After reading all the various accounts and comments in the case of falsely accused Fr.
Ronald Escalante, pastor of St. Francis de Sales parish in Purcellville, VA, I was left asking myself one thing. Why? Who would accuse this priest of a violation, NOT of sexual abuse, but of a violation of “boundary,” the latest in the bureaucratic jargon for dealing with the actions of clergy in the modern Church?
Where could such a claim come from and again, WHY? As it turns out my suspicions were correct in assuming it had something to do with money. It seems the Director of Religious Education for the parish happens to have a brother who is a gardener and the two of them thought it would be a grand scheme if they created a not for profit whose stated goal was to feed the poor, by soliciting funds from a wide audience very willing to support the launch and growth of a “project” to provide produce for the hungry. Naturally, if the appeal is successful and the money starts to roll in, there’s a lot of gravy over and above the actual expenses that could be distributed to the “managers” so to speak, who would be repaid and repaid for their efforts.
Oh, to be sure, the poor would be getting their peppers and tomatoes and a few zucchini, but the checks and the cash would stay with the two who dreamed up this lovely little scheme. And the costs of starting up this venture were all covered by the parish where one of the two founders happened to be employed. How much money are we talking about that the two stood to gain from this? WHO KNOWS? But what we do know is that the upstart of this business was done in the office without the knowledge of the pastor, Fr. Escalante.
When the wrong doing came to light and an argument ensued instead of owning up to the wrong doing and unauthorized expenses, the DRE doubled down and decided to find a way to get rid of the pastor. I have been told by a very reliable source that proof of his attempts to contact people in the parish he thought would be willing to bring accusations against the pastor is now in the hands of attorneys for the pastor, ready to provide a defense for him if he is not returned to service. Some in the parish are now willing to testify about being asked to say negative things about Fr. Escalante by the DRE.
The DRE was successful with one contact and this is the charge now hanging over Father’s head to this day, five months later. As soon as the accusation was taken to the bishop and Loudoun County law enforcement was called in, the DRE sent out a blanket email to all the RE contacts in his computer pretending to be so upset over the sad news of their pastor----news he was personally responsible for generating.
Fortunately, for the pastor, most people are not buying it and some who know exactly what happened are fighting back and doing all they can to expose this mean attack before his vocation and his reputation is permanently destroyed.
I understand the bishop’s office is “aware” of this blog. Well, if that’s so, I hope they are reading this and that they will think twice about letting Fr. Escalante suffer another day without recognizing who the accusers are in this case and who was behind their charges. I hope Bishop Burbidge has the good sense to look at all the facts in this case and see also the harm that will be done not just to Fr. Escalante, but to every priest in his diocese if he fails to stand by a good man who has been railroaded by selfish people with a financial agenda to line their own pockets. If all it takes is a flimsy false accusation to get a holy pastor out of a parish, who in the priesthood anywhere has a chance of ever living out a vocation as a faithful servant of God?
I have been asked by people in the parish to plead with everyone who reads this blog to send a letter to:
Bishop Michael Burbidge
200 N. Glebe Rd.
Arlington, VA 22203
And this is the important part; put your letter in support of the reinstatement of Fr. Escalante in an envelope marked PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL, FOR THE BISHOP’S EYES ONLY.
Your letter doesn’t need to be long or complicated. Just say I stand with Fr. Escalante and I beg for your support of his vocation and reinstatement as pastor to St. Francis de Sales in Purcellville.
It is important that you write ASAP and mail your appeal to the bishop this week, before a decision is made that may forever seal his fate.