note: This letter was forwarded to me by Rev. Msgr. Michael Higgins,
J.C.D. who heads an independent canon law group dedicated to defend the
canonical rights of deacons and priests.
Phone: 619-280-7500, Fax:
Greetings - THE SAD STORY
OF A WONDERFUL PRIEST
95-370 Kuahelani Avenue,
Mililani, Hawai'i 96789-1103
Facsimile: (808) 623-3286;
Telephone: (808) 623-3332
AN OPEN LETTER TO:
Members and Interested Parties
of St. John the Apostle & Evangelist Parish.
This letter is a poor method,
but unfortunately a necessary one, by which to say "good-bye." For a year,
you have been very kind and encouraging to me. I came to this parish under
a sort of forced obedience having not been consulted by bishop, personnel
director or personnel committee and, having no alternative. I was
quite upset over a whole host of problems in church governance, management
and internal politics, problems which are real and grave although many
have differing perceptions of them. I've truly enjoyed being with
the people of this parish, but other, larger issues predominate.
Let me explain a bit.
On July 7, 1999 I resigned
from the office of Pastor of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist
Parish and from the active presbyterate of the Diocese of Honolulu,
and I've placed myself on a 'personal leave of absence" from the active
priestly ministry. I did this after thinking about it for some years.
I did it because I have arrived at the point at which I am no longer able
to keep a most important promise I solemnly made 21 years ago at my ordination:
to render 'obedience and respect" to my bishop and his successors.
I made that promise to Bishop John Scanlan and happily kept it with him
and with Bishop Joseph Ferrario. I have become over the most recent
5 years, however, completely unable to keep that solemn promise with the
current bishop. It's not simply a matter of differing opirions; it's
a matter of integrity. I am unable to respect and obey him because
my conscience doesn't allow me to cooperate in his methods.
Frankly, I am exhausted to
the core over the intensely negative relationship -that exists between
the bishop (and some of his closest staff and advisors) and me. I
am freely choosing, therefore, to depart Hawaii and to try to re-assemble
my life in a new setting. It is clear to me that this bishop does
not want a priest like me. He firmly denied me permission (in March
1998) to relocate as a priest to a diocese elsewhere yet he has boasted
to me that he has 'gotten fid of more than 25 priests.
It seems to me that he wants
priests who simply offer Mass in a routine style, who preach uncontroversial
piety or popular psychology, hear Confessions passively, answer the phone
and door, and pay the diocesan assessment (the tax on parish income).
In my experience he does not want priests who ask thoughtful and probing
questions, who expect truthful and accountable behavior, who wrestle with
the complicated challenges of life, and who behave in a principled manner.
My relationship with this bishop has forced me to re-examine everything
I understood about the meaning of priestly ministry in my life and in Hawaii.
My conclusion is that I must get out of the way. To be clear: I am not
leaving the Catholic Church; I am attempting to take a 'personal leave
of absence from active ministry.'
I thank you for being so
supportive and encouraging. I apologize for keeping you 'in the dark'
about my intentions and for such a sudden and impersonal departure.
It's not the way I would prefer. I am not impulsive or secretive
by nature; quite the contrary. But. to make such a move as I must,
from the situation in which I find myself, requires complicated planning
and I simply had not the energy to engage in months of conversation about
the present situation as would have occurred had I announced my decision
For a diocesan priest there
really is no practical appeal beyond his bishop. And, when the bishop's
staff is so completely aligned with the bishop philosophically, then that
some priest really has no advocate or trustworthy advisor in the diocesan
curial administration. He is quite alone and therefore forced to
be most private. I had never experienced church life to be this way
until this current administration.
I have spoken with the bishop
and have told him face-to-face what I think and where I stand. My
position was familiar to him already. I also told him that you at
St. John's have been extraordinarily supportive and kind, and have assisted
me in praying and thinking about the present situation, even though you
didn't know what I was considering. I wrote in my letter of resignation
about St. John's parish members: "They deserve a pastor who is an excellent
homilist, thoughtful, wise, theologically and liturgically astute, intellectually
sound and of the highest integrity. They deserve a full time
priest who is NOT shallow, silly, insecure, self absorbed, fiscally irresponsible,
rude or greedy. Please be careful which priest you appoint here.
I pray you send the best the Church has to offer." I've quoted that to
a number of good priests, as well.
This letter is made available
to you in hopes of preempting a certain negative speculation, comment,
opinion, nuance or 'spin' that some persons might well attempt to put on
my departure. I leave ONLY for the purpose of self-maintenance and
self-preservation because in conscience I am unable to "respect and obey"the
bishop. I feel that l am becoming dried up and bitter inside. L don't
want to be that way. It was at one time a privilege to be a pastor in this
diocese. It's stil la privilege to serve the people. What I
find unbearable is the necessary association with the highest levels of
diocesan administration that so often contradict the Church's very stand
on human dignity. In other words, I must make a choice between (a)
maintaining my integrity,,or (b) giving in to what I consider a very, very
destructive situation. I know that I couldn't be comfortable with
myself if I compromised at this stage. Perhaps you have been
in such a difficult dilemma. One must resolve that kind of problem
in the best way one is able; perhaps it would be different for each of
us. I'm remarkably free to choose integdty over compromise, and so
I must. I don't know what the future holds. I am a little anxious,
but I fear nothing. I hope you grow and thrive in the Gospel of Jesus
Christ. In Him alone is our hope. I've been made to seriously
examine nearly all my ideals by the present bishop, so I am unable to take
part In what I hope will be a bright future for you. There is no
reason for the Master Plan to slow down or stop; that is necessary no matter
who the pastor is. Please be brave and march forward. But,
it's clear that my presence is also an impediment for the parish in the
eyes of the bishop. In February he suddenly and without reason wrote
to me that he forbids me to spend any money on the renovation of St. John's
Church, even though I had no near-term plans to do so, and by implication,
he threatened to withdraw his "charity and cooperation" from me and the
parish. That letter and others, and meetings between me and him,
have made it clear that one of us has got to go. So as you might suspect,
my departure is necessary. I shall continue to pray for you.
If I have offended or disappointed anyone, please know that such was never
my intention. I ask your forgiveness in absentia. If you pray
for me, I know I shall be the better for it.
Most Sincerely In Christ
July 7, 1999