Legionaries of Christ will publish list of credibly accused priests “soon”

By Damien and Simcha Fisher

The scandal-plagued Legion of Christ will publish a list of its own clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse. Gail Gore, spokesperson for the priestly order founded by sexual predator, morphine addict, and charlatan Marcial Maciel, said in a recent email exchange that the Legion will publish its list “soon.”

“We will be releasing our list of Legionaries who have received substantiated claims of sexual abuse soon,” Gore said. “The Legionaries of Christ are committed to creating and maintaining a safe environment for all children and all people who interact with its members and are involved in its ministries.”

Since 2002, a growing number of dioceses and religious orders in the United States publish their own lists of credibly accused clergy members, but very few include members of the Legionaries of Christ, despite lawsuits, police reports and direct victim statements that name Legion priests. 

There are, for example, no Legionaries on the credibly accused list of clergy in the Diocese of Manchester, despite at least one lawsuit alleging the sexual abuse of children, and subsequent cover-up, at a Legion school in Center Harbor, NH. Legionaries are also absent from the Dallas, Boston, New York, and Los Angeles lists.

We have obtained documents indicating that, in at least one major diocese, Legion officials quashed a police investigation of a Legion priest by lying to detectives about the wishes of the alleged victim. 

Gore has declined to comment on the actions of other dioceses, and she did not respond to questions about how soon the Legion list will be published. 

Maciel’s notorious behavior reportedly included drug addiction, fathering several children with at least three different women, and the sexual abuse of those children and others. Jason Berry of NCR has reported that Maciel took advantage of widespread corruption inside the Vatican to cover his crimes.

“For years Maciel had Legion priests dole out envelopes with cash and donate gifts to officials in the curia. In the days leading up to Christmas, Legion seminarians spent hours packaging the baskets with expensive bottles of wine, rare brandy, and cured Spanish hams that alone cost upward of $1,000 each. Priests involved in the gifts and larger cash exchanges say that in hindsight they view Maciel’s strategy as akin to an insurance policy, to protect himself should he be exposed and to position the Legion as an elite presence in the workings of the Vatican,” Berry wrote.

The Vatican’s 2010 assessment of Maciel is devastating in its frankness about Maciel’s true nature.

“The very grave and objectively immoral actions of Father Maciel, confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies, in some cases constitute real crimes and manifest a life devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning. This life was unknown to the great majority of the Legionaries, above all because of the system of relationships constructed by Father Maciel, who was able skillfully to create alibis for himself, to obtain trust, confidence and silence from those around him, and to reinforce his personal role as a charismatic founder,” the Vatican statement reads.

“Not infrequently a deplorable discrediting and distancing of those who entertained doubts as to the probity of his conduct, as well as a misguided concern to avoid damaging the good that the Legion was accomplishing, created around him a defense mechanism that for a long time rendered him unassailable, making it very difficult, as a result, to know the truth about his life.”

Edward Pentin reports that Rome knew about accusations of abuse by Maciel as early as 1943

Pope Benedict XVI barred Maciel from active ministry in 2006 after his history of pedophilia became incontrovertible, but the Legion continued to celebrate Maciel’s birthday, hang photos of him in their centers, and refer to him as “Nuestro Padre” until they formally fobade these practices in December of 2010.  Steve Skojec, who lived in and worked with Legion communities for several years, describes the spiritual manipulation inherent in the Legion’s very structure, and notes that they continued to extol Maciel and his legacy in January of 2019

According to Zenit, “[T]he norms [adopted by the Legionaries in 2010] do allow Legionaries and consecrated members of Regnum Christi to keep a photograph among their personal belongings, and to read Father Maciel’s writings or listen to his talks in private. Additionally, the writings of Father Maciel may be used when giving talks and sermons, but without citing the author.”

When asked whether Maciel’s name will be included on the upcoming list of credibly accused Legion priests, the spokesperson did not respond. 

Disgraced priest, Luke Reese, now caretaker for Church charity

By Damien Fisher 

The disgraced Roman Catholic priest Luke Reese, who was convicted of beating his wife and holding her against her will, is now living as a “caretaker” on a property listed as the headquarters for a charity under the legal control of the Archbishop of Indianapolis.

Also living on the property, according to the records we reviewed, is Sister Judith Ayers who is listed as treasurer of the charity, and who publicly defended Reese’s innocence.  The charity in question, Heart of Mercy Solitude Inc., has not filed federal tax returns in more than a decade.

Reese was an Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism with his wife and seven children, and was ordained as a Catholic priest in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in 2016. He served as Parochial Vicar of Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis. Reese’s status was somewhat ambiguous, as he served in the Indianapolis Archdiocese but was under the authority of the Ordinariate, which is based in Houston. In September of 2017, he was placed on leave after assaulting his wife. The Ordinariate bishop, Steven Lopes, then removed him from Ordinariate ministry and suspended his faculties.

Neither the Ordinariate nor the archdiocese have agreed to answer any questions about Reese’s current living situation, and both institutions have been uncooperative since we broke the news of Reese’s arrest 

We found the information about Reese’s new home as the Indianapolis Archdiocese finds itself mired in scandal over the treatment of gay teachers at Catholic high schools. The archdiocese is currently being sued by one teacher fired from an archdiocesan school, and the diocese stripped Jesuit Brebeuf Preparatory School of its official Catholic identity when the Jesuit leadership refused to fire a gay teacher at its school. The two teachers in question are married to each other.

Reese was convicted last year after a trial on a felony charge of criminal confinement with bodily injury, as well as misdemeanor charges of domestic battery and battery resulting in bodily injury, according to court records.

On the day he was convicted of beating his wife, Holy Rosary offered a Mass to commemorate the anniversary of Reese’s ordination.

Reese was sentenced to one year of house arrest, as well as probation. On June 20 Reese’s request to transfer his probation to Owen County was granted by the court in Marion County. The new address, according to the court’s order, is in the town of Spencer in Owen County. The same address Reese gives for his new home in court records is also given as the principal address for an legal entity named Heart of Mercy Solitude Inc.

Because of privacy concerns for the Reese children, we are not disclosing the address.

According to documents on file with the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office, Heart of Mercy Solitude Inc., is a charity with a sole member, the Archbishop of Indianapolis. The articles of incorporation, filed in 2009, list John Jay Mercer, the archdiocesan attorney, as incorporator, and Monsignor Joseph Schaedel as the registered agent. Schaedel’s address is given as the Archdiocesan offices of 1400 North Meridian. St. Sister Judith Ayers is listed as the treasurer. Ayers, according to the Archdiocesan magazine, “lives a life consecrated to God outside of a religious order.”

According to the articles of incorporation, the only “member” of the charity is the archbishop. The “member” is given authority to set the bylaws for the charity. While the charity is supposed to have a three-person board of directors, the “member” can designate one person to operate the charity, according to the articles of incorporation.

We do not know how the charity is set to operate, either with a board, or with one person designated by the archbishop. That is up to the archbishop. The board, or designate, control the charity using the bylaws set by the archbishop. 

Schaedel has since been replaced by Monsignor William Stumpf, and Stumpf lists the same North Meridian Street address. Stumpf did not respond to multiple requests for comment, nor did Mercer. 

Archbishop Charles Thompson was not the archbishop at the time Heart of Mercy Solitude Inc. was formed in Indiana, but when he became archbishop, he assumed the mantle of sole member under the charity’s terms of the articles of incorporation.

The documents do not give any indication as to what, exactly, Heart of Mercy Solitude Inc. does as a charitable organization, and the group has not filed a federal tax return, a 990, since 2002. That return was not immediately available. The only constant is Ayers. The principal address of the organization listed in Indiana state filings often mirror Ayers’s own address.

Ayers was listed as the treasurer of the organization when it was active in Arkansas in the 1990s. It is not clear how much money the organization collects in revenue, where that money comes from, or how it is spent. 

Heart of Mercy Solutide Inc. listed the Spencer property as the principal address for Heart of Mercy Solitude Inc. in October of 2018, according to state records. The property is described as a 30 acre property with two houses on site, one for Ayers, and one for Reese and his children when he has them for visitation, according to the notice for relocation Reese filed in court as part of his divorce case.

Reese touted the property in the relocation notice, stating that there is ample outdoor recreation, and enough space for his children to have their own living space as they get older. Reese’s filing does not disclose what he pays, if anything, for rent on the property.

“Father was offered a position as caretaker for the property which offers him access to the property’s amenities such as fishing, hiking, and gardens. The home is more affordable yet has many amenities,” his filing states.

The term “father” for Reese in the relocation notice notes his parental status and not his clerical state. However, as recently as January, Reese identified himself as a Roman Catholic priest in good standing in court records, even though his faculties have been suspended.

The owner of the Spencer property told us he is renting the property to Ayers, though he declined to disclose the monthly rent. The property is more than 50 miles from Indianapolis, where five of the children live with their mother, and where Reese works as a manager in a restaurant.

Ayers has a history of supporting Reese, and has made public statements blaming the victim for the assault, which Reese himself has also done. Using the screen name “Soli Beata,” Ayers said on this site:

“There is a lot of misinformation regarding this article. I am a member of that church… The alleged incident as reported sounds like author is a writer seeking sensationalism and being fed intentionally to garner sympathy for an adulteress.”

Ayers also said: 

“The events alleged regarding Father beating wife never happened either in church or elsewhere. The church was descecrated, by the two adulterers… But that was not covered by this article.”

Ayers’ assertions about the case are not backed up by the court records. 

Ayers did not respond to an email seeking answers about the charity and about Reese’s living situation.

Archdiocese spokesman Mike Krokos initially said he would get answers as to what Heart of Mercy Solitude Inc. actually does, and what Thompson knows about the charity and the Reese matter. Three days later, Krokos said he would not be answering questions about Heart of Mercy Solitude Inc.

Krokos does not answer our phone calls unless we block the caller ID function. 

Representatives for the Ordinariate, based in Houston, declined to comment on this new development.

Last month, A.G. Stockstill, Business Manager for the Ordinariate, which ordained Reese, stated in an email 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.

 

Did Fulton Sheen witness and cover up the sexual assault of a child?

BY DAMIEN AND SIMCHA FISHER

Did Fulton Sheen witness and cover up the sexual assault of a child?

Less than a week after Sheen’s beatification was announced,  Rebecca Bratten Weiss’ Patheos blog echoed recent chatter on Twitter, sharing text that alleges Sheen saw a priest sexually abusing a child. The text claims Sheen walked in as the abuse happened, but he merely told the priest to put his pants back on, called the victim a “slut,” and proceeded to help cover up the crime. The text alleges that the Cause for his canonization knew about the allegations and did not respond to them. 

“I knew there was something fishy about Fulton Sheen,” tweeted Mary Pezzulo, another Patheos blogger, after the documents were shared. 

We are well aware the Church has an abysmal record of abuse and cover-up. We also believe that allegations of abuse should always be taken seriously and investigated if possible. But we do not believe these allegations are credible. Here’s why.

The only reference we can find to these allegations comes from that text, which was posted on BishopAccountability.org sometime in 2007. BishopAccountability.org is an invaluable clearinghouse for documents regarding sexual abuse and cover-up in the Church, and we are grateful for its work; but it does not claim to vet or verify any documents it shares. According to the site:

“It is our goal to assemble on the Internet a collection of every publicly available document and report on the crisis …
Our standards of inclusion are broad … BishopAccountability.org makes no claim regarding the accuracy of any document we post, and we have tried to include the full range of viewpoints, so as to provide a fully documented landscape of the crisis.”

This is not a criticism of BishopAccountability.org, but merely a clarification of what they do.

The allegation against Sheen is part of a lengthy text that purports to be a lawsuit complaint prepared by New York attorney John Aretakis sometime in 2007 on behalf of former priest Robert Hoatson. Who are Hoatson and Aretakis, and what is their history?

Hoatson and Aretakis first filed a $5 million federal RICO lawsuit in December of 2005 against The New York Archdiocese, Cardinal Edward Egan, the Archdiocese of Newark, Archbishop John J. Myers, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, the Congregation of Christian Brothers, and a number of individuals. The federal complaint was amended a few weeks later. 

Neither the original December 2005 complaint nor the amended January 2006 complaint mentions Sheen at all.

In February of 2007, the RICO lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning they may not file those claims again. The court also sanctioned Aretakis and ordered him to pay $8,000 ($2,000 to each of the major defendants). 

The presiding judge, Judge Paul Crotty, had harsh words for Aretakis’ behavior and credibility when he dismissed the case, saying in his ruling: 

“Taking Mr. Aretakis’s behavior in this case as a whole, it is clear that his conduct is sanctionable because it is sloppy and unprofessional; the pleadings are so far removed from adequate that they cannot be said to have been filed in good faith or after a reasonable inquiry; the bulk of the allegations dealing with sexual abuse are wholly irrelevant to the RICO claim, and; the Title VII claim is admittedly without basis in law.”

Crotty noted in his ruling that Aretakis and Hoatson made a splash the day they filed the lawsuit, holding a high profile press conference. He also noted that Aretakis has a history of filing RICO lawsuits that get dismissed.

Crotty’s ruling did not dismiss all the legal claims Hoatson brought, allowing him to refile the lawsuit in state court. In 2007, Aretakis filed a New York State lawsuit on Hoatson’s behalf against many of the same defendants.

While we can independently verify that Aretakis did file a state lawsuit on Hoatson’s behalf, we have been unable to find a verified copy of the complaint. We do not know if the complaint text on BishopAccountability.org, where the sole public accusation against Sheen exists, is the actual complaint filed in court. It was provided to the site by writer Matt C. Abbott, who has written copiously about the abuse scandal in the Church. Abbott himself said: “It should be noted that I do not necessarily agree with every assertion/conclusion made in the complaint.” Abbott referenced the document in a column he wrote for Renew America, but the column is no longer available online

Let’s assume for the moment that the complaint that appears on BishopAccountability.org was actually filed in court. Here is the section that mentions Sheen, which is part of a long litany of allegations against several different priests:

“The plaintiff is counseling a victim of a New York Archdiocesan priest whose sexual abuse continued for over ten years. One day, while the victim was being abused in the offices of the Propagation of the Faith in New York City, Bishop Fulton Sheen walked in on the abuse, called the victim a slut, told the priest to put his pants on, and did nothing to report the incident or comfort the victim. Bishop Sheen covered-up the crime. The priest abuser remains a pastor and had a prominent role in national television coverage of the funeral of Pope John Paul II. When the plaintiff wrote to the promoter of the cause of canonization of Bishop Sheen to inform him of Bishop Sheen’s actions, his letter was ignored and went unanswered. Bishop Sheen’s sainthood is steamrolling ahead despite his cover-up of child sexual abuse, while the plaintiff continues to be harassed, retaliated against, and fired.”

There are no names, except for Sheen’s. This is not a first hand account, but claims to speak on behalf of Hoatson supposedly counseling an unnamed victim. It is hearsay, not evidence. It is precisely how one would operate if the goal were to create buzz for a potentially lucrative legal case by making accusations against a famous dead man. Judge Crotty, in his federal RICO dismissal ruling, specifically chides Aretakis for using this strategy:

“Finally, further evidence of Mr. Aretakis’s motives is the drumbeat of publicity which Mr. Aretakis has sought. The day he and his client filed this complaint, he held a press conference to announce his lawsuit. This appears to be his common practice. The immediate link between the filing of the complaint and the press conference support the inference that Mr. Aretakis’s intention was to injure. That intent is confirmed by Mr. Aretakis’s statements in which he describes himself as an activist for clergy sexual abuse victims and is quoted as intending to ‘continue to humiliate and embarrass the Church’ by bringing incidents of sexual abuse to light, even if he cannot bring them in court. This intent to humiliate and embarrass is further manifested in the amended complaint which is littered with wholly irrelevant, inflammatory, and embarrassing facts concerning defendants and non-defendants alike that have no bearing on the actions brought, such as ‘it was widely known that he [one of the defendants] was an alcoholic.”

The state lawsuit was dismissed in October of 2009, and the New York court ordered Hoatson to pay the defendants’ court costs. 

In October of 2009, a sexual abuse survivor sued Hoatson, claiming he used his position as founder of his non-profit, Road to Recovery, to extort sexual abuse settlement money from him, according to public records. The case was dismissed without prejudice, partially because the victim was seeking $10,000, while the minimum for federal lawsuits of this nature is $75,000.

Road to Recovery, an organization set up to help survivors of sexual abuse, collected  $117,907 in contributions in the last reported year, paid out more than $100,000 in management expenses, and paid another $13,000 for program expenses.  Yesterday, I erroneously stated that its tax exempt status has been revoked. It has not. I regret the error. According to the NJ Consumer Affairs, Road to Recovery is listed as “compliant” as a charity in the state.

According to public records, Aretakis’ law license suspended for one year in 2008 after he was found guilty of professional misconduct by the New York Committee on Professional Standards. Among the charges was that Aretakis made false accusations against judges, engaged in frivolous conduct, and entered into court actions meant to harass people. 

We cannot confirm independently that the accusation against Sheen is actually part of a real lawsuit. The information contained in the text which includes the allegations against Sheen appear to come solely from Hoatson’s account of what he says various sex abuse survivors told him. Hoatson was using these stories in his $5 million lawsuit.

In summary: There is no actual evidence that a crime occurred or that there is a victim, and there is no evidence that Hoatson or anyone else contacted the cause for Fulton Sheen and was ignored, as is asserted. The allegations of abuse and cover-up, and the allegations that the Cause didn’t respond, come entirely from a text that has yet to be verified, by a source and his attorney who both have significant credibility problems. 

We reached out on Friday to the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation and to Monsignor Soseman, who was delegated by Bishop Jenky to oversee the Cause, to ask if they had heard of these allegations and whether they were investigated. But the team tasked with investigating and recording information regarding a candidate for beatification are sworn to secrecy, in order to encourage people to divulge sensitive information; so we suspect the office of the Cause would not be able to tell us if an investigation had taken place, or even whether Hoatson contacted them, as he claims. If he did approach them with the same information he claims to have shared in court — that Fulton saw an unnamed priest abusing an unnamed child in an undisclosed year — it’s unclear how any investigation could proceed.

Regardless, we have not yet heard back. Since the text making allegations have been circulating, we thought it was important to follow up quickly with more information; but we will update this story if and when more information becomes available. 

We continue our call for complete transparency from the Church. Justice is not served by covering up the truth, but neither is it served by eagerly believing the worst.

UPDATE AND CORRECTION July 14, 2019 3 PM eastern:

I erroneously stated that Road to Recovery’s tax exempt status has been revoked. It has not. I regret the error.

Monsignor Soseman responded from Rome:

I do know that no such letter [as the one Hoatson says he sent] ever arrived at the office in Peoria,  nor have I ever heard of any such allegation, in any of the extensive testimonies we took.  I finished my work with the cause in 2008. Since then it has been at the Vatican. I do know that both offices of the propagation had open floorplans with very few doors. 

 

***

We will continue to update this story as necessary. 

Image: Fulton Sheen by Fred Palumbo, World Telegram staff photographer [Public domain] via Wikepedia (image cropped) 

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
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Mugshot of Luke Reese courtesy of Fox59 News