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Deacon of "Nones"

Deacon of "Nones"

The growth of Americans who consider themselves religiously unaffiliated is on the rise. Pew Research estimates that six in ten fall into the category of "Nones". Bishop Robert Barron, the popular online evangelist spoke about the need to reach the "nones" at the recent Bishop's conference in Baltimore this past November. The young people aren’t going to come to us,” said Barron. “We have to go out to them.”

Suspended* 

I've called on the Church to be more transparent and for full disclosure, on November 13th, I had received a Decree of Suspension as a Permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. (Which was rescinded once the diocese realized they had rushed to judgment and used the wrong Canon Law, however, the restrictions remain in place on my ministry)

November 13th, the day Felix was asked to leave

November 13, 2019, was monumental in my new vocation as a Permanent Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church.  After much prayer and consultation, I  chose to speak out about turmoil within the parish, and the lack of transparency rooted in financial shenanigans, among other betrayals of trust. 

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. 

Moral Flexibility 

I understand that private corporations often choose to avoid embarrassment when one of their executives is caught embezzling or is found to be "morally flexible".  I am left to wonder, should we not hold our own Church accountable? 

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. 


Silenced

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. 

New Direction

I remain ever dedicated to my Catholic faith, even though I hold reservations on the machination of "Corporate Jesus" at the diocesan level. Writing this blog has been both therapeutic and truthful. Many have come to confide in me.  I believe in the ministry of the laity as I will continue to petition for change and the empowerment of the laity in the governance of parish life. There should be checks and balances and an independent mechanism to oversee the financial aspects of a parish. 

It is time for bishops to invite critical analysis and listen to clerics and the laity.  It is the culture of clericalism that has led to the rationale to avoid scandal at all cost, which leads to exponential sins and crime, sacrificing our children's trust and faith in the Church.

Venture into the Deep 

When the vicar of the central vicariate became an Auxilary Bishop, I listened attentively to his homily and how he challenged us to "go into the deep". I hoped to be the Deacon the Lord wants me to be or the type of one the Church needs during this current crucifixion. 
Considering the current state of affairs, my expectations are that God is pulling me in another direction.

Our Church leaders are suffering a trust crisis, by their own hand. Until there is a deep act of contrition and culture change, attracting the unaffiliated or nones will be a difficult slog. The noise of scandal is drowning out the Good News of the Gospel. The price Jesus paid for our redemption falls on deaf ears when the moral authority of our bishops is in question. Contrition and penance (compensation) can begin to heal the wounds.  

There needs to be an emptying and public penance by the Bishops, an example of confession, contrition, and change.  I see a change, an evolution in our Church, one which values humility above careerism.  Financially strapped dioceses will continue to tumble. Canon law needs to accommodate the laity, the Body of Christ, only then will we be back on the right paths. Bishops, Pastors, priests, religious, deacons, and the laity need to walk this journey side by side. I foresee a movement back to the early days of the Church, a smaller cacophony of dioceses and intimate congregations, all seeking the universal Christ on the journey. We need to expand on the achievements of Vatican II and embrace the dignity and strength of the laity. 

I still have a fear of the deep, I still have a fear of trusting, I'm working on it. Spiritually, I see my Father's outstretched arms calling out to me, encouraging me to trust and take the leap. 

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 Blessing

This 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". 

Note: On March 10. 2020, Bishop John Barres rescinded my suspension but kept all the restrictions in place. As God is my witness, I will no longer allow a false narrative to portray my integrity as I was threatened and labeled as a "partisan" by the hierarchy. I am a broken vessel, but also a faithful Christian who chooses the difficult path of calling out injustice, waste, fraud, abuse, and coverup. 

Note: (September 2021)  As a whistleblower, I expected what eventually came to pass as according to the Church I have been transitioned back to the Lay State.  It's good to be home!

Comments

  1. After retaining a Cannon Lawyer, my suspension was "removed" however the restrictions remain in place. I have prayed over this situation and I can no longer remain silent. I have a great love for the Church with which was born, baptized and instructed. I will no longer bow to injustice as I seek God's direction moving forward.

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