To: Father Emmanuel Schembri
Date: October 28th, 2014
Subject: Petition for the removal of Fr. Pius Sammut from the Archdiocese of Agana
Dear Father Schembri,
I have taken note of your answer to the petitioners regarding the request for removal of Fr. Pius Sammut, Discalded Carmelite from the Archdiocese of Agana (Guam), which was forwarded to your General Superior P. Saverio Cannista, O.C.D
I confess that a sentiment of sorrow and dread overtook me while reading your arguments to justify your "fin de non recevoir" regarding this request.
You are justifying your rash decision based on four main arguments.
1) the number of petitioners
2) the standing of Fr. Pius within your order
3) the standing of the Neocatechumenal Way within our Church
4) the appreciation of Fr. Pius by Archbishop Apuron of Agana
You hastily deduct therefore that said petition is "lacking objective reasoning". Based on your conversation with Father Pius, you conclude that there is no "serious motive" to accept this
As one of the petitioners for the removal of Fr Pius, let me underline the flaws of your argumentation, as well as the dangers your decision present for your order, the NCW, the Archdiocese of Agana, and our Holy Mother Church. This should give you some serious motives to reconsider.
1) The number of petitioners.
You argue that you received 300 signatures for the removal, but over 1000 against it.
a) The fact that this petition was able to collect 300 willing adults to put their name on a very public document in the climate of fear and intimidation the Catholic Faithful of this island are living in on a daily basis for the last several years, is in itself an amazing feat. When you add to the mix, the natural unwillingness of the local culture to confront people of power, (respect for the office) either directly or indirectly; the measure of this number speaks volume for this small community.
b) While you received over 1000 signatures in support of Fr Pius, you also have to put this in its context.
- As soon as the original petition was made public on Guam, Fr Pius circulated a petition for his own support, in all the NCW communities on Guam with the active support of the seminarians of RMS in Yigo, and bloggers from the NCW, as well as the full weight of the Chancery.
- There were signing sessions at the end of the Saturday NCW celebrations, where children were made to sign this petition. There was even a worldwide call to sign that petition on the Neocatechumenal Way website links.
- When you factor in both the well known zeal and blind obedience of the members of the NCW, and their feeling of being above all others, as expressed daily to regular Catholics, it is indeed surprising that they reached only over 1000 signatures.
2) The standing of Father Pius within your Order.
While I obviously cannot comment on a subject you are more apt to judge than the poor lay person that I am; a few points might be raised in regards to the impact of Fr. Pius' presence here and his work with the NCW.
You certainly should be interested in the consequences of perception the Catholic faithful have about your order as such.
In most organizations, people are rotated on a regular basis to avoid the obvious obstacles tied to human nature. Yet Fr. Sammut has been here for nearly 20 years.
Diocesan priests for example are routinely appointed to different parishes to allow for new blood, and challenge us in our faith, and our relation with the Church and with God. This also helps avoid problems of complacency , management, and abuse of position. (Our church unfortunately demonstrated during its history that these are not idle threats.)
Of his own admission, Father Pius joined the Carmelite at age 16 in 1964 50 years ago. He became a priest in 1973 and joined the Neocatechumenal movement the same year, 41 years ago. An interesting move for a new priest, except when you put it in the context of strong expansion of the NCW in
the island State of Malta at the same period . (Already we can see the synergies that developed between your order and that movement).
From 1984 until 1994, he became the Superior for your order in Malta (a position similar to yours) before moving to your London Ontario Parish in Canada, also a NCW stronghold, until his appearance in the Pacific area not long after.
While Fr. Sammut might have physically distanced himself from his brothers in the Discalced Carmelite order to become the standard bearer of the NCW in the Pacific and be the trailblazer of the NCW take over of the Archdiocese of Agana, it does not mean that his actions cannot be linked to your order. Indeed there is a strong possibility that it might.
Let me recommend that you take some time to review some of his published work as well as the content of his speeches and preaches. I will not spend undo time on the obvious plagiarism of many of his works, but will move on to the more potentially embarrassing subject.
Any person with understanding of psychology 101, will be deeply disturbed by the fascination of Fr. Sammut with anything related to sex in any way shape or form. It is a recurring complaint from former members of the NCW here. I had put these complaints under the "disgruntled column" until I started reading carefully Fr. Sammut's work both online and through his books, to realize the obsessive nature of Fr. Sammut fascination.
It goes without saying that the affiliation of Fr. Pius with the NCW, and his prominent role in said movement, is a major hurdle for your order, which leads us to the next two subjects.
3) The Standing of the Neocatechumenal movement in our Church.
You surmised, wrongly, that the statutes of the NCW were accepted by Pope John Paul II. This is a gross error, a huge leap of faith about an ambiguous situation regarding the statutes of this movement. This is even more dangerous since its leaders repeat this non-fact "ad nauseum", and apparently it is taken verbatim on face value by some.
The NCW was granted a temporary "ad experimentum statutes in 2002 by Pope John Paul II. The final version of the statutes was approved by Pope Benedict in 2008. The final version DID NOT include any approval of the NCW version of the liturgy. In fact, it specifically eliminated the abuse of sitting to consume the consecrated host.
In 2012, Pope Benedict reaffirmed to members of the NCW at a meeting in Rome that "the Vatican’s approval of the Neocatechumenal Way’s forms of celebration only applies to non-liturgical prayers within their catechesis and not to the Mass or other liturgies of the Church."
Pope Francis as early as the beginning of this year chastised the leaders of the Way on this very subject, among others. In fact, according to the Vatican News Service itself, quoting the head of the Congregation for Divine Worship, the Vatican only approved the "non liturgical teachings " of the NCW.
"With respect of the celebration of the Holy Mass and the other liturgies of the Church," communities of the Neocatechumenal Way "must follow the norms of the Church as indicated in the liturgical books- to do otherwise should be understood as liturgical abuse."
This situation is a far cry from what you have been asserting in your letter. In fact both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have issued warnings and made recommendations on behaviors and compliance with the liturgical books that so far have been rejected by Mr Arguello.
So we have a situation where a lay leader of a movement is openly defying not one but two Popes.
The execrable atmosphere created by the NCW and its Catechists when they reach to expand in an area has brought a climate of mistrust, fear, and divisiveness here on Guam. This is hardly a surprise, in view of the difficult issues faced by dioceses in which the NCW tried to impose their "Way".
In Japan, Korea, the Philippines and the Middle-East bishops have strongly objected to, restricted or expelled the movement.
I understand that several of your priories and other establishments, as well as some of your leaders are closely associated with this movement, it is therefore normal that you might have a natural bias in its favor. As a worldwide organization, such as yours, you should be cautious of the these alliances, even for temporary and temporal gains.
St. Theresa of Avila, St Therese de Lisieux and St John of the Cross spent too much effort in the strengthening of our faith, to see their good name squandered on such political frivolities. The legions of Carmelite Brothers and Sisters, Priests and Bishops around the world would be poorly served by such calculations.
4) The appreciation by Archbishop Apuron for Fr Sammut.
Here lies the major problem of your argumentation. You declared that the Archbishop is"appreciative of his presence and Ministry". If Archbishop Apuron was like any other Bishop, it could indeed be understood and perhaps explained.
BUT ( and this is a huge BUT) Archbishop Apuron is not only a supporter of the NCW (that could be his privilege), but he is a full fledged member of the NCW, and as such is the only Bishop to have done so.
Being a full fledged member, he must follow all the instructions of his Catechist, who is none other that Father Pius Sammut!!!
Father Sammut has become the "Emminence Grise" of a puppet Archbishop. This is very grave. The treatment, that the NCW and their representatives, receive as such is one of total devotion to his leaders, even to the point of openly criticizing decisions,of the Pope himself. (There are existing recordings to that effect).
Unfortunately, it even stretches further with the incardination of a least one NCW priest (Fr Wadeson) accused of Child Abuse in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, with the Archbishop's full knowledge, and against his own regulations on sexual abuse and the recommendations from the Holy See.
Finally the Archbishop has surrounded himself with key people in the Chancery that walk the way.
This incestuous relationship, where an Archbishop has indeed pledge allegiance to a priest from your order who is himself the water carrier of a controversial, albeit powerful lay person: Mr Arguello, cannot be hidden by the artifacts of the official positions they hold. Indeed our Archbishop by doing so has reneged on his vow of service to all the faithfuls, not just a section of them.
This situation is highly unusual and has led to many controversial and unjust decisions from the Chancery. Some are on appeal in Rome, others have crossed over in the secular Justice system. If you add to this picture the cornucopia of financial mismanagement, more sexual abuse coverup, and systemic replacement of local diocesan priests by newly ordained Redemptory Mater seminary graduate where Fr. Sammut also plays an active part, you have a perfect recipe for a disaster waiting to happen.
In conclusion (sorry but it is going to be a long one):
Your conversation with Fr. Sammut and your glossing over of issues in this regard, which led you to find "no serious motive" for removal is obviously not acceptable in prima facie to the signatories of this petition and the large majority of Catholic faithfuls on Guam.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this letter, the reading of your answer filled me with sorrow and dread. This was not because of its content (most of us expected something along these lines), but because you validated the recent warnings of Pope Francis on career oriented priests and political goals in the priesthood.
Being a mendicant order I would have expected a little more levity from your side.
There could be only two reasons for your answer.
*One is the need to protect a brother (which is understandable) and whatever alliance you have with members of the NCW in certain geographical areas.
*The other would be that you have been kept in the dark, regarding the actions of your brother and the impact he and the NCW have had on this society in particular. (My charitable side, will allow you to claim the second, under the benefit of the doubt)
We, the signatories of this petition, had humbly requested that you consider our plight, not out of spite, but because we want to protect the unity and the integrity of the Catholic Church on Guam. A unity and an integrity that have been gravely threatened and challenged by your brother, Father Pius Sammut.
It could be beneficial to your order and to Fr. Sammut, if he took a long retreat (away from all his current responsibilities here and in the NCW) to pray and reflect within the confine of one of your facilities. The years of burden from his duties, his daily struggles against his own demons have taken a toll, that only rest and prayer could alleviate.
It might not be obvious to your order at this time, but the association of Fr. Pius with the NCW as a presbyter and a catechist, his proximity to young men both at the RMS and on retreats with his movement, the active role he plays on Guam through his control and influence of the Archbishop and the Chancery, could ultimately expose your order to very grave collateral damage.
You have a duty to your order, to the Pope and to our cherished Catholic Church to act with all due diligence to right the wrongs caused by Father Pius, or at the very least prevent that further damage might be inflicted.
You can no longer hide behind the flimsy arguments you presented us thus far. We are no longer in the 70s or the 80s. The new media technologies, we are now using do not allow for coverups. The clamor of scandal once it is exposed has a much more powerful impact that in the past.
Your order and all Catholics do not deserve to be tarred and feathered by the actions of a misguided few.
I pray that the Holy Spirit will touch you with his wisdom, and that Mary the Mother of God will open your eyes, your ears, and certainly your heart to hear, and see, and be swayed by the truth.
Yours in Christ,
(Note: In the original letter Frenchie used his real name along with all his titles which are quite a few.)