Monday, September 29, 2014

A Bishop Shows How an Abusive Priest Should Be Handled

Anthony B. Taylor,
bishop of Little Rock, AR

For some reason I take a lot of things personally.

For instance, the Sex Scandal in the Catholic Church.

I love the Catholic Church, which is the Body of Christ, and which I have paid dearly in many ways to enter and to try to conform myself to.  So when bishops behave badly by enabling those who prey upon children to do so, I get very upset.  These are men who are the successors to the apostles, "other Christs" among us - and yet they typically behave in ways that make you wonder if they worship Christ or Satan.  And I can only echo Boys' Town founder Fr. Flanagan, "I wonder what God's judgment will be with reference to those who hold the deposit of faith and who fail in their God-given stewardship of little children."

And lately I've been on a bit of a roller coaster.  It appeared that Pope Francis had made a big statement by sacking Bishop Livieres, who not only enabled a priest accused of both sex abuse and embezzlement by giving him access to children and money, but who made this priest (a priest called "dangerous" by other bishops) his vicar general.

But then, quickly, the Vatican claimed that Livieres was not removed because of his role in the Sex Scandal.

Or did they?  Commonweal points out that the situation is more complex than that, and that the reporting of the Vatican's denial was a bit confused.  Livieres' handling of the priest in question was certainly the catalyst that led to his removal, even though it might not have been the sole reason.

Even more hopeful is the Vatican's investigation of Kansas City Bishop Finn, whose shameful role in the Fr. Shawn Ratigan case has been defended in a knee jerk manner by right wing Catholics who can't see that Finn's doctrinal orthodoxy carries no weight if he is cavalier about the safety of children and if he wastes millions of dollars in diocesan money defending himself against a misdemeanor charge that he was rightfully convicted of.

But regardless of what went on with Livieres, and what might go on with Finn, at least there's one bishop who gets it. Little Rock bishop Anthony B. Taylor shows us how it should be done - and how, if bishops had been handling these cases this way for years, the faith of Catholics and the safety of innocent children would not be at risk.

Bishops, take note!  This is how it should be done ...


Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered the following homily about Father James Melnick at St. John Church in Russellville, St. Augustine Church in Dardanelle and St. Andrew Church in Danville on Sept. 27-28, 2014.
In the Gospel for Monday of this week Jesus said: "There is nothing hidden that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away." (Luke 8:17-18)
The most difficult thing I ever have to do as bishop is come to a parish to inform the parishioners that I have received credible allegations of misconduct against their priest so serious as to require his removal from ministry. Last weekend we received credible allegations of sexual misconduct against Father Melnick and were able to act quickly enough to prevent him from celebrating his last Mass in Danville last Sunday.
Later that day we were able to interview some of his victims and verify multiple acts of sexual misconduct with multiple adult victims during the period of less than a year. Since there were multiple victims, we seem to be dealing with predatory behavior, not romance.
Later Father Melnick admitted that this is true. So please do not blame his victims. They are victims. And moreover, they reported violations of the sacrament of Reconciliation so serious as to require his permanent removal from ministry: absolution of persons with whom he had previously committed sins against the sixth commandment — and thus incurring grave canonical penalties that can only be lifted by the Holy See.
I know that his misconduct has harmed some of you directly and if you have been a victim of his misdeeds or know someone who has been harmed by him here or elsewhere, I ask that you contact the diocese to report the incident for your own good and for the good of the Church. I would also like to offer you the assistance of the Church in securing help if you could benefit from speaking with a psychologist or counselor to deal with what you have experienced.
I sincerely regret the harm you have suffered and in the name of the Church I apologize to you for what Father Melnick has done. Given what was shared with you today and what Father Melnick has admitted to doing, the Church would never allow a priest in a situation like this to ever to function as a priest again. Please pray for him. He needs your prayers, probably more than any of us even realizes.
And please pray especially for his victims, for their healing and for their inner peace. Also, don't let this shake your faith. Remember, your faith is not in any priest, or for that matter in any bishop or pope. It is in Jesus and in him alone. Also know that the sacraments you have received from Father Melnick remain valid, so despite his misdeeds, all your baptisms, weddings and so on are valid, so don't worry about that.
I am shocked by all of this, as I am sure you are too — and especially those of you who were unaware of Father Melnick's immoral and sacrilegious activities. For that reason, I am sending you one of the finest young priests in our diocese to replace him: Father Mauricio Carrasco. He will be just exactly the right person you need to lead you through this difficult time. The plan is for him to live in Russellville with Father Chuma and to begin service here next weekend.
Also please pray for the Church. It is quite understandable that this might get a great deal of negative attention in the media because, after all, this is a very bad situation — the worst I have ever faced and probably the worst your parish has ever faced too. But please know that I am with you and we will get through this together.
As for Father Melnick, while today's Responsorial Psalm rejoices that God is a merciful God, our First Reading reminds us that even so, evil deeds lead to very burdensome consequences — such as, in the case of Father Melnick, removal from ministry. But that doesn't change the fact that we still pray for the perpetrator's ultimate salvation. So keep him in your prayers. And above all, pray for his victims — they are our first priority and our first concern.
And again, if you or someone you know has been a victim of misconduct by Father Melnick or any other priest or representative of the Church, I ask that you contact the diocese to report the incident for your own good and for the good of the Church.

Indeed, our faith should not be placed in mere men - and we should not take things like this personally.  But we are to be, to one another, lights in the darkness.  The bishops in Minnesota, by comparison, knew of at least one priest who abused boys in the confessional - desecrating the sacrament and desecrating the boys - and did nothing to prevent it: which is simply spreading the darkness, not the light.

Something like this, then, is good to see.


Portia's Sister said...

The removed priest kept a blog:

I share it because I've been reading the posts today, and many of them are sweet and uplifting in nature.

That's what depresses the heck out of me when I read a case like this occurs: it shatters my sense of confidence in identifying goodness and good people.

Anonymous said...

Bishop Taylor also wisely promptly removed a French FSSP priest who was serving in his diocese-Fr. Laurent Demets in 2011 because he slapped an 11 year old boy. Of course, all the Reactionary blogs were all quick to rush to the priest's defense, saying that the boy probably deserved it, etc. One blogger even accused him of being a homosexual because he has a moustache! Here is Bishop Taylor's letter:

Asbury Fox said...

I remember that fiasco involving Bishop Taylor and the FSSP priest. Taylor was a sworn enemy of the TLM, and because of the removal of the priest, there was a chain of events that led to the FSSP apostolate shutting down.

Taylor overreacted and was out to persecute traditionalists. The child even said that he deserved it because he was out of line. The parents and community came out to support the French priest.

Back in the old days, if a child complained to his parents that he got slapped by a priest or nun, he would get another slap from the parents for causing trouble.

Anonymous said...

The child even said that he deserved it because he was out of line. The parents and community came out to support the French priest.

Given that kind of pressure ("the parents and community"), what would you expect the child to say?

From what I've read in blogs from people familiar with the case first hand, the child in question was a teenage girl.

A priest, an adult man, slapped a teenage girl across the face.

I'm glad Fr. Demets was removed.

Anonymous said...

As a Catholic in the state of Arkansas, I have never really trusted Bishop Taylor. AFTER Fr. Melnick admits to him of indiscretions with 2 single women (not "multiple acts with multiple adults") is when he writes this "homily." I'm not condoning these indiscretions, I'm saying Bishop Taylor has immensely exaggerated the facts to mislead people to believe horrible things of Father Melnick, and he knows it!!

anonymous in arkansas

Kevin O'Brien said...

Anonymous in Arkansas, I would be interested in hearing your side of the story.

I am especially confused about this case. Is Fr. Melnick simply a fraud like Maciel and other seemingly orthodox Catholics who used their orthodoxy as a cloak for their true characters, or is he simply a sinner who fell?

If you'd like, you may email me privately and I'll keep everything we discuss strictly confidential. kevin at