Progress: Sadly, since the last edition of Focus we don’t have any significant progress to report from a particular diocese, the USCCB, or the Vatican. So instead we’ll use this space to thank you for supporting VOTF with your time, talent, and treasure. The overall success of this movement depends upon the active involvement of thousands of volunteers including affiliate leaders and members, area coordinators, national office help, working groups, national representative council, officers, and trustees.
Los Angeles, CA: 1) Gaile Pohlhaus was barred from the Mass (see more below, “Banging a Drum in LA”) as it was “private.” 2) John Moynihan slipped the letter beneath nearly 600 hotel doors in the wee hours of the morning, knowing this was the only way he could get the letter to the bishops. 3) Professor James Kelly was wondering where all the meeting attendees were when John appeared at his door. John had discovered a small sign indicating a suite number for a “Causes and Content Study” meeting. The sign was not only mislabeled (it’s “context” not “content”) but it was tucked away in an area of the Biltmore hotel designated for the bishops’ vendors.
4) In Richmond, VA, NBC12 News and the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Lynn Allgeier was escorted from her church, St. James in Hopewell, VA, by police officers after several weeks of inquiries about a new priest in the parish. The pastor, Fr. Frank Wiggins, had sent her a letter indicating that she was no longer welcome in the church but answering none of her questions about his background and parish finances. Allgeier felt obliged to know more about the priest because “we have lived in the diocese of Richmond for over 20 years, and in those 20 years, every diocese we've belonged to has had a pedophile priest.” When reporters contacted the Richmond diocese, they were told that any priest has the right to refuse a parishioner. (See more in Diocese/State Watch.)
5) In Yakima, WA, the Yakima Herald Republic had been tracking the story of a former employee of the Catholic Diocese of Yakima who waited ten months for a response to his lawsuit alleging he was wrongfully discharged from his diocesan job. Robert Fontana filed his suit in August 2005. Fontana’s suit contended “that Fontana was forced to leave his job because he was critical of how the diocese was applying its policy on clergy sexual misconduct with vulnerable people. ‘I have no doubt Robert was a thorn in their side, but what he was trying to do was right. The bishop didn't want to hear it,’ Fontana’s attorney said. Fontana said he was reprimanded twice at work in 2004 for questioning how the diocese was handling the case of a priest being investigated by the FBI and the county prosecutor's office on possession of child pornography. Both agencies ultimately declined to file charges.” The priest in question was sent away for therapy, returned to another parish, and is currently on sabbatical.
The paper also noted VOTF Yakima Dan Thibault’s concern that “the diocese didn't follow its own policy in allowing the priest to minister while still under investigation for possible possession of child pornography.”
Nonetheless, a May 10 posting in the Yakima Herald Republic reported, “A lawsuit accusing the Catholic Diocese of Yakima of forcing an employee to quit has been thrown out by a judge as a constitutional violation of the separation of church and state. Robert Fontana sued the church last year, claiming he was forced to quit for complaining about Bishop Carlos Sevilla's handing of allegations against a priest who was suspected of downloading photographs of nude.”
6) In Newark, NJ, VOTF members were met at church doors “by armed sheriff’s officers who cautioned us that we were not to hand out material in the cathedral (though we were not doing so). In conversation, it became clear that they were [there] in response to our visit.”
How on earth could anyone be so blind as to ignore such blatant interference from the Holy Spirit?
As a priest said to me tonight, you have to admire their tenacity when everywhere they look, they see their own destruction.