Thursday, May 1, 2014

THE ILLEGITIMATE REMOVAL OF FR. PAUL GOFIGAN - PART II

We must now take a closer look at the Archbishop's letter to Fr. Paul of July 16, 2013. 

There are three main things that happen in this letter:
  1. Fr. Paul is told that he has caused grave harm to his parish.
  2. Fr. Paul is told to resign as pastor from Santa Barbara Parish (and he is also removed as Director of Vocations and the Director of the Diaconate Formation Program. 
  3. Fr. Paul is told to "go and look for a benevolent bishop willing to accept you", meaning he is to be banished from the diocese.

Now here's the context:
  1. Fr. Paul is called to the chancery for a meeting with the Archbishop at 3:pm on July 16, 2013.
  2. Fr. Paul does not know the reason for the meeting. 
  3. Fr. Paul arrives.
  4. The Archbishop, in the presence of the Vicar General, reads the letter of removal to Fr. Paul, and then hands it to him. 
Then here's what happens:
  1. Fr. Paul returns to Santa Barbara and finds himself locked out of the parish offices. While at the meeting with the archbishop, the locks were changed. 
  2. Fr. Paul is replaced with a parochial administrator. 
  3. Fr. Paul is told by the parochial administrator that he must vacate his living quarters. 
  4. Fr. Paul is removed by the parochial administrator from the schedule of presiders at the parish Masses 
  5. Father Paul is told by the parochial administrator that he is not to exercise any of his priestly faculties. 
The problem is Canon Law does not allow for the appointment of a parochial administrator while there is a sitting pastor. Can. 539 defines a parochial administrator as one who takes the place of a pastor "when a parish becomes vacant or when a pastor is prevented from exercising his pastoral function." 

The parish was neither vacant nor was Fr. Paul officially prevented from exercising his pastoral function since the Archbishop's letter of July 16 said "If you do not submit your resignation immediately, you are charged to supply your reasons as soon as possible." Fr. Paul DID NOT submit his resignation so the parish was not vacant, and the Archbishop's letter did not prohibit Fr. Paul from continuing to exercise his pastoral function, but only instructed him to supply his reasons for not resigning "as soon as possible." 

Fr. Paul would supply those reasons on July 22, 2013, but on July 17, the day after the meeting with the Archbishop, Archbishop Apuron issued an Aviso replacing Fr. Paul as pastor of Santa Barbara Parish with a parochial administrator.

In his letter of July 22 giving his reasons for not resigning, Fr. Paul alleges that the Archbishop acted illegally:
"Your appointment of a parochial administrator in this case is clearly illegal. Canon 539 provides that the ordinary may appoint a parochial administrator only if the parish is vacant. It is not vacant because I have not resigned and I have not been canonically removed. Therefore, the appointment of a parochial administrator in this case is invalid and illegal (Canon 153). Further, your act to appoint a parochial administrator contemporaneously when I was given the demand letter clearly violates the 15-day statutory period to respond under Canon 1742. Basic due process was not accorded to me in this case. The illegal appointment of the parochial administrator has made my removal public (Official Aviso in Vol. 67, No. 29 of the Umatuna Si Yu'os), to the great confusion and scandal of the faithful and to the detriment of my good name, an actionable offense under Canon 1390. Compounding the damage to my reputation, although I clearly have not resigned, an announcement was made at each mass on Sunday July 21, that I had resigned." 
So let's review:
  1. The Archbishop's letter of July 16 neither removes Fr. Paul as pastor nor does it prohibit him from exercising his pastoral function. It only directs him to supply his reasons for not resigning if he will not resign immediately. 
  2. The Archbishop officially replaces Fr. Paul with a parochial administrator, locks him out of the parish, tells him he must vacate his living quarters (that's called homeless), prohibits him from "performing any tasks and duties including presiding at mass and preaching (that's called jobless), and has his removal announced at every Mass. (See July 22 letter.)
  3. Fr. Paul accuses the Archbishop of not according him due process as required by Canon Law for the removal of pastors and informs the Archbishop that he will challenge his removal (See July 22 letter.)
Then the funny stuff starts. 

On August 2, the Archbishop through the Vicar General informs Fr. Paul in a letter that he cannot challenge his removal "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, Fr. Paul has been removed but he has not been removed so he cannot challenge his removal, yet (let's do this again), Fr. Paul was locked out of the parish, told to vacate the rectory, prohibited from exercising his priestly ministry, officially replaced with a parochial administrator, and his removal announced at every Mass at Santa Barbara. 

All of this, while Canon Law, at the bare minimum, instructs the bishop (c. 1742) to "paternally... persuade the pastor to resign." You decide.

Go here for Part III



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