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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Shameful Letter from Bishop Burbidge about Fr. Ron Escalante.......

Derek and Ann Humphry
....Or how to clear a priest while implying his guilt about.......about .....something?

Well, after almost a year, here is the final outcome of the diocese's "investigation" of Fr. Ronald Escalante, a good priest accused of a "boundary violation." As someone who has watched the damage done to faithful priests in this diocese for decades, I am angry and disgusted.

As I studied the letter, it reminded me of Ann and Derek Humphry, founders of the Hemlock Society. Ann watched Derek kill his first wife, Jean, who was dying of cancer. He smothered her with a pillow although the story put out was that she took deadly drugs. They also killed Ann's parents.

Later, Ann herself contracted cancer although it was in remission and she wasn't depressed. At least not until Derek urged and pressured and bullied her to kill herself. They divorced, but Derek continued to harass her unmercifully. One day she rode her horse up into the Oregon hills, took a deadly cocktail, and left behind a note basically saying, "Derek wins." (Read more here.)


Why did that story come back to me now? Because I've known too many good priests sacrificed by bishops who care more about proving how zealous they are to "protect the children" and the reputation of the diocese than they care about the truth.

When I read about Fr. Escalante's resignation as pastor of St. Francis de Sales, I could only think -- "They won." They harassed and threatened and persecuted him until he didn't have the energy to fight any more -- like Ann Humphry. I can imagine it, because I've seen it more times than I care to remember. And, of course, Fr. Escalante will never be allowed to tell his side of the story, so the slander will live on, if not forever, for a very long time. I pray that the grace from being treated like the Master will make Fr. Escalante a saint. The worst pain has to be betrayal from those who should be your defenders.

Let's face it, the end result was a foregone conclusion. The diocese has all the money and all the power. How could they lose?

I thank God my trust is not in men, or my faith would be shaken. But I will never leave the Church. No doubt some wish I would. In fact, I talked to a priest recently who told me about another priest who doesn't want to be seen with me. I laughed. I've always cared too much about human respect so the Lord found a way to cure me.

This episode also brought back the tragedy of Fr. James Haley. When Fr. Haley brought evidence about homosexuals in the diocese to Bishop Loverde (some of whom are still in the active priesthood here) he told him, "You have no idea what I can do to you."  And then, of course, he did it. Just keep your porn in the closet and your "relationships" age appropriate and out of the papers.

I'm disgusted by the letter below and the treatment Fr. Escalante received. I understand his weariness. I'm betting he's also been bankrupted by lawyers fees. How does a priest on a limited income fight against the bottomless pockets of the diocese? How does a good and faithful priest protect himself against a false accusation from liars who want to get rid of him?

Fr. Escalante's story is a warning as I told my priest friend yesterday. "Anyone could lie about you tomorrow and you'd be thrown under the bus in a New York minute." Many bishops seem to have a talent for injuring and killing the vocations of their faithful "sons." They routinely hand out scorpions instead of eggs.

 The fact that there are still vocations shows that God is at work because, for the most part, the credit sure can't go to our "hapless bench of bishops."

Here's the letter from Bishop Burbidge with my comments in red.


Office of Bishop Header

September 28, 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
For many months, the Diocese of Arlington has investigated allegations of sexual misconduct and boundary violations brought against Father Ronald Escalante by adults and a minor, from both inside and outside St. Francis de Sales Parish. [Keep in mind that the diocese NEVER interviewed a number of witnesses who had direct knowledge of the situation including friends of the teen accuser who submitted sworn affidavits of her telling them she lied at the instigation of her mother and the associate pastor, Fr. Mullaney. What kind of "investigation" centers on the accusers and ignores the witnesses for the defense?] During our investigation, Father Escalante was placed on administrative leave and the allegations related to the minor were immediately reported to law enforcement officials, who elected not to pursue criminal charges. [What does the wording here imply? Consider the difference if it read,  "Law enforcement found no evidence of a crime."]
I have taken seriously and investigated thoroughly the allegations of sexual misconduct that have been brought to my attention. In this investigation, I have been assisted by professionals with extensive experience in law enforcement and have benefitted from the counsel of psychological experts. [The people of St. Francis de Sales would beg to differ that the investigation was either taken seriously or the accusations investigated. Fr. Escalante was immediately presumed guilty and any evidence to the contrary was ignored. A number of parishioners have described their attempts to share how the DRE solicited them to smear Fr. Escalante. The original witness disputing the accused's story was ignored. Her parents tried repeatedly to contact the diocese and their calls and letter were never returned. Affidavits from two of the accuser's friends confirm that she told them her mother and Fr. Mullaney instructed her to lie about Fr. Escalante. Go here and here.]

When confronted with the allegations against him, and in the presence of independent witnesses, Father Escalante freely admitted to conduct unbecoming and foreign to the clerical state involving two adults. [What does this even mean? See Michael Hichborn's comments below.] In consultation with his canonical advocate and spiritual director, and after prayerful consideration, Father Escalante has freely offered his resignation of the office of Pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church for the spiritual good of the parish. [Translation: He got tired of fighting. The diocese has all the money and all the power and they can wait out a good priest and good parishioners. We have seen that strategy over and over. It's all about appearances.] I have accepted his resignation and he is on a leave of absence at this time. It is my hope and Father Escalante’s that his resignation will allow the parish to heal and move forward. [There is no way the parish can heal while Fr. Mullaney remains. If the bishop truly wants to give the parish a chance to heal and move forward, he needs to remove Fr. Mullaney. Remember, according to the accusers friend, Fr. Mullaney made the accuser "uncomfortable" when he told her to say Fr. Escalante touched her "tits." What do you think? Is that "conduct unbecoming and foreign to the clerical state" involving a minor?]

The Diocesan Review Board assessed the allegations of boundary violations between Father Escalante and a minor. The Board found the minor to be believable, but determined that the actions of Father Escalante, as alleged, did not fall within the definition of “sexual abuse” under Canon Law and the Diocesan child protection policies. [Now why is the accuser "found to be believable" but the two friends who said she admitted lying are not believable? Did the Review Board know about them? Or did the diocese keep the Review Board members in the dark to get the result they wanted?]

As I have stated throughout this process, the Diocese encourages anyone who knows of any misconduct or abuse on the part of any cleric or employee of the Diocese to report it to the Virginia Attorney General hotline (VirginiaClergyHotline.com), and also to contact the Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at (703) 841-2530. 

I express my heartfelt regret to those who may have been harmed by Father Escalante’s actions. [How about those harmed by the accuser and her mother? How about those harmed by James Blankenship and Fr. Mullaney?] Pastoral care and counseling have been extended to them through our Victim Assistance Coordinator. I pray that the conclusion of this process will help bring true healing in their lives.

I realize that this information is difficult for many parishioners to receive. This decision, while prudent and necessary, also brings me sadness as I know the impact it has on your community. These steps have been taken after much prayer and reflection. [I hate to sound cynical, but there was very little evidence of prudence during this entire fiasco. The concerned parishioners were treated with contempt. Getting at the truth was treated as a bother. The staff at the chancery blew off most of the parishioners accusing them of being nothing but gossips and troublemakers.]

In the near future, I will appoint a new pastor for your parish community. I will also work with Father Michael Taylor to schedule a time to fulfill my promise to make a pastoral visit and celebrate a Mass of unity and healing.

Please be assured that you will continue to be in my daily prayers. Through the intercession of Mary our Mother and St. Francis de Sales, may Our Lord Jesus bless you and your parish community and fill you with His peace. [Spare us, O Lord. As the weeping prophet says, "They treated my people's wound superficially, telling them, 'Peace, peace,' but there is no peace." Jeremiah 6:14]
                                                                                   Sincerely in Christ,
Bishop Burbidge Hi-Res Signature
Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge
Bishop of Arlington
Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute followed this saga through many months and reported on it. He posted this comment about the bishop's letter on Lepanto's Facebook page. I completely agree with Michael's assessment that the letter is "an absolute disgrace:"
This letter was very carefully crafted so as to give the appearance of guilt without judging Fr. Escalante guilty of any wrong doing. There was absolutely NOTHING in the letter that would indicate that he had done something wrong.

From the letter:

“When confronted with the allegations against him, and in the presence of independent witnesses, Father Escalante freely admitted to conduct UNBECOMING and FOREIGN TO the clerical state involving two adults.” (Emphasis added)

The terms “unbecoming” and “foreign to the clerical state” are entirely subjective. They do not indicate wrong-doing, but are highly suggestive of immoral action. Picking one’s nose is “unbecoming” and singing opera is “foreign to the clerical state.” The ambiguity regarding the alleged incidents is meaningless.

The letter also said:

“The Diocesan Review Board assessed the allegations of boundary violations between Father Escalante and a minor. The Board found the minor to be believable, but determined that THE ACTIONS OF FATHER ESCALANTE, AS ALLEGED, DID NOT FALL WITHIN THE DEFINITION OF “SEXUAL ABUSE” under Canon Law and the Diocesan child protection policies.” (Emphasis added)

Fr. Mullaney, the associate pastor at SFDS, went around telling parishioners that Fr. Escalante touched a minors breasts. And such touching would have most definitely fallen under the definition of sexual abuse both under canon law as well as the diocesan policies. Clearly, Fr. Escalante did NOT do what Fr. Mullaney and other parishioners at SFDS have been claiming he had done. Furthermore, this again shows that Fr. Escalante has not done anything immoral.

But then, there’s this gem ... Bp. Burbidge says:

“I express my heartfelt regret to those who may have been harmed by Father Escalante’s actions.”

Once again, this gives the appearance of wrong-doing without judging that Fr. Escalante has done something wrong. Person A can be harmed by person B if person A accidentally steps on person B’s foot. The gesture of regret sounds grave and solemn indeed, and it gives the impression of assumed guilt without ever judging Fr. Escalante guilty. But it also shows that Fr. Escalante has NOT DONE ANYTHING WRONG.

Why?

Because if he had, then none of this ambiguity would have been necessary. Bp. Burbidge could very easily have found him guilty of either gravely immoral behavior or a canonical crime, had one been committed. The very fact that Bp. Burbidge clearly and cleverly avoids declaring Fr. Escalante guilty of ANYTHING means that Fr. Escalante is innocent of any wrong-doing.

A letter such as this is a grave injustice as it uses clever terms to give the appearance of guilt and shame, detracting Fr. Escalante’s character.

This letter is an absolute disgrace!

11 comments:

Susan Matthiesen said...

When the schism arrives, we'll have ready made priests.

Katie said...

Mary Ann, you write:
"I thank God my trust is not in men, or my faith would be shaken. But I will never leave the Church. No doubt some wish I would. In fact, I talked to a priest recently who told me about another priest who doesn't want to be seen with me. I laughed. I've always cared too much about human respect so the Lord found a way to cure me."

Please forgive my lack of knowledge with regard to citing this paragraph properly. The paragraph is chocked full of wisdom.

May God bless Father Ronald Escalante!

Katie

Ed of Ct. Usa said...

Typical spineless useless Cino bishop there. Not unlike Parolin. Cocopalmeiro ,Bergoglio, McElroy , lippi and cupich sad to say.

Phil Dunton said...

Where's the punishment for Fr. Mullaney???

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Good question, Phil. I think he expects to be made the pastor. God forbid!

To McFadden (Sr.) said...

I don't know why any parent in this diocese would encourage a son to enter a seminary for this diocese.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

It would certainly make me nervous!

Anonymous said...

Something is definitely wrong with the bishops letter. What did father admit to doing? A good person is hard themselves, so he admitted to a minor fault, but nothing that would arise to the point of being dismissed. Sounds like the bishop has turned Fathers case over to the judges, otherwise known as the Psychiatrists. If the shrinks say your not fit, then there you have it, he's not fit. So a active gay priest is okay ministry because that is normal, but a heterosexual priest who hugs someone is out of bounds!!! Really?? Our church has been taken over by the shrinks, by the social sciences since Vatican II. Francis and many bishops use the social sciences for their "gospel". And the Gospels are just a little reference to how they determine Truth! First the shrinks said homosexual abusers could be returned to the parish. Since that blew up, now it's being used to attack heterosexual men who "violate boundaries" whatever the hell that is! From what I am hearing, Father admitted to a big nothing! It had nothing to do with the original allegation. In his honesty he admitted to things most people would have chalked up to maybe a minor sin, or maybe they wouldn't have even thought it as a sin. It is like he went to confession and they used anything he ever thought against him. I will tell you this is happening in many dioceses. The heterosexual priest is punished and homosexual priest is free to continue in their consensual relationships with other adult men, until it is found that they embezzled lots of your donations to wine and dine their 'boyfriend". Seriously this is happening. It is a railroad job. I use to like Scalia, out of respect for his father, not anymore. I don't trust him. What they nail father on wouldn't have caused a problem many years ago. It was not a big deal. They just used to with the opinion of a shrink to nail him.

Alan said...

I wonder if he could sue for something like 'wrongful termination' as allowed under employment law?

Mary Ann said...

I am not posting any more anonymous comments on this post. If you want to refute what it says then provide your real name and the evidence you have — SPECIFICALLY.

Rosi McCoy said...

When Father Haley had his "problem", we could donate to his legal fund through his lawyer. Could something like this be set up for Father Escalante?

Does anyone know if the diocese takes a cut from each collection? I considered going to another church but then I remembered about how happy Father Escalante was with the remodel and how beautiful it is. So I think I am going to stay. That doesn't mean I am going to give money. There are lots of other good charities for my money to go to.

I wonder if the diocese is stuck with the bill if no one gives any money to pay down the debt.