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1) Is it accurate that you are becoming a member of the Evangelical Catholic Church? On April 22? Does this involve any type of ceremonial/liturgical event down the road? Late afternoon on Wednesday of Holy Week, April 16, 2014, through a call from the Vicar General, Father Rick Fischer, Bishop Liam Cary asked to know by Tuesday, April 22, 2014, my response to some unclear verbal demands from our April 2, 2014 meeting. On Good Friday, April 18, 2014, I mailed my letter resigning from the Diocese of Baker to Bishop Liam Cary. In this letter I also notified the bisho p that I will now be living my Catholic faith outside the Roman Catholic Church. On Friday, May 16, 2014, I shall continue my journey in the Catholic faith when I will be canonica lly received into the Evangelical Catholic Church. This will be done during the opening Mass at their 2014 Annual Conference. 2) Is it your plan to seek incardination into the church's Diocese of the Northwest? If so, is there a time table? I shall begin the process for Clerical Incardination into the Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest shortly after I am received into the Evangelical Catholic Church. This process will take about one year. 3) If incardination is your path, have you discussed potential assignments with ECC officials? If so, with what officials? If so, what potential assignments? I have been invited to serve as a priest at the newly formed Holy Communion Evangelical Catholic Church in Bend, Oregon. In the tradition of the Evangelical Catholic Church the faithful have a voice and are an important part of the governance. Therefore, it was the laity that began the creation of Holy Commu nion Church when their spiritual needs were not being met by the Roman Catholic Church in Central Oregon. It was the laity who invited me to serve as their priest. Bishop James Wilkowski, the bishop of the Evangelical Catholic Church of the Northwest, agreed that this was a good decis ion and so he will give me temporary facilities to serve their sacramental needs beginning this June. Roman Catholics will have a difficult time understanding the type of governance that is the normal operating structure of the Evangelical Catholic Church. Roman Catholics are only exposed to a top down hierarchy that leaves little room, if any, for their opinions. This is especially true when it comes to having a say in the selection of t he priest chosen to serve them. It is frequently said that the Roman Catholic Church is NO T a democracy. Unfortunately, this is true. The flaw in this Roman Catholic structure is seen by the presence of too many power mad clerics. A quick study of history shows that the exertion of unmerited power is why there are churches like the Evangelical Catholic Church. These Catholic churches never accepted the supremacy claimed by Rome, choosing instead the preference for local governance . The laity of Holy Communion Church have a say in who will serve their sacramental needs and it is the laity who will help Bishop James Wilkowski confirm my con tinued service to them in the future. The laity will even have a say in my eventual incardination into the Evangelical Catholic Church. The Evangelical Catholic Church has a wonderful system of checks and balances in place which allows for accountability of the hierarchy. Page 1 of 5
4) Have you met or been in conversation with Father David Verhasselt about his leaving the Latin Rite and joining the Evangelical Catholic Church? If so, how has that influenced you? What sorts of things might you have asked him? Yes, I have visited with Father David Verhasselt. I asked him to just tell me his story. His heartfelt sharing of the oppression and abuse he s uffered from at the hands of his Vicar General and the Archbishop resonated very closely with my own experience. His story of how getting out from under the oppression of the Archbishop had set him free to again serve the People of God, helped me to consider doing the same. When he said, “I could not continue to remain where I feared every breath I took and every word I spoke,” I cried , because I was suffering terribly at that time under the same type of fear based leadership. 5) The ECC allows married and female ordination, same-sex marriage, and medical/”artificial” birth control. These positions also seem to be consistent with most pew Roman Catholics in the U.S., despite Church teaching. Does this echo your own vision of wider and more inclusive church disciplines and teaching? Those who claim that I am a progressive or a liberal are wrong. I am orthodox in my beliefs, although I have always been very creative in how I have expressed these beliefs. My goal has always been to meet people where they are and then do whatever I can to help them get into heaven. The challenge is that I cannot help them if I cannot even get them into the pew to hear G od’s Word and strive to apply this Word to their lives. So a couple of times I wrote church bulletin reflections about who should be welcome to join us at Mass. And this list included practically everyone! But now I have been confronted with my own hypocrisy. Although I claimed that all are welc ome, I lived in a tightly insulated environment where the rules of the Roman Catholic Church protected me from having to face my own prejudices. The reforms of the Evangelical Catholic Church opened my eyes to see the culture of deceit created by laws of the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church encourages, through its overly burdensome rules, a people who have to secretly live a lie in order to get the Roman Catholic Church to use its keys to let them into heaven. So you end up with a membership who are not really following all the rules, for example a great majority of those in their reproductive years using artificial birth control. To remain members they are forced to keep secrets and then practice deceit every time they step forward to receive Holy Communion. This unfor tunately includes a significant number of people who are having sex outside of a validly sacramental marriage. So I am challenged by the more honest approach of the Evange lical Catholic Church who candidly meets people where they are in their lives and in the messiness of this world and then visibly ministers to them as it openly helps them strive to get to heaven. This level of integrity in the openness of the Evangelical Catholic Church does away with a lot of the secrecy that feeds the toxic gossip that plagues the Roman Catholic Church . 6) With whom have you consulted in this process? Their advice, concerns, counsel, encouragement, etc.? As I am an extrovert it would probably be an easier question to answer if you had asked me who I didn’t consult with. I process things out loud so I talked with many of my friends and family. It is also well known that I went away on number of retreats and so I consulted with God on many occasions. Page 2 of 5
7) How is this being received by your family? Your mother? At this point my family is very supportive. They are saddened because they knew how much I loved serving as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. But they saw the unexplainable mistreatment I was suffering under so they are proud I had the courage to bring this abusive relationship to an end. My mother is still upset that I will now not be able to do her funeral Mass. But being that Bishop Liam Cary was not letting me function as a priest anywhere at any time, I would not have been able to do her funeral Mass anyway. I loved what my mother said to me one day, “Now I understand the Protestant reformation. Martin Luther must have had a bishop like your bishop.” 8) Are any Roman Catholic clerics aware of this, and their feedback? None in the Diocese of Baker. I would never put them in that dangerous position. 9) Hardest part(s) of this decision? Part of me wanted to keep on fighting for justice and truth to prevail. Part of me wants to make it so that bishops are no longer able to victimize their priests and the laity. I am disgusted by Archbishop Gregory and his 2.2 million dollar mansion. I cry over the unjust removal of Father William Rowe, a dedicated priest for 47 years, by Bishop Edward Braxton. I am saddened that convicted Bishop Finn is not removed. But I did not like the type of person I was becoming in this fight. People will generally describe me as an energetic, upbeat and joyful person. The stress was making me irritable and not too much fun to be around. I will need to leave others to deal with the ill-suited bishops in the Roman Catholic Church. Until there is in place a system of ch ecks and balances like there is in the Evangelical Catholic Church, which allows lay oversight and assures accountability of the church leadership, bishops will remain out of control in the Rom an Catholic Church. Instead of fighting the corruption in the Roman Catholic Church I will put my time and energies into creating something positive and beneficial at Holy Communion Evangelical Catholic Church in Bend, Oregon. 10) It seems your canonical adviser might be out of the loop in this move. Can you comment on that? To protect him I did not inform him until after my letter of resignation was mailed. I fear he has already suffered retaliation from having helped me. 11) Are any lay persons aware of this – notably any members of the Bend group who meet Fridays in support of you – and what is their reaction, feedback? I have never met with this group and when some of my friends who are in the group mention those who attend I don’t even know who they are. I have been touched by the large number of people who love me from my ministry as a priest. I had not fully realized that I mean so much to so many, even people outside the Cat holic Church. Now that I am no longer living under the fear of hierarchical retribution, I am hoping to be able to go to one of their gatherings. I am curious about what they are going to think of my decision. 12) If one of your Bend supporters asks if there is an implicit invitation in your change of affiliation to do the same, how might you respond? In disce rning God’s plan in all of this I have now felt called to minister to those who are not being ministered to. But the reality is that Cath olics in Central Oregon will now have a choice of where to have their sacramental needs fulfilled. Nothing like a little bit of Page 3 of 5
good competition in town to make Holy Communion Church work that much harder to be the type of church people are looking for to help them in this world as they journey to heaven. 13) When will Bishop Cary be informed of this, or has he already been told? Or have you even felt he needed to be told? His reaction or expected reaction? Out of courtesy to him and the diocesan staff I arranged it so tha t he would be informed before the decision was made public. Up to this point I have been wrong every single time about how I believed he would act to my appeals for mediation, reconciliation, and many other appeals for dialogue and concessions, so I cannot even hazard a guess as to his reaction. 14) If Bishop Cary had welcomed you back to the Baker Diocese and offered you a mainstream assignment following the Vatican decision on your appeal, would you have still made this move? No, I would have remained serving as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. I was able to find a way to work successfully under Bishop Vasa. I had hoped I would be able to find a way to work successfully under Bishop Cary. As a cancer survivor I am a very forgiving soul. Life is too short to be carrying a grudge. Jesus knew what He was doing with the whole forgiveness thing. 15) To what degree has Bishop Cary impacted your sense of church, your understanding of church authority, the role of priesthood, the role of bishop, church administration? For my twenty years as a priest under three bishops I always believed the church hierarchy had my back. Considering what I was facing in confronting the troubles of the world and in the Church, and the troubled people in the world and in the Church, I alway s appreciated the backing of the church hierarchy. All this has now changed. It was bad enough facing the attacks from outside the Church. It was completely disheartening to be abused from within the Church itself. 16) If Bishop Cary called you today or tomorrow and asked that you reconsider, that he is having intense reservations of how the past year has unfolded, etc., how would you respond? I would emphatically say “NO”! My eyes have now been opened to the reality of a whole new style of church governance. I have already found in my contact with Bishop James Wilkowski a form of leadership that builds up and serves the priests and the people o f the Church. In a few days I have dialogued more with Bishop James Wilkowski than I have ever done with Bishop Liam Cary. I am still getting used to going to him for approval of something and he is giving me advice and opinions instead. I have had to be turned around one hundred and eighty degrees to ask the approval of the laity instead. I already knew that the laity were gifted and wise, but now I better appreciate how truly talented they are in creating Church in its best sense of what it means to be Church .
17) Will your move change your commitment to keeping secret the reasons for your removal as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi? Will you being saying more on this topic? This is the question everyone wants me to answer. I am working with a civil attorney to see what I can share. I want to share the reasons. But for me to even just view the evidence against me in order to defend myself I had to sign a legal gag order. Under Page 4 of 5
Oregon law, ORS 652.750, I have requested the bishop to turn over a complete copy of my personnel records, and everything he used to make his decisions , to my lawyer. 18) In regard to the removal, your appeal, the ruling and all that transpired around them, what have been your greatest challenges, your surprises, your insights, your pains, and other take-aways? I am terribly disappointed by the entire process. My word was never taken seriously or even considered as being valid in this whole process. I was treated as if I was guilty until found guilty by a kangaroo court. The Congregation for Clergy never did a proper investigation. All that was seen is the old boys club protecting each other. My lawyer friends were shocked by the ineptitude of the whole process. They saw that due diligence was never done, mediation was never allowed even though it is the preferred method as set forth in the Code of Canon Law, and the whole process resembled the witch hunts of the past. I ’ m just lucky getting burned at the stake is not allowed in Oregon. It seems to me the bishop decided to make an example of me to show to his clergy and the people his power. So he then went searching for reasons to get me r emoved to damage my standing as a priest to raise his own standing as a bishop . But in my opinion I am not the one who ended up looking the worse from this whole terrible situation. What was shown was not power but a paranoid fear and a fatal impotence that will cause irreparable damage to the Roman Catholic Church. 19) How do you respond to any who might ask about potential “buyer's remorse” down the road? The past is history, the future is a mystery, but today is a gift — that's why they call it 'the present'. I keep my present so busy I do not have time to fret about the past and I am letting a very competent laity worry about the future. 20) Where have you been staying these recent days in Oregon? Where will be you residing now? My friends have been wonderful in providing me a place to live, plenty of food to eat, and lots and lots of love. What more could I want?
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