Sanibel priest allegedly exploited parishioner with dementia


The priest of a Sanibel church is being investigated by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, according to the Diocese of Venice. He faces allegations of financially exploiting a churchgoer who was suffering from dementia.

The criminal investigation is focused on Father Christopher Senk of St. Isabel Catholic Church at the corner of Sanibel-Captiva and Rabbit Roads.

The Diocese of Venice says that Father Senk is on paid administrative leave while the allegations are reviewed.

The criminal investigation report was referred to the Florida State Attorney.

Documents show that Father Senk denies the allegations.

The following was a press released distributed by the Diocese of Venice in Florida’s Communications Department.

Venice, Fla. – Regrettably, it must be reported that the Diocese of Venice has been informed that an investigation has been carried out by the Lee County Sherriff’s Office. The Criminal Investigation Report was referred to the Florida State Attorney. The focus of the investigation was Father Christopher Senk, who has been serving as Pastor of St. Isabel Parish in Sanibel and who it is alleged to have financially exploited an elderly parishioner whom he knew as suffering from dementia. Father has denied these allegations.

The Diocese of Venice placed Father Senk on paid administrative leave while the allegations are reviewed. This was undertaken after consultation with priest consultors.

According to public record, the civil investigators interviewed a number of persons including Father Senk, and subpoenaed documents from the personal records of Father as well as records of the alleged victim. Officials believed that Father Senk took advantage of his position of trust to financially exploit an elderly and vulnerable parishioner, and that he continued to do so even after family members, acting as appointed guardians, directed him to stop. The same opinion was shared by the lead prosecutor. However, it was decided not to prosecute at this time.

If true, the alleged actions of Father Senk require a pastoral response in light of the Diocesan Code of Pastoral Conduct. Pope Francis reminds all, that priests are called to live simply and to identify with the poor, and to avoid seeking personal financial gain. It is necessary to ensure that priests who serve in the name of the Church act with compassion and respect, especially in the care of elderly and vulnerable parishioners.

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