Thursday, March 1, 2018

Updated OCSP Press Statement

An updated press statement from Houston appears on the Houston ABC13 Eyewitness News site:
Rev. Luke Reese, a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, was placed on administrative leave on Sept. 27, 2017, when he disclosed actions that resulted in criminal charges related to domestic violence.

Rev. Reese was assigned to St. Joseph of Arimathea Ordinariate Community in Indianapolis, Ind. In addition, Rev. Reese had an assignment at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Upon receiving information related to alleged criminal conduct on Rev. Reese's part, the Ordinariate and the Archdiocese immediately placed Rev. Reese on leave.

Since Sept. 27, he has not had any priestly duties and has been prohibited from exercising any public ministry.

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.

Rev. Reese is on administrative leave pending resolution of the case, which remains in the Indiana criminal justice system.

Out of respect for the privacies of everyone involved, the Ordinariate will not make further statements at this time. All questions regarding the investigation should be directed to the Indianapolis Police Department or Indiana Criminal Court System.

According to the Indianapois Star,
Because Reese's archbishop is in Houston, Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson cannot immediately make any official decisions regarding discipline and Reese's status within the church, according to Greg Otolski, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Otolski said he had no knowledge of any of the incidents taking place inside Holy Rosary Church. Placing Reese on leave was a decision mutually made by leadership in both Houston and Indianapolis after the allegations came to light, he said.

So two days into the news cycle, Houston's responsibility for Reese is becoming clearer, although as might be expected, Abp Thompson is still working against the INDIANAPOLIS PRIEST BEATS WIFE IN FRONT OF ALTAR headline.

This is a reflection of the issue that's been raised here repeatedly, that the territorial diocese is inevitably going to get the bad publicity from scandals arising from OCSP clergy. As I've said here repeatedly, it isn't practical for Houston to supervise clergy hundreds or thousands of miles away, and the fact is, existing screening procedures for candidates are proving inadequate. Good men are being screened out, sketchy ones are getting in.

I recognize that it isn't appropriate to want to look too closely into the specifics of any priestly scandal, but it is appropriate for laity to ask what went wrong. From Fr McCarthy's statement in the parish bulletin and references in the legal documents in the case, it's hard to avoid thinking that red flags must have been present in Reese's performance well before matters came to a head in September 2017. The question is whether Houston was in a position to recognize and act appropriately on these red flags. Since Fr McCarthy was in practice Reese's direct supervisor and apparently dealing with serious issues, but since his own superiors were in the archdiocese, I question whether appropriate mechanisms were in place to deal with the problems before they got out of control.

The evidence we have is that poor screening for OCSP candidates for the priesthood results in scandals or serious personnel issues for territorial dioceses. It's hard to question what appears to be a tendency for diocesan bishops to resist establishment of OCSP groups in their territories.

I assume this has already been raised with the Vatican.