I received my copy of the Bishop's letter this afternoon and have perused it thoughtfully and carefully.
The focus of the letter, of course, was on l'affaire Blockley, the heart of the controversy which has rocked this parish. The Bishop states that,
When I sent Fr. Blockley back home he informed me he had never received any letter from his bishop. Unless an individual priest receives notification that his faculties have been removed, the suspension of his faculties has no effect on him or the sacraments he administers.
While Bishop Murphy was content to take the word of a priest who left his diocese without permission eight years ago, the parishioner who first discovered that Fr. Blockley's bishop was looking for him went directly to Fr. Blockley's home diocese for this information six months ago.
This email was was sent to the OLL parishioner by Fr. Charlie Borja, a priest in the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, who was working as an assistant to Fr. Blockley's bishop, Bishop Tomas Camacho, at the time:
Thank you for your information re Fr. Matthew. I talked with my Bishop and he confirmed it that he suspended the faculty of Fr. Matthew and no Bishop can give him a faculty without consulting first my Bishop.
With this, my Bishop suggests that you or the parish council to inform your Bishop as soon as possible regarding Fr. Matthew's presence and actions in your parish. And my Bishop will be waiting for your Bishop's call.
Bishop Tomas Camacho has stated in an interview he gave to the Saipan Tribune in August of this year that Fr. Blockley "left Saipan sometime in 2000 and never came back." The article goes on to report that "Camacho had suspended [Fr. Blockley] because he did not respond to an instruction that he should return to his home diocese."
At the time of this interview, Bishop Camacho reported that Fr. Blockley had still not returned to his home diocese, despite Bishop Murphy's declaration that he "sent Fr. Blockley back home." If the USCCB Alerts now in place on five different diocesan websites are any indication, Fr. Blockley has not returned yet to Chalan Kanoa.
A parishioner calling Bishop Camacho's office approximately a month ago was told by the Vice Chancellor of the diocese then that Fr. Blockley had not arrived.
At the end of the Saipan Tribune interview is this important note: "The Bishop said he wrote letters to Blockley but has never heard of his whereabouts since then."
Here's the time line as it appears to me:
2000- according to his own bishop, Fr. Blockley disappeared from his diocese without permission, leaving no forwarding address, and comes to Long Island, where, allegedly without Bishop Murphy's knowledge or permission, he ministers in Msgr. Lisante's parish in West Hempstead for the next eight years.
2004--Fr. Blockley was suspended by his bishop for his failure to return and notices were sent out for information on his whereabouts, including on the Archdiocese of Miami's website, a notice which was discovered by an OLL parishoner this summer. Letters were also sent by Bishop Camacho to Fr. Blockley in an attempt to notify him of his suspension.
2008---Fr. Blockley's suspension is discovered by an OLL parishioner from the Archdiocese of Miami bulletin and Bishop Camacho, when contacted by this parishioner, instructs him to notify Bishop Murphy who promptly expels Fr. Blockley from the diocese.
I'm no canonist, but it seems peculiar to me that, under the circumstances as outlined above, where we have a suspended priest who is AWOL from his own diocese and who has made no attempt to return or contact his bishop for eight years, that his suspension should be considered null and void based on the priest's claim that he was never notified by his bishop of his suspension.
So, if the Bishop is correct, then hypothetically a priest might commit any kind of misdeed (or run away from his diocese) and actually be suspended by his bishop, but, as long as he denies receiving any kind of notification of suspension, all sacraments he performs wherever he goes after his suspension are valid. Sounds more than a little suspect to me, but, hey, what do I know of such intricate ecclesiastical legalities?
Bishop Murphy complains in his letter of "anonymous letters sent to me," but the facts of the matter are that many OLL parishioners wrote letters to him about this matter with their names and addresses clearly visible on each letter. Furthermore, copies of many of these letters were also sent to the Papal Nuncio and Vatican officials.
The original parishioner who was directed by Bishop Camacho to inform Bishop Murphy of the situation, sent a lengthy letter thoroughly detailing the incident to Bishop Murphy on July 15 of this year. To this day, he has never received a response from the bishop on this matter. Neither have any of the numerous parishioners who have written letters and made phone calls concerning these and other matters at OLL.
Isn't it odd that six months later, the bishop condescends to address the Blockley affair in a scathing public epistle, accusing all those who complained and asked questions about Fr. Blockley's suspension and about the high pontifical honors bestowed upon Peter Rapanaro as "calumniators" and "liars" who are guilty of grave sin?
A simple explanation of the Blockley situation and the canonical implications addressed to the concerned individuals would have resolved this matter long ago.
Trad Dad, one of the OLL Rebels, offered this tough statement:
This letter is stunning to me for its total lack of regard for the facts. This bishop could have replied in July to the letters that were sent to him then regarding Blockley. Don't tell me that just because his canon law flunkeys came up with the ridiculous argument that since Blockley says he never received a letter from his bishop as he wandered all over the world, we're a bunch of nasty, scurrilous vigilantes for blowing the whistle on him.
And don't insult us any further by giving us this baloney that a priest who is present in the parish 15% of the time is the best priest to take over Our Lady of Lourdes, or, that a priest who never hears confessions and who is on record as having a heretical interpretation of Humanae Vitae, is the perfect fit to care for the spiritual lives of parishioners.
One last thing, Bishop Murphy, don't you dare tell us black is white by accusing us of slandering Peter Rapanaro. We saw the pictures on his website of him advertising his blasphemous, disgusting play before the website vanished. For your part, bishop, you ignored our letters, phone calls and pleas for help for six months, and now you suddenly descend from your ivory tower to condemn us? Well, I'll tell you this, Your Excellency, we're not buying this bundle of episcopal revisionism. We did our homework, we have the documents, we consulted with our priests, to make sure we were accurate and fair, while you did nothing.
So, if you think just because you wear a miter you're going to tell us that we have no right to fight a priest who takes away our confessions, our Masses, and our statues, disfigures our altar, and is never around, and never returns our calls or letters, blowing into town in his Mercedes to be feted and crowned by the likes of Tom Suozzi, then we will tell you right now that you are every bit the problem here that you were in Boston.
However, dear reader, despite the defiant words and fighting spirit of my friend, here's where the rubber meets the road, to paraphrase an old Latin saying: "Episcopus Murphius locutus est, causa Blocklii finita est!" (Bishop Murphy has spoken; the Blockley matter is ended.") There is nothing more to be said. Bishop Murphy has all the power and holds all the cards in the DRVC, and apparently Rome will not intervene.
I joined the cause of the OLL rebels to act as their public advocate, because their legitimate concerns and questions were being systematically ignored by Church authorities. Now that those issues have been officially addressed by the powers that be, and now that Msgr. Lisante is officially installed as pastor, there is no more that I can say. I have decided that further discussion is pointless; my well-intentioned endeavors have now come to an end.
It is more than fitting that this contention, righteous as it is, cease as the holy season of Advent waxes on in earnest. I have no intention of allowing this controversy interrupt my spiritual preparation for Christmas any further than it already has.
I will always lament the passing of this unique parish, known at one time for its great devotion to Mary, its strong orthodox faith, and its dedicated pro-life activism. These are all aspects of the parish which are in the process of being eradicated, and very little remains now of the former OLL.
I'm also reluctant to leave the good friends I have made through this little adventure. I will always remember the "OLL Rebels"---the good, decent families and friends who took me into their confidence; it was an honor to convey on this blog their distress and frustration and their honest desire for pastoral understanding and kindness---something they never received at the hands of their bishop or the unfortunate pastor involved in this affair. I will always applaud them for their stout resistance in the face of corruption, their courage in the many long months of silence, and their unswerving faith in the wake of official contempt and scorn, and I wish them well in their new parishes.
So, on this special feast of the Immaculate Conception, the dear Mother to whom so many prayers for this parish have been directed, I commend the rest to the Lord and will keep all involved in my prayers.