|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.
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.
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!