FROM THE PRESIDENT'S KITCHEN TABLE
Sometimes real life is more of a soap opera than the soaps. Take the tale of two priests named James, Fr. James Verrecchia and Fr. James Haley. To make a long story short, Fr. Haley tried to raise the alarm about his pastor at All Saints, Fr. Verrecchia, who was carrying on an adulterous affair with a parishioner. The chancery fiddled while Fr. V burned, and eventually he ran off with his pregnant paramour. Before that happened, however, Fr. Haley was removed and sent to St. Lawrence with Fr. William Ehrbacher, who had a penchant for pornography and apparently helping himself from the collection basket. After Fr. Haley blew the whistle, he, not Fr. E, was removed and sent to St. Mary’s in Fredericksburg. There he encountered another porn-addicted pastor, Fr. Daniel Hamilton, who had an extensive collection of sado-masochistic material, which Fr. Haley took to the bishop. (Note: parishioners were never warned about the deviant behavior of these men whose interest in pornography could make them a clear and present danger to children.) Instead, Fr. Haley was called into the bishop’s office a few weeks after revealing the situation with Fr. Hamilton and ordered to leave the diocese under a gag order. Vicar General, Msgr. Roy Cosby, escorted him to his rectory to make sure he left without touching the computer. The bulletin carried a notice saying Fr. Haley left to “discern religious life,” untrue according to Fr. Haley. He said he requested time for discernment and was refused.
Meanwhile, the betrayed husband from the Fr. V affair brought a civil suit against the diocese and his lawyer deposed Fr. Haley under subpoena. Roman Catholic Faithful, a watchdog group, acquired the deposition, a public document, and displayed it on their website. While all this is going on, keep in mind that Fr. Haley has no employment, no place to live, and his priestly faculties are suspended. Fr. Ehrbacher and Fr. Hamilton, on the other hand, are enjoying the hospitality of diocesan rectories.
A few priests told me they have no sympathy for Fr. Haley because he’s a “snoop” and a “loose cannon.” Commu-nications Director, Linda Shovlain, says he “has issues.” Let me get this straight. Being a “snoop” gets you ejected into the outer darkness; while being a porn addict and embezzler earns reassignment to a new rectory. There is an inequity in the treatment of these priests that is galling. To be fair, one thing about Fr. Haley’s case makes me uneasy – his lawyer. In 1998 Greg Murphy helped Michelle Finn legally murder her brain damaged husband, Hugh, by dehydration [See The Truth, Vol. 3 # 4] He is hardly a wise and godly counselor.
Let me add another dimension. Fr. Haley was my associate pastor at St. Louis in Alexandria. (So was Fr. Hamilton at one time and Fr. Verrecchia was there as a seminarian.) I knew Fr. Haley well. He was an exemplary priest. He baptized my oldest grandchild and counseled my daughter and her fiance. He was faithful, devout, and reverent with a tremendous love for the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother. From St. Louis he went to a modernist pastor who invited dissenters to “educate” his flock. I visited Fr. Haley at his new parish and toured the sacristy. The vestments were filthy; the vessels used for Communion appalling. One appeared to be a brass candle dish with a little spike in the middle. So much for the “Body of Christ.” Other assignments followed, some good some bad – the life of any priest, no doubt. But the last three were enough to give any man “issues.” When I saw Fr. Haley 18 months ago I would have described him as depressed and disillusioned. I myself don’t have that problem any more; I have no illusions left and little time to be depressed.
I wish I could say this is the first time I’ve seen a good priest damaged by the immoral behavior of superiors. Another young priest assigned to St. Louis as a transitional deacon had a series of bad assignments including one with a pastor whose “boyfriend, he said, “didn’t like me.” He ended up at the infamous St. Luke’s Institute in Silver Spring and came out resembling a L’Oreal commercial talking about putting himself first and “doing what’s good for me.” He is long gone from the diocese and the priesthood, a sad loss to both.
Do I sound angry? I am. Most of the bishops in the U.S. are a disgrace! How many denounced the public scandal of Bishop Wilton Gregory naming Leon Panetta to the National Review Board on Sexual Abuse, a man who has never recanted his support for stabbing a near term infant in the head and sucking out his brains. Gregory described the members of the board as “faithful Catholics.” [See From the Post Office.] What, pray tell, does it take to be unfaithful? We live in challenging times that call us to be ever more vigilant for our own salvation and the salvation of those around us. One thing the times do NOT call for is silence. Mature Catholics have an obligation to strive for personal holiness through prayer, penance, and frequent recourse to Confession and the Eucharist. They must study the faith unceasingly. Then they must work with at least as much zeal as the minions of hell who prowl about the world like ravening lions. Please, pray and fast for bishops and priests; they have much responsibility. Then hold them accountable. Be a lion for the Lord to fight the wolves in sheep’s clothing who are gobbling up the flock.