Sherwood parishioners face heartache, disillusionment after hidden camera scandal

By Melissa Binder
August 23, 2015

Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample at St. Francis Catholic Church on August 23, 2015.
Photo by Bruce Ely

It had taken years to get comfortable in the church. 

Now this.

"I am sorry beyond words for the pain and the anguish that you have been suffering," the archbishop said, scanning the silent crowd. "You need to hear that again: I am sorry."

Heartache hung in the air. Peter Hainley watched the archbishop skeptically from the back row of pews, his wife and three sons by his side.

Hainley was abused by a priest at 12 years old, he said. Now his youngest son is 11 and the priest at St. Francis Catholic Church in Sherwood is wanted for allegedly placing a hidden camera in a church bathroom.

"I'm so disillusioned right now," he said, shaking his head.

His wife, Leocadia Hainley, patted his chest. "It's too much," she said.

They've been careful. Their sons weren't allowed to volunteer as altar boys. They didn't build close relationships with the priest, Ysrael Bien. Still, they feel violated.

The summer saga of their pastor's trouble and disobedience has left parishioners raw.

The congregation sat in weighty silence at Mass this weekend as Archbishop Alexander Sample, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, spoke on the Book of John, Chapter 6. 

In it, some of Jesus' followers abandon him after he gives a difficult teaching. Jesus asks the remaining disciples if they also want to leave. They respond: Master, to whom shall we go?

"I know, my dear, dear people, that for many of you, your faith has been shaken," Sample said from the pulpit.

He appealed to the congregation not to leave, but to remain true to the one they call master. Humans will fail, the archbishop said, but Jesus will not. Parishioners sniffled and wiped away tears.

Dozens of congregants lined up to greet Sample after the Saturday evening and Sunday morning services.

"Thank you."

"Thank you for coming, archbishop. We appreciate it."

"My name is Alexander, too."

Regardless of his reason for being present, Sample is a minor celebrity in the suburban parish. Each service was full.

Perspectives on the circumstances vary. Some believe the trial will make the congregation stronger. Others said they are relatively unfazed. Just another priest to come and go. Still others, such as the Hainleys, are wrestling with the temptation to walk away.

It's the latter Sample worries about.

It's been almost exactly four months since a teen boy found a camera that looked like an electrical outlet affixed to a bathroom wall and took it to Bien. The priest didn't go to police until May 20 and then only to report the camera had gone missing, according to court records.

Bien told investigators and the father of the boy who found the camera that he'd put the device in a drawer after the boy turned it in and, according to court records, found it missing later that day.

In the weeks that followed, the archbishop placed Bien on administrative leave, Bien left the country and Sherwood police issued a warrant for his arrest. Sample said he has demanded Bien return from the Philippines. The 34-year-old priest first declined, then stopped responding altogether.

Though Bien is gone — and many, many miles away — the conflict is far from resolution. Sample said he plans to initiate legal proceedings under church law on Monday, a process he suspects will result in Bien's dismissal from the priesthood.

"The damage that hurts me most is the spiritual damage," Sample said.

For families like the Hainleys, the coming weeks could be defining. They'll talk to their children. They'll watch Catholic leadership closely. Not just for action and support, but for a spirit of listening. 

"I feel emotionally drained," Peter Hainley said.

It took years for him to build enough trust in the Roman Catholic Church to come regularly with his family, to let one of his son's attend St. Francis School.

Now this.



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