Monday, May 5, 2014

THE ILLEGITIMATE REMOVAL OF FR. PAUL GOFIGAN - PART IV: BANISHED

In addition to all the foregoing - wherein Fr. Paul is denied due process for his removal, locked out of the parish, told to vacate the rectory, removed from the list of scheduled presiders, replaced with a parochial administrator, and publicly humiliated by the announcement of his removal at all the parish Masses - there is the even larger issue (and more frightening for Fr. Paul) of his being told to go find a "benevolent bishop", otherwise translated: "GET OUT OF MY DIOCESE!"  (Letter from Archbishop Apuron to Fr. Paul Gofigan, Juy 16, 2013)


Let's contemplate this. Fr. Paul is a son of Guam. This is his home. He is from here. He has given his life to serve his people. When a man becomes a priest for a diocese, he leaves the world and places his personal, spiritual, and material well-being in the hands of his bishop. The bishop in turn is tasked with the personal, spiritual, and material care of his priests. 

So to be told to "get out" is more than just getting fired from a job. To eat and live, Fr. Paul needs money like anyone else. Yet his only source of it, other than gifts, is a monthly stipend that comes from the bishop. Often priests are allowed to keep some of the money given them for Mass intentions, but with Fr. Paul's ability to say Mass stripped, he doesn't even have that. (His ability to say Mass was later restored after much publicity about it.)

You or I can get another job some place, but where does a fired priest go? He can't just show up in another diocese and start saying Mass. He must be either incardinated in a diocese, or at least be temporarily permitted by the local bishop to exercise his priestly ministry in the new diocese.

However, Fr. Paul has a problem. Few bishops will take a priest who has been kicked out of another diocese, especially one with all the bad things Archbishop Apuron has said about him. Essentially it is the end for Fr. Paul, at least as a diocesan priest. He could join a religious order or go to some other country where he might be accepted for diocesan service. But his priestly life in Guam and probably any other U.S. diocese, is over...unless, unless he challenges his removal. And so he has. 

We can be sure that Archbishop Apuron was not prepared for Fr. Paul's challenge. And the problem for the Archbishop was that he left Fr. Paul nothing to lose. Had he not banished Fr. Paul from the diocese in addition to all the other things he did to him, Fr. Paul may have held out hope for some sort of reconciliation and maybe not gone public with his case. But being fired as pastor, stripped of his faculties, AND banished from the diocese left Fr. Paul nothing to lose.  

Let's take a look at Archbishop Apuron's exact words, telling Fr. Paul to get out of the diocese as found in the July 16 letter:
"What type of ministry you might take up in the future is open for discussion. And if it is your wish, I hereby release you from this Archdiocese to go and look for a benevolent bishop willing to accept you. This is effective immediately." 
Why does the Archbishop say "if it is your wish"? It is important to examine this because in the August 2 letter from the Vicar General, the details of the meeting are recounted to make it appear that Fr. Paul wished to leave the Archdiocese:
"It was because of your express desire to be released from the Archdiocese and your insistence that your release be written that, on the same day, the Archbishop edited the letter adding the words that he 'release[d] you from this Archdiocese to go and look for a benevolent bishop willing to accept you.' It was effective immediately." (Msgr. David C. Quitgua, Vicar General, letter to Fr. Paul Gofigan, August 2, 2013, Prot. No. 013-053)
This makes it sound like Fr. Paul actually wanted to leave Guam and that the Archbishop was just letting him do so. But according to Fr. Paul, what he actually said was: "If I am not allowed to reach out to the disenfranchised as Christ did, I cannot work here." As those who know Fr. Paul can confirm, this is a very Fr. Paul like thing to say. 

Fr. Paul also said: "I never consented to resign. I asked to be released because I can no longer work with an Archbishop who lacks compassion and forgiveness." Again, a very Fr. Paul like thing to say. In addition, Fr. Paul also informed the Archbishop and the Vicar General that he would not be silent and that he intended to inform his parishioners of what has happened. To this, the Archbishop responds by telling Fr. Paul to go find a bishop who will take him.

(Note: The above comments from Fr. Paul were not presented in an official letter. They were shared in writing with a friend who shared them with me.)

Any decent normal human being knows that things are often said in shock and anger that should not be taken the same as a rational decision. (If married people did this, no one would be married.) However, the Archbishop takes Fr. Paul's shocked response to be a formal request to leave the diocese ("divorce") and then proceeds to grant the alleged request in writing: "I hereby release you..." But of course, Fr. Paul meant no such thing. 

It was as if Fr. Paul's shocked response was what the Archbishop was really gunning for because it gave him an opportunity to get rid of Fr. Paul altogether. In fact, we can probably dispense with the "as if". We KNOW Archbishop Apuron wanted to be rid of Fr. Paul (as he does some other priests), so we can easily suppose that he (and his advisors) set up the whole episode to provide cover from the blowback that was sure to come from getting rid of a much loved and respected priest. 

We'll get to WHY the Archbishop wants to get rid of Fr. Paul in an upcoming post, but we are not alone in our above supposition. In the appeal to Fr. Paul's removal, Fr. A.N. Dacanay, S.J., Fr. Paul's canonical advocate writes:
"It was a reaction in anger and disappointment and it is disturbing to note that the Archbishop and his Vicar General should have taken this outburst at its face value. When a priest is told abruptly and from out of nowhere that he is being removed from his office as pastor, one does not expect a calm, rational and dispassionate reaction. In fact, the archbishop took this as evidence of volatility, which is extremely poor appreciation of human nature". (The appeal of Rev. Paul Gofigan in relation to his removal as Pastor of Santa Barbara Parish, A.N. Dacanay, S.J., Advocate)
Fr. Dacanay goes on to characterize the Archbishop's response to Fr. Paul as: "an indecent eagerness to get rid of the cleric, a disposition that is hardly paternal or shepherd-like."

We will now look at how the Archbishop used this alleged "wish" of Fr. Paul to leave the diocese to justify his appointment of a parochial administrator, an act which officially removed Fr. Paul as pastor. 

We have already noted that the Archbishop did not expect Fr. Paul to challenge his removal. But when Fr. Paul did present his challenge, the Archbishop was forced to justify his illegal appointment of a parochial administrator, an act actually made retroactively illegal by the Vicar General's August 2 claim that Fr. Paul was not in fact removed. (Msgr. David C. Quitgua, Vicar General, letter to Fr. Paul Gofigan, August 2, 2013, Prot. No. 013-053)

Before we go on, let's see if we can follow what is becoming a sort of "Midsummer Night's Nightmare." 
  • Fr. Paul is ambushed by the Archbishop and the Vicar General.
  • They expect him to stick his tail between his legs and go into hiding the rest of his life. 
  • Fr. Paul unexpectedly challenges his removal.
  • Realizing they have illegally removed Fr. Paul, the Archbishop and the Vicar General concoct a defense saying that he was not removed but only encouraged to resign. 
  • However, Fr. Paul has the goods on the chancery because the appointment of a parochial administrator is a de facto recognition that the pastor has been removed.
  • The Archbishop and the Vicar General (and most likely the Chancellor) faced with the fact that they did not legally remove Fr. Paul and thus did not legally appoint a parochial administrator, now must come up with a justification for the appointment of the administrator. 
(Note: For our purposes here, the terms legal, illegal, legally, etc. always refers to church law, not civil law.)

In a letter to Fr. Paul dated August 20, Archbishop Apuron explains:
"Relying on your statements of your refusal to obey and your desire to leave the archdiocese, and because I was leaving the Island on July 19, 2013 for World Youth Day Pilgrimage in Brazil, I could not in conscience leave Santa Barbara Parish vacant so on July 17, 2013, I appointed a parochial administrator. I needed more time for discernment to appoint a pastor." (Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron, letter to Fr. Paul Gofigan, August 20, 2013, Prot. No. 013-057.)
Let's examine this paragraph. First, let's look at "refusal to obey". Obey what? The Archbishop's July 16 demand for resignation gave Fr. Paul two options: 1) resign immediately, or 2) supply his reasons within 15 days for not doing so. Fr. Paul chose option 2 and supplied his reasons for not doing so on July 22, only six days later. There was NO "refusal to obey". 

Next is the "desire to leave the diocese" which we have already discussed, so let's go on to the hurried need to point an administrator. 

In a previous installment, we provided evidence that leads us to believe that the entire episode, from the ambush at the chancery to the changing of the locks, was carefully premeditated and orchestrated. The removal of Fr. Paul was no sudden emergency. In fact, as we will learn in another letter, the Archbishop had spent two years building his case against Fr. Paul.

So why not wait until after the trip to Brazil so he could be here to handle any negative repercussions? For even if the removal of Fr. Paul was an emergency, the Archbishop had to know that the sudden removal of a much-loved pastor from the largest parish on the island was bound to send shock waves through that parish if not the whole diocese.

Regardless of the reason for the removal, the fact of the removal was a crisis waiting to happen. And a crisis DID happen. And the Archbishop was not here. But also once again, we see Neo business trumping the business of the rest of the Archdiocese. The "pilgrimage" was with members of the Neocatechumenal Way.

Before we leave this installment, we have one more item to consider. Even if Fr. Paul had really intended to abandon his parish immediately, as the Archbishop claims, the appointment of a parochial administrator was still canonically illegal (emphases mine):
"When a parish becomes vacant or a pastor has been impeded from exercising his pastoral function and before the appointment of a parochial administrator, the parochial vicar is to assume the governance of the parish temporarily. If there are several vicars, the one who is senior in appointment or, if there are no vicars, a pastor determined by particular law assumes this governance." (Can. 541 §1)
According to the Archdiocese of Agana 2013 Directory, Santa Barbara Parish had three parochial vicars at the time of Fr. Paul's dismissal: Rev. Dan Bien, Rev. Joel Delos Reyes, and Rev. Kenneth Carriveau. According to Canon 541 §1, one of them, if in fact the Archbishop needed "more time" as he claimed, was to assume governance of the parish as vicar and NOT administrator.

Instead, the Archbishop, in appointing a parochial administrator, bypasses Church law. Why? We are coming to that.

Go here for Part V






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