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

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.