Tuesday, August 13, 2013


The canonical proceedings challenging the Archbishop's removal of Fr. Gofigan as pastor remain, for now, out of the public eye. But Fr. Gofigan's continued presence in the pews and not on the altar at Sunday and daily Mass is obviously NOT out of the public eye and has many Santa Barbara parishioners wondering what will become of him. 

For now it appears that Fr. Gofigan is being allowed to still live in the Santa Barbara rectory, but is reportedly not allowed to do anything else related to his being a priest. This situation cannot continue. At some point he will either be forced to leave or restored to his position as pastor, or perhaps some other compromise will be sought. Since the Archbishop has returned to the island, we can assume that the canonical proceedings challenging his decision to remove Fr. Gofigan have commenced. 

One bit of news that has surfaced is that Fr. Gofigan was notified by the chancery that he cannot appeal the decision to remove him since he was never formally removed. The basis of the chancery's position is that the letter given to Fr. Paul on July 16 only demanded his resignation but did not formally remove him. 

However, the public is already very aware that he has been removed as pastor via the aviso appearing in the following Sunday's U Matuna - the official organ of communication for the Archdiocese. The public is also aware that upon returning to the rectory after the July 16th meeting, Fr. Gofigan found the locks on the rectory changed, and that his priestly faculties to say Mass and to preach have been revoked. 

In legal language this is known as "ipso facto", or "by the fact itself". Even though there was no official document of removal as of yet from the Archdiocese - the demand for resignation notwithstanding - the fact that Fr. Gofigan was officially replaced, locked out of his rectory, and denied his priestly faculties, is an "ipso facto" removal, and a very public one at that. 

The initial anger amongst many parishioners and more generally among many of the Catholic laity seems to have turned mostly to sadness and bewilderment, and predictably so. From all accounts it appears that the chancery has acted imperiously and without regard for the laity.

Whether of not the chancery was within the canonical boundaries to summarily remove Fr. Gofigan as pastor is something the canonical appeal will determine. But meanwhile the people see a priest stripped of his parish and his priesthood - without warning - without explanation - and without any pastoral concern for how they might feel or respond.

So while the titans war, the people are shaken and suffer. This is the real tragedy. 

NOTE: Of course, Fr. Gofigan is not the first pastor to be arbitrarily dismissed from his post. But he is the first one to challenge it. More later. 

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