Stories About The Priests We Help
Opus Bono Sacerdoti
October 31, 2018
The accounts presented here are based on real events. Names have been changed and identifying details have been modified to protect the privacy of the people involved.
Because of your faithful prayers and continued generous support for our priests in need of caring assistance, when Father Jerry sent me the email below, you helped us immediately respond to him and assist him through some very troubling and difficult transitions.
“Dear Joe, I was informed that a man whom I do not recall ever meeting reported that sometime between 1983 to 1985, while giving him a blessing in his home, I had touched [him inappropriately]. The investigator who interviewed me informed me that the man has emotional problems and that his own father did not believe him. From my investigations, with the help of a private investigator, I have reasonably established that during the period in which this allegation is reported to have occurred, his family was not living in our state nor in our parish.
“Later in August, [my] bishop announced this accusation in all the parishes in which I had served. He informed the people that it had most likely occurred He removed me from ministry.
“[My] bishop has taken care of my material needs, food, insurance, a place to live. My health is somewhat poor, with a weak heart, and I walk with a cane and a walker . . .
“This evening, our Vicar for Priests gave me a surprise visit. He said that some parents from a public school, about a block from our residence, were protesting my living near their school. (I never go on the school property and have no contact with any of the children in any way.) He said they are demanding that the bishop evict me from my residence. He said they are planning to stage a protest march at a neighboring Catholic Church this Sunday. He said that [my] Bishop will evict me from here to some other location.
“At 81 years of age, the aspect of moving to some unknown place is very disturbing for me.
“I have never sexually abused anyone. I do not know who is accusing me. I do not know what I am accused of. I do not know when these delicts are alleged to have occurred. I know of no evidence against me. When I have sought this information, the Diocese becomes angry and simply said they have files against me. There is probably nothing you can do to help me, but I feel better for having told someone. Thank you. Father Jerry.”
For two months, the diocese moved Father Jerry to two different locations, and then ended-up putting him up in an Extended Stay Hotel. By necessity, this would again have to be short-term, and Opus Bono did not consider it an acceptable solution for an elderly person with health problems.
After several phone calls counseling Father Jerry, and with the generous assistance of one of his friends, he was able to find a small condo he can finally call home! Thank you for your support in helping Father Jerry. Through your kindness and goodness, he now has steady and reliable shelter in a safe place.
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish . . . sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
clothing the naked when you see them and not turning your back on your own. Isaiah 58:6a,7
Now, more than ever, your charity and goodness are critically needed.
Because of your unfailing prayers and your faithful generous support, Father Jay is able to continue his important work caring for those in substance abuse treatment and providing housing for some of the most marginalized of our society. Here he shares his gratitude with all of us in this letter.
“It’s been a while since I’ve communicated with you. So sorry …! I just wanted to bring you up to date with what has been going on in my life.
“I continue to work for Father Pat and our agency that offers treatment for those suffering from substance abuse and offering housing and treatment for those coming out of State Prison.
“One of my jobs is to respond to the inmates inquiring about our program.
“On March 13th, I underwent a lumbar fusion and laminectomy. It was the last course of action. Prior, I did 3 rounds of physical therapy as well as injections in the problem disc.
“Recovery went smoothly, thank God! But post-surgery, I had chronic leg pain for over two months.
“I wanted to take this opportunity to again thank you and Opus Bono for the continued financial support which helped immensely due to my medical costs and I had an increase in my monthly rent and am due for another increase in October.
“I will be offering a special Mass of Thanksgiving for you and Peter as well as all of your generous benefactors and for all the priests like me who are receiving support from Opus Bono.
“May God, Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John Vianney continue to shower you with their choicest Blessings.
“Sincerely, Father Jay.”
We, for our part, love because God first loved us. If anyone says, “My love is fixed on God,”
yet hates his brother, he is a liar. One who has no love for the brother he has seen
cannot love the God he has not seen. The commandment we have from God is this:
whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:19-21
“Dear Friends, as I write, I am reminded of the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. He wrote, ‘It was the best of times . . . it was the worst of times . . . it was an age of wisdom, it was an age of foolishness . . . ”
“It was the worst of times for me in the years 2009-2012.
“I have a gambling addiction and during those years I misused money given to me for personal use . . . given by a parishioner . . . misused it for gambling.
“The State called it fraud . . . my diocese suspended my faculties . . . and the courts sentenced me to a year in prison. During that time of incarceration, my Bishop asked me to petition Rome for laicization. I was devastated but I informed him that I would not do so.
“Had it not been for the support, prayers, counseling and just the good will of the members of Opus Bono, I could never have survived those years.
“Life is a series of lessons, some of them obvious, some not. Nothing has been more demanding, damaging and destructive in my life as this addiction. However, through the consistent support of Opus Bono, my participation in Gambling Anonymous and much, much prayer, I have been re-instated to ministry.
“Sin, shame and public scandal have led way to forgiveness and redemption. A process for sure, but the constant assistance and prayerful support of Opus Bono has been a grace.
“I learned from my friends at Opus Bono that life’s challenges are designed not to break us . . . but to bend us toward God.
“I am forever in your debt . . . because of your support and prayers.
“I am well on the road to recovery and am, because of God and the assistance of Opus Bono . . . more human, more Christian, more priestly.
“I, like St. Paul . . . thank God every time I think of you. Peace, Father Mark.”
“We who are strong in faith should be patient with the failings of those who are weak;
we must not be selfish. Each should help his neighbor so as to do him good by building up his spirit.”
St. Paul’s Letter to the Church in Rome, 15:1-2
“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you’re doing to help priests. I believe God is working through you. I am comforted in knowing that you help both those priests who, in their weakness, fell into sin and those who have been unjustly accused.
“I wanted to include a letter with my donation to tell you my story. [Several years ago,] I was accused by an anonymous person of spending too much time with a teenage girl. There was no charge of sexual abuse – in fact the accuser stated that they believed there was no abuse – and the family of the young woman told the diocese the allegation was bogus. Also, the person making the allegation refused to identify who they were to the diocese so there was no way to determine the sincerity of the allegation.
“Nonetheless, the diocese chose to remove me from ministry as an associate pastor. Furthermore, they had a very biased psychologist evaluate me and make a false diagnosis of sexual infatuation. His bias was due to the fact that he recommended therapy [at an] in-house treatment program he owned and operated.
“I was at a complete loss as to what to do. Then I read [an] issue of Columbia magazine and the article about your organization. I called, and Pete Ferrara literally dropped everything he was doing to assist me. He gave me so much needed encouragement that I was not alone.
“He spent hours giving me guidance and eventually directed me to two psychologists . . . to conduct unbiased and professional evaluations. My diocese agreed to the evaluations and the results found me to be normal, with no major psychological dysfunctions other than Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome from this ordeal.
“The diocese accepted this evaluation and paid for counseling to work through the post-traumatic stress. I was restored to active ministry and I’m blessed to say that last July, I was appointed pastor of two parishes in my diocese.
“I cannot nor will I ever be able to thank you enough for your assistance. Without your help, I doubt I would be an active priest today. I say a Mass of Thanksgiving for you and the psychologists each month. I gratefully make this donation to Opus Bono Sacerdotii and I will pray fervently for you.
“If I can do anything else to be of assistance, please let me know. May God bless you and your work.”
Let me say this: He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully. Everyone must give according to what he has inwardly decided; not sadly, not grudgingly,
for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
Even when a priest has done absolutely nothing wrong, the Church will sometimes go to the nthdegree, including subjecting some priests to unwarranted psychological trauma, and a very long wait to return to active ministry, all to appease a terribly aggressive accuser.
“As far as I am concerned you’re indeed Heaven-sent!” These were Father David’s words to me, and to all of you who make possible the life-saving work of Opus Bono. Several years ago, Father David introduced himself to me as a soldier-priest who had been assigned to a diocesan parish as a priest-in-residence, after retiring as a U.S.A. military chaplain. A female parishioner soon befriended him and expressed a desire to help him integrate into the parish, telling him she had been a good friend to the priest Father David was replacing.
Soon Father David became uncomfortable with this woman’s lack of personal boundaries. The pastor of the parish wisely intervened and asked her to refrain from this behavior. On the surface, the woman appeared to accept and respond to the pastor’s request. Nevertheless, she persisted in calling Father David on the phone day and night. In fact, as Father David was getting ready to leave for vacation, she interrupted his preparations. She told the pastor she had an appointment to see him— but this was a lie. Father David had not agreed to any arrangements for her to visit, nor did he want any further contact with her.
When Father David and others were leaving for the airport, she got in her car and followed him, saying she wanted to see him off. Thanks to Father David’s family and friends, this woman couldn’t get near him. So instead, through another priest, she sent Father David $600 so he could better enjoy his vacation, a “gift” he absolutely did not want.
When Father David returned to the parish after his vacation was completed, he was shocked to find balloons and a huge bouquet of red roses waiting for him, more “gifts” from this woman, now in celebration of his birthday! Father David said in exasperation, “I never met such a persistent person in my whole life.”
Finally, when she realized that Father David had no intention of ever accepting her gifts or her friendship, she fiercely turned 180 degrees against him. “Whereas before I could do no wrong, everything I did was quite ‘divine’— I was an angel, an inspiration, and all that nonsense, now I was an S.O.B. and the worst . . . devil there was in the universe. My poor mother would roll over in her grave a few times if she heard all [the] things said of me by this woman!” Father David stated.
She soon became very depressed, refused to eat and was losing weight. Her concerned mother reported this to Father David’s pastor. The pastor then reported the matter to the chancery, which brought it to the attention of the archbishop, who was in Rome at the time.
Without one conversation with Father David, the archbishop instructed the pastor to tell Father David to leave the parish immediately. He was forbidden to celebrate Mass in public, and prohibited from all pastoral ministry until further advised. Father David was devastated, but the worst was yet to come. Directed to go to a psychiatric hospital for priests, Father David spent five grueling months there, repeatedly subjected to evaluation and re-evaluation. Father David found the process excruciatingly painful, humiliating and embarrassing.
Unbelievably, when he was finally released, this woman then tried to sue him, claiming sexual misconduct, and asserting that her faith and her spiritual life were in ruins. Thanks be to God, the case against Father David was eventually dismissed, but not before he needed to request financial assistance from Opus Bono for the mounting legal fees he had to pay.
Father David is now happily back in ministry and so very grateful. “Thank you for your time and kind and loving support for your lowly and wounded priests. Our Lord has said in the Gospel, whatever you do to the least of my brethren you do unto me. . . What you did for me, and for other hurting priests, you do unto the Lord,” Father David wrote.
“Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith. For the sake of the joy which lay before him he endured the cross, heedless of its shame.” Hebrews 12:2
Because of Opus Bono’s ongoing support and guidance, recent offensive remarks in the media about Father Dan, and the insertion of his name on a list of credibly accused “child abusers” on the diocesan webpage, did NOT cause him to plunge again into the very painful effects of heart disease or intense stress and depression as it did in the past. For this Father Dan is deeply, eternally grateful to YOU and all of us who assist him at Opus Bono.
Being able to open up with us confidentially and share his severe sorrow and pain helps bring healing to Father Dan. Opus Bono has been there at every moment that he needed to “unload” his grief and his anger during these extremely difficult times.
A recent correspondence from Father Dan describes best his predicament: “First and foremost, I have taught in religious institutions and secular schools since I was 19 years of age. Never once have I abused a minor (or anyone else for that matter) in all of these years. I was forced to retire from teaching because of an allegation made by a student I had at a specialized senior high school.” The young man alleged that Father Dan had abused him long before Father Dan was ever thinking of becoming a priest. In fact, Father Dan had not yet even converted to Catholicism.
This poor fellow had actually been abused by his own family! He was a troubled soul. Father Dan taught him over 30 years ago. Again, he was not a priest at the time. He was working as a teacher, assistant chairperson and grade advisor.
Father Dan wrote, “Because of the absolute power of [my bishop], I have not been given the opportunity to defend my innocence. . . . I have not been charged, I have not been arrested and I have not been to court.” Father Dan believes that his bishop did not perform an impartial and fair investigation, and that it was certainly not comprehensive. Father Dan complied with all the requirements asked of him involving the allegation, but to no avail. He could not be heard.
He was dismissed from ministry and the institution he loved, with no chance to refute the allegation, which the bishop and his chancery staff claim was credible. Father Dan fears the bishop has treated him this way because he has spoken out forcefully that the allegation is false, and that a just canonical process was not being followed.
Father Dan still can’t understand how the diocese, which never even provided him with the chance to present his side of the story, and without any warning whatsoever, could make such a cavalier decision to dismiss him. In addition, he has been publicly humiliated several times, including this latest incident. He is embarrassed, and even afraid at times to step outside his own front door. He feels that he has been treated as a persona non-grata, unworthy of the professional respect and courtesy due to any person, and with a total absence of even basic Christian charity.
“[What] has been written about me is false and has been used to destroy my character,” he wrote. However, because of the constant encouragement that Father Dan receives from Opus Bono, this has NOT happened. He is now encouraged and determined to continue being the best and healthiest priest he can be. “I am committed to bringing love and peace in response to the hate that I have experienced . . .,” he continued.
Father Dan wishes to express his gratitude to YOU for enabling Opus Bono to assist him, a poor rejected priest, especially in caring for his spiritual and material needs. He now holds on to the hope that through prayer and fasting, and because of our continued, unfailing efforts to defend him, this injustice will come to an end and he will finally be returned to active ministry.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
Sometimes, even when a good priest like Father Roger is found innocent, because of the prejudice and stigma caused by a false allegation, he may continue to need our support.
“Several years ago Opus Bono was of tremendous assistance to me during an extremely painful and difficult time. As you may recall, I was fully restored to ministry after a civil case against me was dismissed by the state, and then I was fully exonerated by the Diocesan Review Board. According to the canon lawyer provided for me by Opus Bono, I may be one of the only priests in the USA to have gone from arrest to re-instatement by way of a trial and an appeal that was 100% successful.
“However, it seems there is a price to be paid for victory. After being re-instated by the bishop, I was assigned to serve as a chaplain in a large Catholic medical center. Having at one time been owned by the diocese, it is now under the auspices of a much larger Catholic health care system, with fifty-four hospitals in many states. I began my ministry at this medical center on September 5th . . . and then I was abruptly fired one month later!
“Such is the case for an accused priest who is found totally innocent! There appears to be an innate skepticism by the press and certain detractors that a priest who has been accused could actually have fought a false allegation for 5½ years, and prevailed in the end, against seemingly insurmountable odds. I was dismissed by the hospital because the diocese did not tell the Catholic hospital system of my background before I was assigned there as chaplain.
“To make matters worse, it was a reporter from the local newspaper who informed this Catholic medical center about the past, proven-false, allegation made against me. The resulting dismissal made front page news that Sunday and was also picked up by four or five other newspapers in the area. As you can imagine, the article was horribly biased and it basically re-tried my case by culling everything that could be found about me on-line.
“The tone set by the paper was that of a church which continues to look the other way. The insinuation: I got away with something; otherwise how could I have been reinstated?!
“Nearly a year went by, and at first, I was assigned as a priest-in-residence at a parish near the medical center. I had full faculties and was fulfilling my priestly ministry by assisting in nearby parishes. But then the bishop restricted my privilege to celebrate Holy Mass and preside at the Sacraments because of the ‘liability caused by bad press.’
“I was then told to leave the rectory and find a place to live on my own, off diocesan properties. When I informed the bishop I had nowhere to go, he curtly replied ‘surely, you have one friend who could put you up until you can find a job and get an apartment?’ Shortly afterwards, the chancellor contacted me stating that the bishop would be reducing my salary to $1,000 a month since I was prohibited from working as a priest for the diocese, and ‘because the poverty line in the United States is currently defined as $11,880 per year.’
“I was completely devastated and utterly alone again! I wasn’t sure I would have the will or the courage to fight another battle, with no chance of ever being returned to active ministry, or being able to minister anywhere without biased scrutiny from the press and a paranoid public that sees every accused priest as a child molester. I was angry. I was hurt. I was appalled that my bishop and diocese would treat one of their own priests this way.
“Once again, the unfailing support of Opus Bono, your willingness to walk with me in pain, encourage me when I was down, and lift me up as you have done so often in the past, saved me and my priesthood. I don’t know what was said during your personal visit with the bishop, but I am now working within the chancery, albeit a ‘hidden’ job, and my salary has been reinstated in full. I have my own apartment, and although my life in public ministry for the foreseeable future is over, I am deeply grateful that my priestly faculties and limited ministry in the Church I love so much has been restored, all thanks to Opus Bono!”
“Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of
slander against you because of me. They persecuted the prophets
before you in the very same way.”
Even priests in remote country areas, like Father Simon, are not spared reckless assumptions in our current hyper-sexualized society, sometimes from the most seemingly kind-hearted folk.
“I’ve been a priest for 41 years and I’ve served in small rural parishes in some of the more remote parts of the country. One of these poor parishes, Saint Athanasius, is essentially an outpost in the wilderness. I was the only priest for hundreds of miles.
“The work at Saint Athanasius was truly fulfilling. In addition to being pastor, spiritual guide, administrator and maintenance man, I tended to the never-ending charitable needs of the rural poor. But it finally took its toll on me. One day I collapsed during Mass.
“Since there was no hired parish staff, one of our most destitute families in the parish took pity on my desperate situation and helped me. It was a mother and her oldest son of high school age. The parish was providing shelter for them in a retreat cabin on the parish property. I was semi-bedridden and should have gone to the hospital, but there was no other priest available to offer Mass or mind the parish.
“One evening, fearing I might collapse again, I consented to the assistance of the young man to help me into the bathroom. He was very mature and polite. However, over the next several days he became angry and forceful when assisting me again. Although there were some delicate issues involved, my difficulties involved pain and functionality. Because he was the only support I had at the time, I put up with his agitated demeanor figuring that he was uncomfortable with having to help an old man in the bathroom.
“Weeks later, I indirectly learned, through rumors circulating in our small community, that there was a potential problem - the mother was accusing me of sexually abusing her son!
“I immediately contacted the Chancellor and made the long painful trip to the diocese. After admitting a lapse in judgement due to my circumstances and excruciating pain, I emphatically denied the allegation. Because the young man’s story completely corresponded with my own, the Chancellor assured me that they were not looking at this as a matter of sexual abuse, but as an unfortunate situation. He said that I was a ‘humble and courageous man’ for dealing forthrightly with the matter and that he would advise the bishop to fully restore my faculties.
“As I was leaving the Chancery that day, the bishop’s secretary, Father Mark, slipped me a note with your phone number on it. ‘Father’, he said, ‘don’t think twice about calling them; you need to call them today!’ I had never heard of Opus Bono before, but something in the severity of his tone motivated me to contact you. Joe, our conversation that evening was terribly upsetting, but everything you told me came to pass in the coming weeks and months.
“Just two days after my meeting in the Chancery, I was suspended. With your ever-present counsel, I fully cooperated with the diocesan investigation. Then the Chancellor ordered me to go for an evaluation at a treatment center for priests ‘due to insurance purposes.’ It was at this moment of dread that I fully understood and appreciated Father Mark’s referral to Opus Bono!
“If Opus Bono had not been there to work with me through all the dealings with the diocese, which became increasingly hostile, I’m sure I would have ended up more destitute than the people I served at Saint Athanasius. Your coaching on how to respond to the bishop, and especially your recommendation to an independent mental health professional, which the diocese reluctantly accepted, saved my priesthood. As you so rightly advised, the evaluation was unbiased. It was determined that I had no psycho-sexual deviancy. I was cleared.
“Although I know I will never be able to return to the parish and people I loved at Saint Athanasius, I do have my priestly faculties, which is more than I can say for many of my brother priests who have sadly experienced the same fate as me! May God protect all of you at Opus Bono so that you may continue to protect and care for all of us poor sons of Mary.”