Tuesday, June 26, 2018

"Why The Fr. Luke Reese Scandal Is Everybody’s Business"

A visitor brought to my attention this post at the blog of Mrs Simcha Fisher, a Catholic writer and blogger who brought the Reese case to light last February after it reached the court system. (Although she was accused of detraction for doing this, she was reporting on a court case, which is public information.) It turns out that Reese's case will come up for trial this week -- observers had assumed that it would be pleaded out in some way, with Reese being treated as a priest with no prior record, and the whole thing would quietly go away. Apparently not.

Mrs Fisher raises some important questions, some of which I've also tried to address here.

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.
In a prior post, she covers the canonical issues in detail. The upshot is that it's up to the bishop, but a reconsecration isn't something you do on the spur of the moment.
“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 [a canonist] 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.

So far, we don't know, and matters may not be addressed until the court case is resolved. But what happened is a serious matter, and according to the post, if a reconsecration were to take place, it would involve not holding mass at the church until reconsecration could take place, removing decorations from the altar, and parishioners being urged to receive the sacrament of reconciliation at another facility. If the matter is this serious -- and the canonists she quotes suggest it is -- then it is inappropriate for the ordinaries in this case to minimize it.

Next good question:

Fr. Reese is a member of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. . . . 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?
The OCSP appears to be struggling financially. Observers from this end think the OCSP will be at least partially responsible for the continuing support of Reese's wife and children, and divorces alone cost money. For that matter, someone could well be on the hook for counseling for the wife and children, relocation expenses, and a great deal else. Prof Jordan Peterson, not a Catholic authority but often a source of good general advice, warns those considering divorce that this will cost half a million dollars and ten years of your life. Someone besides Reese is going to be on the hook here.

Next question:

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?

I'm aware of at least one case where an individual with detailed knowledge of the conduct of a recent OCSP ordinand while an Anglican priest but prior to his reception into the Church reported matters to Fr Perkins that ought to have caused serious concern, but apparently did not.

Indeed, it appears that Fr Perkins was so clumsy and indiscreet that he allowed the ordinand to discover the identity of the complainant, and the ordinand then made threats against the complainant. The complainant considered reporting this to Fr Perkins as well but decided not to, I think in part because it would cause the complainant more distress, while there would be no assurance Fr Perkins would take things any more seriously. Houston has a problem here without a doubt.

In another case, a recent ordinand was only baptized in 2009, two years before entering an Anglican seminary. Once ordained an Episcopal priest, he was given only minimal make-work responsibilities, apparently as some kind of favor. But he's got the green light to wear Catholic clericals now.

The ordination of very sketchy candidates to the OCSP is simply not unusual. Mrs Fisher's concerns are fully justified in my view. I plan to notify her of the issues that have come to light for me.

If more information on the outcome of the Reese case comes to light, I'll report it here.