Deacon of "Nones"
|November 13th, the day Felix was asked to leave
I paid the price for my outspoken ways as I found myself in the position of a Decree of Suspension from Bishop Barres. This "medicinal" decree is in its early stages, as I have retained a Canon Law Advocate for my defense. My advocate reached out to Bishop Barres on November 20, 2019, and as of the date of this posting, I have been found guilty by Bishop John Barres. In essence, the very prelate I believe covered up the financial scandal in my parish is also my judge and jury locally. Now my case, prepared by the Diocese of Rockville Centre has gone to Rome, awaiting a decision. I instructed my Canon Advocate to send my defense separately to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith separately so I could be assured they had my testimony, uncensored.
To thumbnail this, I chose to speak out against injustice and the lack of action by my own diocese. I believe what happened in our parish was a microcosm of the current Church's challenges, and the need to correct the culture of silence and secrecy. I have experienced what I believe is a coverup and action by the hierarchy to excuse away scandalous behavior. Those who know the rest of the story are crying out for justice and compensation for the diocese's actions in allowing the mismanagement of donations to go unchecked.
Should not a non-profit corporation, as that of a Parish be held to higher standards? Up until the past few years, I trusted that the pastor would be a man of high moral standards and ethical behavior. Canon law seems to lean very much in the direction of having the parish pastor retain great power, as well as protections. Many are unaware that parish councils and financial advisory boards are just in an advisory capacity with no power to restrict bad behavior. The resulting effect of unchecked power leads to scandal.
Through many of my private discussions, I have been honest about what I had been experiencing along with concerned parishioners. I explained that a good parish was being divided by the pastor. I was told time and time again, that the Church moved slowly. It was my view that Vicar after Vicar (we had three) "kicked the can" down the road until Monsignor Richard Henning (now Auxilary Bishop) began an investigation.
Many advised me to be silent and avoid speaking, but my conscience had called me to seek justice for the people of St. Joseph's. Bad things happen when good people remain silent as I have seen when people are held to account for their actions. I see this suspension as retaliation for my whistleblowing. By issuing this decree, pulling me from every ministry within the parish, including the music group, is a systematic attempt to hide the actions of clerics bent on covering their tracks in an effort to avoid scandal. I assumed that both Bishop Barres and Auxilary Bishop Henning were acting on good faith, however, the final decision came from the top, and it is my opinion Bishop Barres chose once again to shuffle a troubled priest off to another corner of the diocese as I have recently become aware of our former pastor's reinstatement to "help out" another parish. Fr. Charles Mangano was then assigned to a neighboring parish, less than three miles away, Our Lady of Lourdes, in West Islip, NY in September 2020.
Could I have been more charitable in my critiques? Well, certainly, I focused on the underlying challenges in the Church (Clericalism and lack of transparency). I have confronted those who have been the instruments of division, only to have been falsely accused of the same crime.
The hypocrisy is that the decree is an attempt to silence as I complained about being silenced. This Decree of Suspension is exactly a roadmap on how the hierarchy worked in concert to hide the truth. If I'm guilty of anything, it is exposing the truth that Rockville Centre did not want out in the open. I am guilty of using social media (this blog) to point to the sins of clericalism, careerism, and unchecked power. I am now simpatico with the parishioners of St. Joseph's who had written, called, and complained about a pastor who went "off the rails", only to be brushed away with patronizing responses, silence, and inaction for way too long.
Venture into the Deep
The other day spoke to my friend, that finally over the crest of the fifty-something year mark, I'm finally getting comfortable in my own skin.
Now that I know the risks of the deep, I have become less fearful and more courageous. My voice is stronger and with help from above may we all find our calling and path to greater love and joy.
Everything is a BlessingThis trial is a blessing. Being a public figure (formerly representing the "Church") I have now been given a new set of empathic ears and eyes as I have gained a new perspective and street-cred from the "nones".
As I have been driven back to the pews, who better to serve and reach out to the "nones", the disenfranchised and marginalized, than one who has experienced the same, but now as a stifled deacon?
I see a glimpse of God's hand in this suspension, as the Bishop may have unwittingly driven me out of my home parish and into the company of the "nones".