Tuesday, May 13, 2014

THE ILLEGITIMATE REMOVAL OF FR. PAUL GOFIGAN - PART VII: THE EVIDENCE

It is now time to examine the alleged "crime" committed by Fr. Paul that supposedly warranted his brutal ouster. Let us examine the charge in the words of Archbishop Apuron:
You have allowed a registered sex offender, (name withheld), to return to work at the parish, even after you were warned by the Vicar General and the Attorney for the Archdiocese to release him. You disobeyed the order given by the Vicar General. By this action, you have in effect caused grave harm to the parish by allowing such an individual with a publicly known sex-offense record to work in the Church thus exposing him to your parishioners, especially the youth. By allowing him to work in the parish, you have exposed the children of the nearby school to a probable threat. (Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron, letter to Fr. Paul Gofigan, July 16, 2013, Prot. No. 013-047)
Again, we must clarify. The man's crime occurred more than three decades ago. His crime had nothing to do with children. He went to prison. He was released from prison. He got married. He has two daughters. He approached Fr. Paul to be reconciled with our Church. He obtained a police clearance. Fr. Paul hired him as a church maintenance man.

There is nothing in his record since 1981, when the sex-offense was committed, to suggest that he had the potential to cause "grave harm" to the parish or was a "probable threat" to children." By even the most objective account, we have here a man seeking reconciliation with his church and attempting to live out his life in some semblance of quiet normalcy. 

And again we must ask, as we asked before, how the Archbishop himself would have treated the man had he come to him instead of Fr. Paul. Or had he come to an NCW catechesis, would he have been turned away?

But let us move on to the charge itself.

In October of 2011, the Vicar General, Msgr. David C. Quitugua, ordered Fr. Paul to terminate the man's employment. Two years later, on July 16, 2013, the Archbishop calls Fr. Paul into his office and accuses him of disobeying "the order given by the Vicar General."

As we have already discussed, Fr. Paul was given no opportunity for "due process" as required by Canon law and mere human decency. Had he been given such an opportunity, the Archbishop might have spared himself and this diocese the "arduous and painful" experience he promised Fr. Paul. For Fr. Paul was right and the Archbishop was wrong. Fr. Paul HAD obeyed the Vicar General and he produced the evidence: a letter of termination addressed to the employee dated October 26, 2011.

And the man did not "return to work" as alleged by the Archbishop. The man simply continued to help out around the parish as many of us do. This is why the Archbishop - when confronted with the proof that Fr. Paul HAD in fact obeyed the Vicar General's order - changed the charge.

In his Decree of Removal of Fr. Paul, dated November 12, 2013, the Archbishop changes the charge against Fr. Paul stating that the reason for Fr. Paul's removal is due to his "refusing to terminate the de facto employment of a registered sex offender working in the parish."

So whereas the charge of July 16, 2013 was Fr. Paul's failure to terminate the employment of the registered sex offender, the charge, once Fr. Paul produced proof that he had in fact terminated the man's actual employment, it is now his failure to terminate the man's de facto employment. In other words, the Archbishop attempts to redefine the man's unpaid volunteer presence on church grounds as "employment."

This attempt to change the charge after the fact did not escape Fr. Paul's attorney. Fr. Dacanay, S. J. writes in his appeal:
The charge against Fr. Gofigan has become an elastic concept. At first it was because he did not obey the direct order to terminate the employment of (name withheld). When the charge proved false, it mutated into allowing him to do volunteer work for the parish. While the case is not identical, the accusation against a pastor in order to remove him from his office is somewhat analogous to the joinder of issues in a contentious trial, and the Code is very strict that such a joinder, once determined, may be altered only under the most rigorous conditions. In this case, the accusation and the basis of the removal was expanded from not terminating the employment to allowing him to helping out in the parish. (The appeal of Rev. Paul Gofigan in relation to his removal as Pastor of Santa Barbara Parish, A.N. Dacanay, S.J., Advocate)
So where are we with this case? Let's review:
  1. Fr. Paul was illegally removed from his post as pastor of Santa Barbara Church.
  2. Fr. Paul challenged his removal on the grounds that his removal violated canonical procedure and that the reason for his removal (his failure to terminate the man's employment) was false.
  3. Archbishop Apuron in effect acknowledges the illegal proceedings against Fr. Paul by initiating the required canonical process to remove Fr. Paul on August 12, 2013 as noted in the official Decree of Removal.
  4. Fr. Paul's advocate, Fr. Dacanay, responds with a Motion to Archbishop Apuron on 8/20/13 requesting that he revoke the decree removing Fr. Paul from his parish. In the Motion, Fr. Dacanay details [1] the applicable provision of the Code for the removal of pastors; [2] the facts of the case; [3] the procedural lapses by the Archbishop; and [4] the appeal that Fr. Paul be "restored to his office as pastor, his name cleared, and the damage to his reputation repaired."
  5. Archbishop Apuron ignores the motion from Fr. Dacanay and responds with a letter of September 10, 2013 to Fr. Paul informing him that he is proceeding with the canonical process for his removal.
  6. The "Acts" (documents related to the case against Fr. Paul) are prepared by the Archbishop and sent to Fr. Dacanay for his review. (The Acts are not publicly available.)
  7. Fr. Dacanay reviews the Acts and on November 7, 2013, files an official appeal of the case. (Copy of the official appeal not yet publicly available.)
  8. The case goes to Rome where it will be heard by the appropriate Vatican Congregation.
When, we do not know? But what we do know is that even after the Archbishop's charge against Fr. Paul was proved false, the Archbishop decided to proceed to have Fr. Paul removed anyway. Why?

We're coming to that. But first we must note with great seriousness that if in fact Archbishop Apuron believed the presence of the registered sex-offender at Santa Barbara Parish to be "a probable threat" to children and a potential for "grave harm" to the parish, then he has opened himself up for an AVALANCHE OF LAW SUITS from the parishioners and the parents of those children. 

According to Archbishop Apuron's own words, Archbishop Apuron WAS AWARE of this "probable threat" since 2011 and did NOTHING until July 16, 2013

For two years, again according to Archbishop Apuron's own words, he allowed the parishioners of Santa Barbara, and "especially the youth", as well as the children from the "nearby school",  to remain subject to "grave harm" and a "probable threat". 

It is probably only out what is left of respect for his office, and the faint hope that Fr. Paul might be restored as pastor to Santa Barbara, that Archbishop Apuron has not YET been sued for gross negligence and for knowingly allowing the prospect of grave harm to endure for nearly two years without so much as even speaking to Fr. Paul once about it until July 16, 2013. 

Fr. Paul may lose his appeal. Fr. Paul may be kicked out of this diocese. But all the liability for the supposed danger alleged by Archbishop Apuron then falls on Archbishop Apuron. And with the removal and banishment of Fr. Paul, there will also disappear the faint hope that has till now helped to quell the outrage. 

We have seen many such lawsuits against bishops in the states and in Europe. We may soon see them here.

Go here for Part VIII



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