for priests, and perhaps as a courtesy to the Anglican Church, the Church may be tempted to hurry through the process. 

According to court documents we obtained, Reese’s wife asserts that, before he was ordained in the Ordinariate, “he has been ousted from three different churches due to his behavior.”

According to those document, “Ms. Reese reported [to the court that] Mr. Reese holds white supremacist and misogynous attitudes and that he is racist … Ms. Reese submitted letters from other individuals who supported these concerns about Mr. Reese’s character, beliefs and temper.”

I asked the spokesman for the Ordinariate whether the Ordinariate vets or screens candidates for the Catholic priesthood who have already been through the Anglican seminary, or whether it relies on the Anglican Church’s vetting process. 

I asked whether, in order to avoid future debacles like the Reese one, the Ordinariate will change its standards or process.

No one from Ordinariate responded. 

 

***

Our previous coverage of this story:

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

Will Holy Rosary be reconsecrated after desecration by Fr. Luke Reese?

Bishop Lopes’ statement on abuse fails to mention Luke Reese

No jail for Luke Reese after wife beating conviction

Luke Reese, married priest, convicted of beating his wife

Indianapolis priest charged with beating wife inside church

****
Image: Mug shot of Luke Reese courtesy of Fox 59 News; Coat of Arms of the Personal Ordinariate of the Seal of St. Peter via Wikipedia Alekjds [CC BY 1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)]

Br. André Marie regrets tone in speech that called Jews “seed of the devil”

Louis Villarubia says he’s not an anti-semite.

The self-styled religious brother, who calls himself Brother André Marie, is listed as prior of the St. Benedict Center in Richmond, NH, which was recently put under strict sanctions by the diocese of Manchester and can no longer call itself a Catholic organization.

But now Villarubia’s a featured speaker at the upcoming first annual Chivalry Conference along with three prominent Catholics, including the scholar and author Joseph Pearce, radio personality Mike Church, and author C.G. Dilsaver. The conference, which is sponsored by Church’s Crusade Channel and The Latin Mass Society of Central New Jersey, will address the matter of “Raising Chivalrous Young Men In An Increasingly Decadent Society.”

Villarubia and the St. Benedict Center have been dogged by accusations of anti-semitism since its foundation; but Villarubia said in a recent statement on the Center’s website that the allegations are “a vicious and unfounded calumny.” He offered a “categorical rejection of the label, ‘anti-Semite'” and called the claim “purely manufactured.”

“Conversion to Jesus Christ and His true Church is our message to Jew and Gentile alike. Where is the hate there? It is purely manufactured,” Villarubia wrote. 

But in a 1998 speech at the St. Benedict Center, Villarubia said that Jews are the “worst enemy of the Church;” that God has turned his back on the Jews; that the Catholic Church is at war with the Synagogue; that the Jewish people side with the “seed of the Devil;” He spoke of the Jews’ “avarice, treachery and usury” as symptoms of their “supernatural sickness” and said Jews are like Cain and desire to overtake and usurp the Church, and that they’re responsible for the “loss of countless souls.” He referred to the late Cardinal O’Connor as a “Jew lover” who “defended the gospel of the Holocaust wherever he goes;” and said “The Jew is not my brother.” He concluded his speech: “We of St. Benedict Center must also hold a strong position against the Jews, or we would not be true to our foundation.”

I asked Villarubia on Monday if he rejects the statements he made in that speech. He answered, “I definitely reject any suggestion that a majority of the Jewish people are hostile to the Faith, and regret the tone of speech and some of the unkind expressions I used in it. We want to evangelize people, after all, not drive them away.”

The speech, which is excerpted extensively at the end of this article, was removed from the organization’s website around 2009 at the request of then-bishop John McCormack. After members of the group signed a letter renouncing anti-semitism and signaling their intention to come into compliance, the diocese then allowed the Center to bring a priest in good standing in from another diocese onto the premises to offer the sacraments. 

One of the priests they brought in was Fr. Rudolf Grega, a Canadian priest who, according to brotherandre.weebly.com was accused of having been dismissed from the FSSP for “failing to observe clerical celibacy.”

The St. Benedict Center has also been investigated by the FBI for allegedly holding a woman against her will, an accusation Villarubia has denied.

The Center, located in a remote, rural setting, houses a number of religious men and women who, according to the site, belong to the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an order which is not recognized by the Church. It also attracts lay people and includes a school, a summer camp, and a printing press. The Center promotes their interpretation of the teaching “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” (no salvation outside the Church) as a major feature of its mission, which it makes a point of calling a “Crusade.”

Even after the Slaves signed letters of obedience in 2009, the Center continued to teach and promote an erroneously harsh and narrow interpretation of the teaching that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, explicitly contradicting Church teaching; and to persist in presenting themselves as an independent Catholic organization, leading the diocese to impose new sanctions in 2019. According to the Diocese of Manchester

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, in April 2016 and again in October 2016, declared ‘unacceptable,’ therefore erroneous and contrary to Church teachings, the manner with which the Saint Benedict Center and the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary interpret the principle “extra ecclesiam nulla salus,” (outside the Church there is no salvation.) Rome pronounced the matter closed, thus no longer open to dialogue or debate.”

The diocese said the organization and its school can no longer call themselves “Catholic,” and Catholics may no longer receive the sacraments there.

As of April 28, 2019, the St. Benedict Center’s website (which is called catholicism.org) continues to claim: 

“Our congregation is a de facto private association of the faithful (in accord with canon 299 §1). We have a priest in residence offering Holy Mass and hearing confessions with the requisite faculties from the Bishop of Manchester, New Hampshire.” [boldface is in orginal]

They claim on their site to be a congregation of religious brother and sisters as well as a third order lay organization; but the Diocese of Manchester said:

“The individuals who work and reside at Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, NH, are men and women who have chosen to live in community having adopted and following their own set of rules. Neither Saint Benedict Center, the Immaculate Heart of Mary School, nor the self-referenced “Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” enjoy any recognition, canonical or otherwise, in the Universal Roman Catholic Church or in the Diocese of Manchester.”

The diocese has given the Center until the end of June to come into compliance with Church teaching. I asked Villarubia if the Center intends to comply. He responded,

“As canonical litigation against the precept is currently pending before the Holy See, I cannot answer your question at this time. We pray for the Bishop of Manchester, that he may come to see just how this community of truly Catholic daughters and sons of the Church have been and continue to be wronged by the precept’s false assertions of fact presupposing its issuance.”

According to the diocese, Bishop Libasci “[i]n his pastoral care for the souls of those who work, live at, or reside near the Saint Benedict Center” has arranged for a weekly celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass in nearby Winchester, NH.

The Catholic Herald UK recently noted:

Certain Catholics will write off the CDF’s sanctions as mere anti-traditionalist animus . . .[but] The CDF (or at least Manchester) is taking great pains to make clear that this dispute is about the dogma of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus and not about the status of traditionalists in the Church more broadly. Bishop Libasci himself is considered broadly conservative and has made generous provisions for the traditionalist Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) to operate within the diocese.

The group has been in Richmond since the mid 80’s, and they operate the St. Benedict Center, a school, and a summer camp, a priory and convent, as well as publications, a radio show, and websites. They are an offshoot of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart and St. Benedict Center in Still River, MA, which was founded in 1940; but they are no longer affiliated with each other.

Following a series of lawsuits which were decided against Br. Francis Maluf, co-founder of the Slaves, the Still River group cut ties with the Richmond group, and the Still River group has since been recognized by the Church as being obedient to their bishop. The Still River group is the topic of a new memoir, Little Sister, by Patricia Walsh Chadwick, who was raised by the group’s leaders and alleges that the insular religious community was abusive and violent, separating parents from children and splitting up marriages in the name of sanctification.

Fr. Leonard Feeney, who founded the original St. Benedict Center, was excommunicated in 1953 after he persisted in teaching that no one can be saved if they are not baptized Catholic; but he reportedly recited the Athanasian Creed on his deathbed and so is widely acknowledged to have died within the mercy of the Church. Even the ultra-traditionalist SSPX (Society of St. Pius X) acknowledges Feeney to have been in error on the matter of “extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Feeney is lauded on the Richmond St. Benedict site, and they are among his followers who deny that he repented of his heretical beliefs. The Richmond group is one of the most radical splinter groups to form from the original Fenneyites.

When I asked Villarubia how he came to regret the “tone of speech” and “unkind expressions” in his 1998 speech, he responded,

“Prayer and experience. In the time since I gave that speech, I have learned that a charitable approach toward those who do not accept our Faith is the best witness; it is the witness of the saints. If we are going to work for the evangelization of America, we must act out of love of God and love of neighbor. Our neighbor must see the Charity of Jesus Christ in us or we fail in our apostolate.”

In 1958, Feeney wrote that “the Jewish race constitutes a united anti-Christian bloc within Christian society, and is working for the overthrow of that society by every means at its disposal.” 

I asked Villarubia if he rejects this statement by Fr. Feeney. He did not respond. 

Joseph Pearce, one of the other speakers at the upcoming Chivalry Conference that will host Villarubia, said, “I hate and despise antisemitism and Neo-naziism; but I do have sympathy with the views of Voltaire: I may despise what you say, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it.”

Pearce said that he was not familiar with Villarubia, but that as a former neo-Nazi himself who has publicly repented, he doesn’t believe in isolating extremists.
 

“One reason I’m happy to speak anywhere is in order to have what I hope is a positive impact, to draw people toward authentic Catholicism, whether they’re a ‘mad, bad trad’ or a liberal extremist. I’m hoping being out there, speaking and writing, will have a positive impact to bring them closer to reconciliation,” he said. 

The other two speakers are C. J. Dilsaver, developer of psychomoralitics and author of The Three Marks of Manhood: How to be Priest, Prophet and King of Your Family and Celebrating God-Given Gender; and Mike Church, an independent radio host whose Sirius XM show was cancelled in 2015, allegedly for being too Catholic. Church then launched the Crusade Channel, which is sponsoring the conference with the Latin Mass Society of Central New Jersey. Church did not respond to requests for comment.

Here are excerpts from the speech delivered by Louis Villarubia, a.k.a. Brother André Marie, in 1998. 

***

What are we to say of the Jews?  It is horrible to say, but true: Both physically and spiritually the Son of God turned his back to proud Jerusalem and to its stiff-necked inhabitants.

[T]he Synagogue — the Church of the Old Testament — was replaced by the Catholic Church and the mystical war between the two — a war which will not end until the consummation of the world — was begun. 

… history is the story of the war between the seed of Mary and the seed of the devil. Upon their rejection of Christ, the Jews took sides in this war, and became the chief society of men forming the “children and slaves of the devil” . . . From the crucifixion on, the once chosen nation became the worst enemy of the Church — and will be until its prophesied conversion.

“This, in essence, is the ‘Jewish Problem'”: They are the anti-Christ people whose damnable nationalism and anti-messianic naturalism oppose the supernatural supranational aims of Christ and His Church. The avarice of the Jews, their refusal to assimilate into nations they inhabit, their usury and treachery are only symptoms of their greatest sickness; and although these traits are obvious to observers throughout all history, they are only naturally observable results of a problem properly viewed from a supernatural, that is, a Catholic, perspective. 

By way of Jewish takeovers, there is only one thing that could be worse than the usurpation of the Holy Land, the earthly Jerusalem and that is a Jewish takeover of the New Jerusalem, the new Zion: the Catholic Church . . .and like Cain before him, the old Jerusalem seeks to kill the one whose sacrifice was accepted, while his own was rejected. While a Jewish defeat of the Church is impossible, the corroding effect they have on the Mystical Body will be measured in the loss of countless souls. 

Richard Cardinal Cushing … insisted the Jews be absolved of the crime of deicide. Cushing had earned his reputation as a Jew lover years before, when he persecuted Father Feeney and accused him of anti-Semitism. “If i don’t see you in heaven when I get there, ” said the Cardinal to a group of Jews, “I’ll know that you haven’t died yet.” … [a]t the time of the Council, Bishops who were considered conservative had a hard time with an ecumenical Council’s promotion of the Jewish cause. Today, however, even supposed conservatives are Jew lovers. 

Lately, his Eminence [Cardinal O’Connor] has been defending the gospel of the holocaust wherever he goes.

When Cardinal O’Connor recently stated that the Catholic Church was not meant to replace Judaism, he justified his heresy by saying, “That’s what the Pope says and I work for the Pope.” Would that this were not true. On April 13, 1986, the Holy Father entered into the Synagogue of Rome where he and Chief Rabbi, Elio Toaff, addressed the assembled congregation. Part of the Pope’s message was this: “[T]he Church of Christ, in examining its own mystery, discovered its bond with Judaism. The Jewish religion is not extrinsic to us, but in a certain way is intrinsic to our religion… You are our favorite brothers and in some ways, one could say, our elder brothers.” This scandalous speech has been the source of all this talk of the Jews being our “elder brothers in the Faith.”

… 

To talk of the Jews as our brothers is to deny the supernatural order established by God. … The Jew is not my brother. I have God as my Father and Mary Immaculate as my Mother. This is true, because by faith and Baptism I am a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, and He is the only Begotten. He is the seed of Abraham to whom the promise was made, and we Catholics are the heirs of that promise because of our union with jesus. As for the Jews, our Lord Himself told them that they did NOT have Abraham for their Father, but the devil. Abraham is my father, not the father of any Talmudic Jew. 

Which is why the problem of the Jews is a serious problem . . . The Catholic Church has always had a strong position on the Jewish question and will again when she regains her vigor. As adherents of tradition, we of St. Benedict Center must also hold a strong position against the Jews, or we would not be true to our foundation. 

***

Photo of Louis Villarubia, aka Br. André Marie, at a recent town meeting in Richmond, NH; courtesy Damien Fisher

UPDATED: Ave Maria prof’s pattern of alleged sexual slander exposed

Updated Oct. 6, 2018:

We have taken down our article about Raiger and Ave Maria for now. We do not think the threat, below, has legal merit, but because it is a Saturday afternoon and we are currently at the beach celebrating our 21st anniversary and do not need this horseshit, we will return to this issue after we have had time to consider our legal options.

If you value the work that independent writers do, please consider supporting us through Patreon. Thank you!

Here’s the letter we received today from Ricardo Reyes on behalf of Ave Maria University:

Simcha Fisher and Damien Fisher:

Please be advised that that our law firm represent Ave Maria University, Inc. (“University”).  This correspondence is addressed to you as operators of the blog located at www.simchafisher.com and as the authors of the libelous article published on the blog entitled “Ave Maria prof’s pattern of sexual slander exposed”.  Demand is hereby made that the entire article be retracted and removed from the internet, and that you cease and desist from publishing any further libelous remarks.

While the article contains the self-serving claim that Michael Raiger did not “cooperate with the story”, it is obvious someone acting on Raiger’s behalf provided his prior statements to you, and the article is intended to disparage the University during the pending litigation.   Also, the reference to “sexual slander” is an irresponsible and outrageous attempt to sensationalize Raiger’s false claims.   We understand that Mrs. Raiger’s have been in communication with defrocked former priest Mark Gruber (a person known to have made similar assertions when accused of possessing child pornography) as part of their continued confrontation against the University.  We intend to investigate Gruber’s involvement in the publication of this libelous article.

In the article, you have republished several defamatory remarks made by Raiger against the University and professor Travis Curtright.  Even more troubling is that you have published a number of false claims as fact, beyond the quotes attributed to Raiger.  For example, your assertion that the University’s counsel acknowledged the claims against Curtright is false and a complete fabrication on your part.  As you are aware, Raiger’s allegations against professor Curtwright were never proven or corroborated (even though, under Florida law, to suggest someone may or may not be homosexual does not constitute slander).  By publishing Raiger’s false claims as your own factual statements, you are liable for defamation per se.

It is evident that you seek to assist Raiger in tortuously interfering with the University’s affairs.  Raiger’s false claims against Curtwright are part of a continuing effort to injure the University’s reputation because of Raiger’s long standing opposition to the University’s administration, in particular, President Jim Towey.  If you had actually undertaken any investigation, you would have discovered not only that Raiger’s self-serving claims against Curtright were never substantiated, but also that the professor who Raiger was supposedly protecting admitted to having inaccurate information on his CV, and had allowed a male student who stayed at his home to grade his exams.  Also, you would have learned that Raiger engaged in a series of overt acts of insubordination designed to undermine the administration before his employment ended with the University.    Moreover, the debt secured by the mortgage on Raiger’s home matured upon the termination of his employment and is properly due to the University.  There was no retaliation against him.  By omitting these facts from the article, and juxtaposing facts to create false impressions, you are also liable for defamation by implication.

Accordingly, if you fail to retract the libelous article or refuse to cease and desist from further conduct, will proceed to bring legal action against you for libel and tortious interference.  If such an action is brought, you may be liable for compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief.

GOVERN YOURSELVES ACCORDINGLY.

 

Ricardo A. Reyes

225 N.E. Mizner Boulevard

Mizner Park Office Tower, Suite 510

Boca Raton, Florida 33432

561 620 0656 office

561 620 0657 fax

561-416-1442 direct

561-716-6434 cell

 

 

 

Bp. Lopes’ statement on abuse fails to mention Fr. Reese – UPDATED

Now that Ordinariate priest Fr. Luke Reese has been sentenced for brutally beating his wife, his superior, Ordinariate Bishop Steven Lopes, has issued a letter to Ordinariate members, saying “there is no room in the priesthood” for abusive or violent priests, whether they are married or unmarried.

Lopes is the latest of many American bishops to issue a statement condemning priestly abuse and pledging a rigorous response to accusations against clergy. But questions remain about how the Reese case was handled and whether the Church will truly be more transparent about criminals among the clergy in the future.

The letter, which does not appear on the Ordinariate website, does not mention Fr. Reese by name. It includes this passage (full letter at the end of this article):

[T]here is no room in the priesthood for a man who abuses a child. In our particular context of the Ordinariate with both celibate and married clergy, I would add that there is no room in the priesthood for a man who commits an act of violence—physical, psychological, or sexual—against his own wife or children. And there is no room among those who call themselves Shepherds and Pastors for a man who would cover-up an instance of abuse.

In a February interview, canon lawyer Peter Vere said, “It is not unusual … for Catholic ecclesiastical authorities to hold off canonical action until criminal charges by civil authorities are resolved.”

Because the office of the Ordinariate, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and Holy Rosary parish have all continued to refuse to answer our calls, we still do not know any details about Fr. Reese’s status, and we cannot confirm that he will be permanently barred from serving as a priest.

Who is actually in charge of Ordinariate priests?

Bishop Lopes said in his letter that “there is no room in the priesthood for a man who commits an act of violence—physical, psychological, or sexual—against his own wife.”

But according to court documents, Holy Rosary pastor Fr. C. Ryan McCarthy allegedly saw the swollen and bloodied face of Fr. Reese’s wife, but responded by granting Fr. Reese “leave” for a time, and then announced his intention to welcome Reese back to serve at the parish at some later date.

Reese’s name was not removed from the parish directory until after we broke the story of his arrest, and it was after the arrest that Fr. McCarthy announced in the church bulletin that Reese’s “leave” would last “at least a few months.” He admonished the parishioners, “mind your own business,” and said, “I am very grateful for Father Reese’s service to our parish. He will be greatly missed during this leave.”

McCarthy’s outrageously inadequate response to Reese’s crimes are all too familiar in light of the Grand Jury report from Pennsylvania, where countless abusive priests were accommodated and returned to service, and the parishioners were kept in the dark about the crimes they committed.

Recent Holy Rosary bulletins make no mention of Fr. Reese’s arrest, conviction, or sentencing, and parishioners say there have been no announcements about him at Mass. Holy Rosary did offer Mass in commemoration of Fr. Reese’s ordination anniversary on June 29, the same day he was convicted.

Will the Ordinariate learn from the Fr. Reese debacle?

In the case of the Ordinariate, which is based in Houston, is there sufficient oversight of priests ordained under the Ordinariate and then sent out to serve in remote parishes? Is Bishop Lopes depending on priests like Fr. McCarthy to discern whether priests like Fr. Reese are fit to serve? Based on Fr. McCarthy’s handling of the Reese case, what would likely happen if a parishioner went to Fr. McCarthy to report that some other priest was abusive?

In his letter, Bishop Lopes said:

I continue to receive letters from Anglican clergy seeking to join us. I have heard from three new communities this summer trying to form Ordinariate parishes. We have admitted 3 new seminarians, young men of faith and integrity who desire to leave all to follow in the way of the Lord.

Are these seminarians and Anglican clergy being vetted more closely, in light of the Fr. Reese debacle? Before Fr. Reese was ordained in the Ordinariate, were there red flags about his temperament and history? Was his ordination hurried through because the Catholic Church desperately needs more priests? Does the Ordinariate intend to revisit its vetting process before it welcome more formerly-Anglican priests into the Catholic priesthood?

Also troubling: Why was the local media silent about a sensational story of a criminally abusive priest? Not a single news outlet covered it until after we broke the story. One news outlet told us that they were following the story but had chosen not to cover it. Why? Under whose direction?

In his letter, Bishop Lopes said, “I am confident in the policies and procedures in place ensuring that our Ordinariate is a safe environment for all of our children.” The American laity is less confident.

UPDATE August 23:  According to the IndyStar:

Reese will not return to service in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Greg Otolski, spokesman for the Archdiocese, told IndyStar, but it is up to the Ordinariate to make the final decision regarding further discipline.

In a statement provided to IndyStar on Thursday, the Ordinariate said steps are being taken to change Reese’s status as a priest. The final decision will be made by the Holy See in Vatican City.

The letter from Bishop Lopes was posted Tuesday evening on the Blessed John Henry Newman church Facebook page. The entire letter is as follows:

Dear Faithful of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter,

This has been a difficult few weeks for the Catholic Church in North America. We have seen reports of episcopal negligence and malfeasance in the face of clerical sexual abuse, coupled with some reports of bishops themselves guilty of sexual predation. The report of the Grand Jury in Pennsylvania has reopened old wounds and inflicted new ones on victims, their families, the Catholic faithful at large, and indeed, the larger society.

There have been many statements and commentary about all of this, and I do not wish just to add to the multiplicity of words. I would simply echo the words of the great Saint John Paul II: there is no room in the priesthood for a man who abuses a child. In our particular context of the Ordinariate with both celibate and married clergy, I would add that there is no room in the priesthood for a man who commits an act of violence—physical, psychological, or sexual—against his own wife or children. And there is no room among those who call themselves Shepherds and Pastors for a man who would cover-up an instance of abuse.

I am confident in the policies and procedures in place ensuring that our Ordinariate is a safe environment for all of our children. All of these are publicly available on our website and they will be followed and enforced at every level. But policies do not bring about holiness, and isn’t that what we all so deeply desire? A Church that lives the faith once delivered to the Saints in integrity and in good conscience? Holiness is something that ultimately comes from God, so it is something for which we should pray and labor:
Pray for the victims of sexual abuse by clergy, so that the peace of God beyond all understanding may heal their hearts and minds in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Pray for priests, that they may live their lives in integrity of heart, faithful to the vows of their ordination. Pray the Prayer of St. Michael daily, especially for priests! The Devil is never happier then when he corrupts a servant of God.
Join with me in setting aside 30 minutes of prayer before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to pray in reparation for the sins committed by clergy and faithful alike, sins which have disfigured the Body of Christ and caused many to turn away.
Find some way to express Christian charity to your neighbor. Sin repels, but authentic love attracts and transforms.
September 21 is Ember Friday after Holy Cross Day. As your Bishop, I will offer that day in particular penance for the sins of bishops. I invite you to pray with me and offer some act of penance that day for the renewal of the Church.

The sins we have read about in these weeks have filled us with shame and with righteous anger. But one thing we should not feel is afraid. The Evil One thrives in darkness, so the bright light of truth, through painful in this moment, is purifying.

Our Ordinariate exists because men and women of great faith placed everything on the line for the adventure of truth and Catholic communion. Even in the midst of these trials, I see that the joy of fidelity still draws people to Christ. I continue to receive letters from Anglican clergy seeking to join us. I have heard from three new communities this summer trying to form Ordinariate parishes. We have admitted 3 new seminarians, young men of faith and integrity who desire to leave all to follow in the way of the Lord. May our fidelity then be our most eloquent response to the current crisis in the Church. For the one in whom we trust is the Lord! And he is risen from the dead!

Your servant in Christ,

+Steven J. Lopes

***
Image of Bishop Lopes is a still from a YouTube video of a homily in 2016

No jail for Fr. Luke Reese after wife-beating conviction

Luke Reese, the first married Catholic priest in the archdiocese of Indianapolis, was sentenced on Friday to three years of home confinement with electronic monitoring. Two years of his sentence were suspended, and he will be on probation for one year for assaulting his estranged wife, Gina.

Reese, 48, was found guilty by a jury in the Marion County Superior Court on one felony count of criminal confinement with bodily injury, and misdemeanor counts of domestic battery, and battery resulting in bodily injury, according to public court records. The jury found him not guilty on felony charges of kidnapping where a vehicle is used and criminal confinement where a vehicle is used.

Reese must receive mental health evaluation and treatment, and he must complete 26 months of domestic violence counseling, according to court documents. The court also ordered Reese to pay $206.05 in restitution to his estranged wife.

The alleged crimes took place on September 24 of 2017. The pastor of Holy Rosary church, where Reese was Parochial Vicar, allegedly saw Reese’s wife’s swollen and bloodied face after what she described as an 18-hour ordeal, which Gina Reese told police included physical and sexual assault, intimidation, and threatening, some of which she said occurred before the altar of the church.

Reese was put on administrative leave on September 27, and he was arrested in February of 2018. His name was not removed from the parish staff directory until after we broke the story on February 27. Some parishioners of Holy Rosary continue to defend Reese online, saying that his wife brought the beating on herself.

Reese is a married Anglican priest who entered the Catholic Church through the Personal Ordinariate established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. Reese and his estranged wife had been married for 25 years and have seven children.  Reese filed for divorce from his wife on December 19 0f 2017, and has since complained online that he misses his children.

On July 30, Gina Reese created a YouCaring fundraiser to solicit tuition fees for their son Edmund, who has multiple special needs and who Gina Reese says was bullied in public school. The fundraiser says:

I am currently in the middle of a very difficult divorce, having been a victim – make that survivor – of domestic violence.  Edmund’s father is paying nothing to support him and his five brothers and sisters who still live at home with me.

Reese, who was Parochial Vicar at Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis, was suspended from his duties at Holy Rosary in Indianapolis. It is unclear whether he continued to receive a salary from Holy Rosary or from the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which is the equivalent of a diocese and which has direct authority over Ordinariate priests like Reese. The Ordinariate, Bishop Lopes’ office, and Indianapolis Diocese have refused to respond to our numerous requests for comment.

Attorney Mary Panzi, who is representing Gina Reese in the divorce case, said in February: “I am truly trying to distance myself and my client from the Catholic Church and those who are beholden to their faith, as I believe that they will do anything within their power to silence this matter,” linking the initial media silence on the Reese case to a larger pattern in the Catholic Church of covering up scandalous behavior by priests.

For more information on the larger implications of the Luke Reese scandal, especially as it pertains to how Catholic priests are vetted before they are ordained, see Why the Fr. Luke Reese scandal is everybody’s business.

***

Related: Will Holy Rosary be reconsecrated after desecration by Fr. Luke Reese?

Mug shot of Luke Reese courtesy of Fox59 News; photo of Holy Rosary Church courtesy of Joe Grabowski.

Luke Reese, married priest, convicted of beating his wife

Luke Reese, the first married Catholic priest in the archdiocese of Indianapolis, was found guilty Friday of one felony and two misdemeanor charges connected to allegations he beat his wife in a jealous rage.

The jury in the Marion County Superior Court found Reese guilty of one count of criminal confinement with bodily injury, one count of domestic battery, and one count of battery resulting in bodily injury, according to public court records. The jury found him not guilty on charges of kidnapping where a vehicle is used and criminal confinement where a vehicle is used.

Jenny Faber, the media representative for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in Houston, Texas, where Reese’s bishop presides, did not respond to requests for comment Saturday night; nor did Greg Otolski, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

We broke this story in February, describing the Sept. 24 incident in which Reese allegedly beat his wife inside his church, and then sexually assaulted her over the course of an 18-hour ordeal.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Reese’s superiors at Holy Rosary knew before the assault occurred that he reportedly provided alcohol to minors, got intoxicated with minors, and shared white supremacist material with young people. 

Reese was a married Anglican priest who entered the Catholic Church and was ordained a Catholic priest in 2016 through the Personal Ordinariate, established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. Reese and his wife have been married for 25 years and have seven children.


Reese was convicted on June 29, the same day his parish, Holy Rosary in Indianapolis, celebrated a Mass to commemorate his ordination anniversary.

Here, Canonist Peter Vere explains why a desecration of the altar such as the one alleged in the affidavit would require a reconsecration of the church.

 

Here, we detail the larger implications of the Reese scandal for the Ordinariate.

Reese will be sentenced in court on July 23.We will continue to follow this story as information becomes available.

 CORRECTION July 2, 7:00 PM Eastern: We erroneously stated that Reese was convicted of three felonies. In fact, domestic battery and battery with bodily injury are misdemeanor charges. Criminal confinement is a felony.

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

Lawsuit alleges cover-up of “scandalous acts” at Ave Maria

By DAMIEN FISHER

NAPLES, FLORIDA —A well-regarded former professor at Ave Maria University claims he was fired for reporting a colleague’s “scandalous” acts to school authorities.

Michael Raiger filed a lawsuit Monday in the Collier County Circuit Court alleging, among other things, that the university and President James Towey violated his contract because he reported the actions of Professor Travis Curtright to school officials, including Towey and the school’s legal counsel. Raiger says school officials directed him to cover up the matter. Curtright is currently chair of the humanities and liberal studies at the university.

Raiger’s attorney, Herbert Zischkau, declined to comment when reached on Wednesday. Towey and Curtright have not yet returned messages.

According to the lawsuit, Raiger was first hired as a full-time teacher in 2009, serving as an assistant literature professor. He consistently received positive job performance reviews, and his initial rolling three-year contract was renewed in 2012. But soon after the start of the 2012 school year, Raiger fell afoul of the Ave Maria administration.

“[Raiger’s] conscientious services as an AMU Faculty Member included the reporting of seriously disruptive, scandalous, and disreputable behavior (the ‘Curtright acts’) by another faculty member, Travis Curtright, that was brought to [Raiger’s] attention on or about October 12, 2012,” the lawsuit states.

Raiger reports he went through the proper chain of command to report the “Curtright acts,” first speaking to Dean Michael Dauphinais, then going directly to Towey and to more than one of his representatives. The lawsuit contends that the “Curtright acts” were of such a “scandalous nature” that Raiger wanted to make sure Towey and others knew of them in order to protect the school.

“Given the seriousness of the legal repercussions to his employer, AMU, that could result if remedial action was deferred, [Raiger] also reported the Curtright acts to the appropriate legal officer of AMU, University Counsel, William Kirk, Esq,” the lawsuit states.

The exact nature of the “Curtright acts” are not yet public, but are expected to become part of the discovery process, and will then be public record as the court case moves forward.

In an early December meeting, Dauphinais and Kirk told Raiger to report what he knew about Curtright to the Faculty Evaluation Committee. However, in late December, that plan changed. Raiger was reportedly told not to speak with the committee. Instead, an ad-hoc committee of three people, who are unnamed in the lawsuit, was formed in March to investigate Curtright.

That committee performed an investigation, and then issued a report. Raiger’s lawsuit states that the committee did not give him a copy of the report.

Raiger’s lawsuit states that university officials told him the “Curtright acts” were to be covered up and never mentioned again. Raiger claims Curtright was never disciplined.

In 2015, Raiger met with Towey and new Dean Seana Sugrue. During the meeting, Towey threatened to take Raiger’s benefits away, in part because he reported the “Curtright acts,” according to the lawsuit. Towey was also allegedly angry about comments Raiger’s wife had made and about the behavior of Raigers’s children on campus. Towey also blocked Raiger’s contractually agreed-upon promotion to associate professor, according to the lawsuit. Towey suggested to Raiger that he might ban spouses from speaking about matters pertaining to the university.

The Raigers have eleven children.

At the time, Raiger was working under a three-year rolling contract that ran through to the end of 2017. According to the lawsuit, after he raised concerns to Sugrue about Towey’s threats, Sugrue told Raiger that his benefits would be protected if he signed a new, one-year contract for the 2016/2017 academic year. Sugrue told Raiger that under this contract, his employment would automatically renew through to the end of the 2017/2018 academic year, as long as the school did not notify him otherwise by Nov. 1 of 2016. Raiger received no such notice that November, but the school told him in May of 2017 that he would not becoming back — a violation of the new, one-year contract he had been induced to sign.

Towey served in the George W. Bush administration as the director of the Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. He also served as president of St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Towey resigned from St. Vincent in 2009, a year before his contract there ended. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Towey’s tenure at St. Vincent was at times tumultuous.

In early 2008, 32 members of the faculty co-signed a confidential letter to the school’s board of directors, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, claiming that Towey’s actions as president were creating “an unparalleled crisis.”

The letter accused Towey of sanitizing St. Vincent’s self-study portion of the re-accreditation effort, and of using controlling tactics in the search for an academic vice president, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The letter claimed Towey had damaged the school’s academic integrity.

“The faculty at St. Vincent is gravely concerned about the current president’s systematic and pervasive disregard for collegiality and shared governance,” the letter states.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does note Towey raised large sums of money for St. Vincent.

According to the online docket, the school has yet to respond to Raiger’s lawsuit.

 ___
Image of President Towey from Ave Maria University

Will Holy Rosary be reconsecrated after desecration by Fr. Luke Reese?

Fr. Luke Reese, Parochial Vicar of Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis, dragged his wife through a violent, 18-hour ordeal in October, beating, choking and slapping her, throwing her against walls, kidnapping and sexually assaulting her, according to court records. The assaults reportedly occurred in his car, en route to her grandmother’s house, and in their home.

He also forced his wife to come inside Holy Rosary Church, and he assaulted her before the altar, his wife told police.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed in court: Still wearing clerical garb, Fr. Reese made his wife to kneel before the altar, hitting her in the face, pulling her hair, and putting his hands around her neck, and threatening to choke her as he demanded the password to her cell phone. He then threw her into a wall in the church before forcing her out of the building and back into his car. He then continued to physically and sexually assault her for another several hours.

Mugshot of Luke Reese courtesy of Fox59 News

Fr. Reese has been charged with several crimes, including criminal confinement with bodily injury, criminal confinement where a vehicle is used, kidnapping, domestic battery, battery resulting in bodily injury, and intimidation. He has been released on bond, and his trial is scheduled for May.

According to local paper The Indy Star,

the ordinariate said Reese has been barred from performing any public ministry since he was placed on leave.

“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 statement reads. “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.”

Reese faces jail time. But his alleged crimes leave an aftermath that is not merely a legal matter, but a spiritual and canonical one.

Fr. Reese allegedly beat, threatened, and degraded his wife while forcing her to kneel before the consecrated altar. He is a priest who offers the holy sacrifice of the Mass at that altar. Do Reese’s alleged actions inside Holy Rosary constitute desecration? Does the church need to be reconsecrated?

Canonist and author Peter Vere said in an interview Tuesday:

“Given the alleged facts that have emerged … I am not certain how one could avoid concluding that a serious violation of the church’s sacred character had taken place.”

Vere said, “Certainly the act is grave, especially coming from an ordained priest. It was perpetuated at least in part in a sacred space. And it gives rise to scandal among both Catholics and non-Catholics.”

According to Canon 1211, the local Ordinary is the one who decides whether a serious enough violation has occurred.  If he judges the acts are grave, injurious, and scandalous enough to qualify as a violation of a sacred place, the church will need to be reconsecrated.

The local Ordinary, says Vere, could be the pope, the diocesan bishop, the Vicar General, or an episcopal vicar.

On what basis does the Ordinary make his judgment? The Navarre commentary on Canon 1211 says that there are three conditions which constitute a violation of sacred space. It says:

These conditions — necessary, but not sufficient — are: 1) the act is grave and injurious; 2) it gives rise to scandal; and 3) it was perpetrated in the sacred space. In order to ascertain whether an act fulfilling these conditions gives rise to the violation of a sacred place, one must refer to the judgment of the local Ordinary, unless he himself has previously enumerated the facts that constitute a violation . . . today, the sensitivity of the faithful to the scandal that has been produced should be considered as a criterion for assessing the scope of the facts.

 

Before a church is reconsecrated, there must be reparation for the desecration.

According to Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university, “no sacred rite may be celebrated in the church” until reparation for the desecration has been carried out.

“Preaching to prepare for the penitential rite may be carried out. The people are encouraged to avail themselves of the sacrament of reconciliation, which should be celebrated in another church. To symbolize penance, the Ceremonial recommends: “The altar of the church should be stripped bare and all customary signs of joy and gladness should be put away, for example, lights flowers, and other such articles.”

Fr. McNamara says that “the Mass of reparation is the preferred mode,” and that “it is fitting that the bishop presides at the rite of reparation.” Here is a more detailed description of that rite.

Vere says it’s common for Church authorities to wait until civil authorities have completed their work. Vere said:

“Before any action is undertaken, the local Ordinary would first need to establish what happened. Right now the priest has been charged but his case has not yet gone to court. It is not unusual in Canada or the United States for Catholic ecclesiastical authorities to hold off canonical action until criminal charges by civil authorities are resolved.”

Vere said it would be unusual for reconciliation and reconsecration to take place without the inclusion of the congregation, “because liturgy is the Church’s public prayer and thus generally open to participation by the faithful,” and because the story is now public, and thus “many of the faithful have been affected.”

“Pastorally, these are the people the Church will want to reconcile by the liturgical action prescribed,” said Vere.

Fr. Ryan McCarthy, pastor of Holy Rosary Church, warned his congregation in an October 1 bulletin announcement:

Please do not ask me the details of Father Reese’s situation … If you do ask, I will politely but firmly tell you to “mind your own business.”

The current bulletin, dated February 25, makes no mention of the Fr. Reese scandal. Reese is still designated as Parochial Vicar on the front page, and his name was only removed from the parish website after our story broke. On page four is a message from Pastor McCarthy regarding the blessing of same-sex unions. McCarthy says:

All of us as human beings, whatever our strengths or weaknesses, have a right to be treated with the respect that our God-given dignity demands. We also have a right to hear the truth, whether it pleases us or not — even if it unhappily seems to complicate the unity of the Church herself.

Greg Otolski, communications director for the archdiocese, has returned none of our numerous calls, emails, and text messages. We have also received no response from the Ordinariate despite numerous requests.

 

Image: Holy Rosary Church interior, photo by Joe Grabowski.

Indianapolis priest charged with beating wife inside church

By Damien Fisher

The first married Roman Rite Catholic priest in the state of Indiana is facing prison time as he heads to trial on charges he kidnapped and assaulted his wife.

Rev. Luke W. Reese, 48, the parochial vicar at Holy Rosary parish in Indianapolis is charged with criminal confinement with bodily injury, criminal confinement where a vehicle is used, kidnapping, domestic battery, battery resulting in bodily injury, and intimidation following a Sept. 24 incident in which he allegedly beat his wife* inside his church, and then sexually assaulted her over the course of an 18-hour ordeal.

Reese is a married Anglican priest who entered the Catholic Church through the Personal Ordinariate established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. Reese and his wife have been married for 25 years and have seven children.

According to court documents, Reese’s superiors already knew that he reportedly provided alcohol to minors, got intoxicated with minors, and shared white supremacist material with young people. After seeing his wife’s bruised and swollen face, his superiors suspended him.

Reese did not respond to a request for comment. His lead criminal attorney, Jeffrey Baldwin, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Mary Panszi, the attorney representing the wife in the divorce case, declined to comment in detail about the case, which has not been reported on until now. Panszi speculated as to why the case has so far garnered no media attention.

“I think that’s because the Catholic Church is extremely powerful,” Panszi said.  

Panszi did not want to cooperate with our report, and did not want to have her client contact us, because Panszi deemed us too Catholic.

“I am truly trying to distance myself and my client from the Catholic Church and those who are beholden to their faith, as I believe that they will do anything within their power to silence this matter,” Panszi wrote.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed in the Marion County Court, on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 24, Reese, wearing clerical garb, confronted his wife while she was in the backseat of a car with another man, Jay Stanley. According to the affidavit, Stanley was engaged in a romantic relationship with the wife.

Reese angrily demanded that his wife come with him. She instead got into her own car and agreed to drive to a specific location with Reese so they could get out and talk, according to the affidavit, written by Indianapolis Police Detective Erroll Malone.

Before leaving with his wife, Reese opened the door to Stanley’s car and kicked him in the face. Stanley said Monday he’s not sure why he didn’t call police after he was assaulted and the wife went away with her angry and violent husband.

“I don’t know why. I think that I just didn’t,” Stanley said. “I didn’t think any of that other stuff would happen.”

Once the couple reached the location in their separate cars, the wife got into Reese’s car so they could talk, according to the affidavit. That’s when Reese locked the car so she could not get out, and began to drive. During the drive, Reese repeatedly assaulted his wife with “backhands” while demanding the password for her cell phone.

Reese drove to Holy Rosary church and forced his wife inside the building, according to the affidavit. He brought her to the altar, and forced her to kneel. Before the altar, he assaulted her, hitting her in the face, pulling her hair, putting his hands around her neck, and continuing to demand her password, according to the affidavit.

“(He) stated he could choke her,” the affidavit reads.

On their way out of Holy Rosary, Reese threw his wife into a wall, and then brought her back out to the car, Malone writes. There, Reese allegedly slammed his wife’s head into the car’s door frame. The wife then relented, and gave up her password. Reese started reading her texts to and from Stanley, continuing to interrogate and backhand her as he drove, according to the affidavit.

Reese drove his wife out of Indianapolis, and its “temptations,” to Auburn. He wanted his wife to explain to her 90-year-old grandmother about her relationship with Stanley, according to the affidavit.

Family members told police the wife was crying when she arrived at the house in Auburn, and her face was swollen and bruised. The wife told her grandmother she had been talking to another man.

“What in the world happened to your mouth and eye?” the grandmother asked.

“I hit her, that’s what’s wrong with her,” Reese reportedly responded.

“A priest, and you beat her?” the grandmother said.

“I could have killed her,” Reese reportedly responded.

“Well, you didn’t kill her. So do you feel like a hero now?” the grandmother asked.

That’s when Reese forced his wife back into the car and began driving home. At one point, they stopped for gas, but Reese locked and alarmed the car to keep his wife inside during the stop, according to the affidavit.

They drove back to their home, when Reese forced his wife to go to bed. A short time later, after reading texts on her phone, Reese came back into the bedroom and tore her clothes off her. He then went into her closet and began tearing up her clothes that he deemed “too slutty,” according to the affidavit.

He left her for a short time, while he reportedly downloaded the text messages between his wife and Stanley onto his computer, and she got dressed. He then came back into the bedroom, and again tore off her clothes, sexually assaulted her, and took nude photos of her that he threatened to use to shame her to people in the parish community, according to the affidavit.

“(Reese) then ordered her to lay down and he then had intercourse with her,” Malone writes. “(She) stated she did not wish to have intercourse. However, she did not say no.”

These incidents started the night of Sunday Sept. 24 and continued into Monday, Sept. 25, in what Panszi described as an 18-hour ordeal.

Sometime on Monday, Rev. Ryan McCarthy, the pastor at Holy Rosary, came to the Reese’s house and saw the wife’s injured face. We could find no record that McCarthy called police after seeing her injuries. He suggested the couple take some time apart.

“(McCarthy) recommended the couple go their separate ways for about a week,” the affidavit states.

Reese agreed to leave their house for a few days. The wife eventually went to the hospital. She reported the assault to police on Sept. 27.

According to information we have developed, McCarthy gave the wife a sum of money in excess of $1,000 and helped her set up a bank account following the Sept. 24 incident, to help her with living expenses. We have not verified the exact amount or where the money came from.

Reese was arrested soon after the report was made, and was charged with felonies. He is currently free after posting $2,495 on a $25,000 Corporate Surety bond. His trial is scheduled for May. In December, Reese filed for divorce from his wife.

Holy Rosary placed Reese on six months leave in October. The archdiocesan website says only that Reese was “granted a six-month leave of absence.”

According to the affidavit, Reese’s superiors were already aware of other issues concerning Reese. The wife told police Reese was already in “hot water” over two incidents: One in which he reportedly supplied alcohol to minors and got intoxicated with them, and another in which he shared white supremacist materials with young people. Those incidents were reported by parents to church officials, according to the affidavit.

The wife also told police that Reese had been abusive to the family for quite some time before the Sept. 24 incident.

Greg Otolski, communications director for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis declined numerous requests for comment. We also reached out to officials in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, based in Houston, Texas. Bishop Steven Lopes of Houston is Reese’s bishop. The communications director in Houston has not returned our calls.

UPDATE Feb. 27, 2018: The bulletin from Holy Rosary Church on October 1 contains “An important message about Fr. Reese” on page 4. In the message, the pastor, Fr. McCarthy, says that Fr. Freese has been granted a leave of absence. He warns parishioners that it would be a sin to speculate why Fr. Reese was gone, and says “he will be greatly missed” while he is on “leave of absence.” The message was written after Fr. McCarthy saw Reese’s wife’s facial injuries.

The entire message is as follows:

“Dear parishioners, This past Monday, Father Reese notified me that he was experiencing some personal and family issues which would require a greater amount of his attention. He let me know that he had asked for a leave of absence from Archbishop Thompson, and that he hoped it would be granted. I gave him the week off and, at the end of the week, the Archbishop informed me that he intended to grant Father Reese the leave of absence. As of the writing of this note, the length of the leave had not been fully determined, but it will be at least a few months. I expect it will extend past Christmas and into the new year. I ask that we all respect Father Reese’s and his family’s privacy to allow them to deal with these personal issues. I have made it clear to him that the parish and I will continue to pray for him and for his family during this time. Unless Father Reese happens to reach out to you, please do not interrupt this time allotted to him. Please do not ask me the details of Father Reese’s situation. As his pastor, I am privy to many of the details of his and his family’s personal life, as I am of most of my parishioners. I am not free to discuss these matters, just as I am not free to discuss your personal matters. If you do ask, 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. Quite obviously, without a second priest active at Holy Rosary, our Mass schedule and other events will be affected. Please be patient with me and the staff as we work to adjust to the current situation and attempt to accommodate, as much as possible, all of the many activities at our parish. Thank you in advance for all your prayerful support. God bless!”

*We have chosen not to use the name of Reese’s wife in this story.

Image: Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis (Public Domain)