Friday, May 2, 2014

THE ILLEGITIMATE REMOVAL OF FR. PAUL GOFIGAN - PART III

We will now examine the letter of August 2, 2013 from Msgr. David C. Quitugua, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Agana, to Fr. Paul Gofigan.

In the previous installment we noted that the thrust of this letter was to advise Fr. Paul Gofigan that he could not challenge his removal as pastor from Santa Barbara Parish because he had not been removed as pastor from Santa Barbara Parish...even though he was:
  1. Locked out of the parish offices.
  2. Told to vacate his living quarters.
  3. Removed from the schedule of presiders at Mass.
  4. Stripped of his priestly faculties.
  5. Officially replaced by a parochial administrator
  6. And had his removal announced at every Mass on the following Sunday

In the letter, the Vicar General writes:
"…it must first of all be noted that the letter sent to you by Archbishop Anthony on July 16, 2013 (Prot. No. 013-047), was not a decree of removal from the office of pastor as you have claimed. Rather, this letter was sent to you in accord with the requirements of canon 1742, §1, which state that a bishop is to "persuade the pastor to resign within fifteen days, after having explained for validity, the cause and arguments for the removal." The Archbishop's letter presented his reasons for this request which were explicitly described in detail in his letter.
Sounds rather straight forward, but in quoting canon 1742, §1, the Vicar General leaves out an important part of the canon. Here is what it is actually says (emphasis mine):
"he paternally is to persuade the pastor to resign within fifteen days...
In light of the canonical directive for a bishop to first attempt to paternally persuade his priest to resign, let's review the whole thing again, and keep in mind the word "paternally":

Fr. Paul is called to the chancery for a meeting with the Archbishop at 3:pm on July 16, 2013.
  • Fr. Paul does not know the reason for the meeting. 
  • Fr. Paul arrives.
  • The Archbishop, in the presence of the Vicar General, reads the letter to Fr. Paul and then hands it to him.
  • In the letter, the Archbishop demands that Fr. Paul resign immediately and if he refuses then he is to supply his reasons as soon as possible. 
Unbeknownst to Fr. Paul, even while he is meeting with the Archbishop, the Archbishop had already arranged for:
  • The locks to be changed on the parish offices, locking Fr. Paul out.
  • The appointment of a parochial administrator to replace Fr. Paul.
  • The removal of Fr. Paul from the scheduled list of presiders at parish Masses, effectively stripping him of his faculties.
  • The order for Fr. Paul to vacate his living quarters, effectively leaving him homeless.
  • And the announcement of his removal at all parish Masses. 
And now, on August 2, the Archbishop, via the Vicar General, tells Fr. Paul that he was not removed as pastor on July 16, but the whole affair was only an attempt to persuade him to resign within 15 days!

As we can see, not only did the Archbishop not even wait 15 minutes, he had already arranged for the complete physical removal of Fr. Paul prior to the meeting on July 16.

In a matter of minutes, Fr. Paul is effectively left standing on the curb, jobless, homeless, publicly disgraced, and stripped of his priestly ministry. AND FOR WHAT? What were the Archbishop's charges? We will get to that in an upcoming post. For now let us go on with the current letter.

The Vicar General also skips another very important part. Before a bishop can even get to the part of canon 1742 where he is to first paternally persuade the pastor to resign within 15 days, he must fulfill the previous prescripts of the canon. Here is the complete canon (emphases mine):
Can.  1742 §1. If the instruction which was carried out has established the existence of one of the causes mentioned in ⇒ can. 1740, the bishop is to discuss the matter with two pastors selected from the group established for this purpose in a stable manner by the presbyteral council at the proposal of the bishop. If the bishop then judges that removal must take place, he paternally is to persuade the pastor to resign within fifteen days, after having explained, for validity, the cause and arguments for the removal.
The words "stable manner" denote that the selection is not to be ad hoc for individual cases. This is to prevent a "kangaroo court". The Vicar General is also prevented from being one of the two pastors with whom the bishop is to discuss the matter because canon 480 requires that he be "one with the bishop."

Yet, we can assume that the only "pastors" with whom the matter was discussed was the Vicar General and the Chancellor, both of whom must be beholden to the bishop. We can assume this because the only thing the Archbishop references in his July 16 letter demanding Fr. Paul's resignation is a "preliminary investigation and consultation with others."

But regardless of who the Archbishop consulted with, we can be sure that he did not fulfill the prescripts of canon 1742 before summoning Fr. Paul and demanding his resignation. We can be sure of this because when the Archbishop finally got around to doing things legally, he tells us in the Decree of Removal (which was finally issued on Nov. 12, 2013) when the required consultation actually occurred:
The required consultation with two pastors, Reverend Msgr. Brigido Arroyo and Reverend Father Jose Alberto Rodriguez, was held on August 12, 2013 (Prot. No. 013-055)
Now, even if we grant the Vicar General's explanation that the July 16 letter demanding Fr. Paul's resignation was only to "persuade" Fr. Paul to resign within 15 days, the demand was canonically invalid because their was NO canonically constituted and required consultation until August 12, 2013, three weeks later! And the only reason this happened is because Fr. Paul challenged the validity of his removal.

At this point, we have to back up a bit. Because canon law does not permit the appointment of a parochial administrator to a parish unless the pastor's office is vacant, Fr. Paul had to assume that he had been officially removed when a parochial administrator was appointed to replace him, not to mention (and here we go again):

  • He was locked out of the parish.
  • He was told to vacate the rectory.
  • He was stripped of his priestly faculties.
  • And his dismissal was announced at every Mass on the following Sunday.

Thus there was only one thing for Fr. Paul to assume and that was that he had been officially removed because in fact, he had been de facto removed by the appointment of a parochial administrator to take his place. Thus in a July 28 letter to the Archbishop , Fr. Paul asks for a copy of the decree of removal and also informs the Archbishop that he intends to challenge his removal and names his counsel, Fr. Adolfo Dacanay, S. J. 

We can be sure that the Archbishop and the crew at the chancery did not expect Fr. Paul to do this which accounts for the convoluted reply we find in the Vicar General's letter of August 2:
"....since no decree has in fact yet been issued removing you from the office as pastor of Santa Barbara Church, there is no basis in law for the proposal of a recourse by you at the present time." 
So here he is without a home, without an office, without his priestly faculties, and without a future, but according to the Vicar General...he has not been removed. 

Even Fr. Dacanay went "HUH?" But we'll get to that. 

Go here for Part IV

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