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.
Our previous coverage of this story:
Fr. Luke Reese loses court appeal after savage beating; still calls himself priest in good standing
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; Archdiocese of Indianapolis crest via Wikipedia by Alekjds (Creative Commons)