-- Robin Williams
Like the sexual predators shielded and moved by the church, the Franciscans knew of Barica’s emotional problems for years. When he became increasingly erratic and disliked as pastor of Mission Santa Barbara, the Franciscans kicked him upstairs and shuffled him off to SSJ. With capable priests in short supply, Barica was given a promotion that was basically a religious version of the Peter Principle.
Wounds Have Been Reopened
Before Barica moved to SSJ in 2012, SafeNet sent a letter to the SSJ pastoral staff alerting them of the problem and advising them to take a proactive stand. Two years later SafeNet and others called on the Franciscan Province of St. Barbara and the Diocese of Orange to remove Barica from SSJ and place him in a program that would deal compassionately with his emotional and psychological state—a program, I might add, that was already in place and made available to other friars with similar problems.
Barica is a wounded priest. He's being protected by his superiors, supported by a fraternity crippled by foolish devotion, and enabled by a staff fearful of losing their jobs. His extreme divisiveness has created a self-made crisis fueled by his narcissism.
During this same period, SafeNet also urged the Franciscans to begin a recovery and reconciliation forum for SSJ parishioners distraught by their encounters with Barica. It asked them to utilize the professional services provided by their own Office of Pastoral Outreach – an office that was established in 2006 to help anyone in the Franciscan province who had experienced trauma related to clergy sexual abuse.
There are plenty of specious arguments employed by church apologists regarding the question of who deserves this type of pastoral care. Lest we forget, SSJ is a parish that was severely impacted by one of the Franciscans' most charismatic sexual offenders, ex-friar and former SSJ assistant pastor Gus Krumm -- a priest whom the friars had also moved from parish to parish. Those wounds have been reopened by Barica. Any Franciscan today who remains silent on what’s happening at SSJ, or who denies emotional and spiritual care to its parishioners is guilty of complicity.
And here’s the rub: None of these concerns have ever been adequately addressed, acknowledged or responded to by the Franciscans or the Diocese of Orange. Requests have gone unanswered. Emails, letters and phone calls from countless people have been ignored. Grievances have been diminished and dismissed by colluding clergy and laypeople alike that are either unqualified or incompetent to comprehend the depth and seriousness of the problem. Those who are obligated to offer assistance have failed to lift a finger.
SSJ parishioners know what neglect feels like. Searching for ways to reach out and be understood, many have resorted to using the “comments” section on a story I posted on Barica four years ago to share their concerns with one another. While the Franciscans and the diocese choose not to listen, parishioners are using this space to stand together and be heard.
Fleeing to Higher Ground
Franciscan provincial David Gaa, whom many believed would be an instrument for change, reluctantly took charge and decided things were just fine the way they were. As a result, his do-nothing approach on this issue continued to further the woodenheaded policy instigated by his predecessor, John Hardin. At this point, Barica has caused so much damage in the last six years that any decision Gaa might make regarding this priest’s fate would be close to irrelevant.
The last provincial to demonstrate any courage was Melvin Jurisich who, in the end, threw in the towel in 2009 at precisely the time when his leadership skills were needed most. It was Jurisich who first helped his fellow friars understand, unite and join with SafeNet in 2003; and it was Jurisich who said and did nothing when Hardin, his successor, eroded the partnership, denounced SafeNet and joined a growing faction of disgruntled clergy who now distance themselves from the scandal and deny the problem exists. Semi-retired now and living at the friars’ Malibu retreat house, Jurisich’s voice is a clapperless bell heralding a daft silence. He joins others guilty of inexcusable deafness that include former provincial Joseph Chinnici, former definitor Michael Doherty, and former SSJ pastor Michael Harvey.
As a survivor and survivor advocate, I’m past the point of being shocked or surprised by anything the Franciscans choose not to do in alleviating this suffering. I’ve witnessed firsthand efforts to get the friars to acknowledge and address the anguish of parishioners at Mission Santa Barbara, only to be met with hostility and a wave of passive-aggressive behavior directed at anyone who even mentioned clergy sexual abuse.
Those who argue that the situation in Santa Barbara is somehow better today than it was before are either deluding themselves or attending too many trump rallies. It’s not enough to install a new pastor with a gentle disposition if that pastor has to answer to the very same friars responsible for the shameful tactics that destroyed Mission Santa Barbara in the first place. The aforementioned John Hardin and former mission guardian Richard McManus are back in charge and have succeeded in transforming an open, welcoming space into a closed, gated community that grows more and more distrustful of anyone not wearing brown.
This scandal touches everyone. Dan Lackie, the above-mentioned new pastor, has become a sad victim of his own misguided loyalty. Coming from SSJ where he was admired for years, Lackie ended up breaking the hearts of many parishioners when he failed to condemn Barica’s behavior and provide pastoral care for those who had been harmed. By siding with his fraternity instead of the people his fraternity was pledged to serve, he got it backwards. I know Dan Lackie. He has a kind heart. It’s precisely what makes his actions so puzzling and painful.
Such dark betrayals have been going on for decades. It’s an old story: the faithful place their faith in the Franciscans only to have it destroyed by a senseless string of offenses committed against the very people who support them. The unthinkable is perpetrated by a parade of idiotic and sociopathic priests whom everyone else in the order swears dumb allegiance to. In the nineties when the abuse scandal cracked wide open, many churchgoers couldn’t leave the Franciscans fast enough. They clutched their children and wallets and fell over each other as they fled to higher ground.
A Muck of Their Own Choosing
On the diocesan side, I’m done trying to second-guess Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange. The blatant stonewalling employed by him and his underlings--Steve Sallot, Daniel Reader and Shirl Giacomi—is one more disgraceful chapter in this diocese’s long and gloomy history. For a man who grew up in the fifties and sixties, Vann acts more like he was born at the beginning of the last century instead of the middle. Isolated by his handlers, he’s become just another conservative prelate detached from the real world.
Does the church really have a zero tolerance policy for clergy sexual abuse? What evidence does it have to back up this claim? A majority of survivors I’ve spoken with in the last six months have serious doubts about this rule. In 2002 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was compelled to adopt and implement standards and safeguards by the very men and women who refused to stay silent and unseen. But church personnel files and accountability reports remain a secret to this day because transparency is not an option. In the past, perpetrator priests were routinely protected and empowered by their own members. Why should anyone believe it’s any different today?
This is how badly the Vatican has muddied the waters of pastoral outreach. Their own pledge of support is as visible as the Holy Ghost. Where once they had the opportunity to show compassion and humility and earnestly work with survivors to help navigate this storm together, they now sink deeper into a muck of their own choosing.
For their part, the Franciscans and the Diocese of Orange are doing nothing to allay anyone’s fears and suspicions. On the contrary, they appear to be doing everything they can to confirm them. In Barica’s case, they are actually enforcing a zero tolerance policy for reporting abuse. There’s no other way to explain their silence in the face of years of complaints. And just to be absolutely clear: what Barica is doing at SSJ may not constitute sexual abuse, but make no mistake about it: it is abuse. What’s more, it’s a violation of the church’s own vow to protect its community from those who prey on the innocent.
Money Makes the World Go Around
Public perception never moves the church to change, unless, of course, it has a negative impact on its financial resources. “Show me the money" is a haughty phrase used by some to urge others to dig deep into their pockets. SSJ is a cash cow. Like Mission Santa Barbara, it generates tremendous amounts of much-needed revenue for the Franciscans and the diocese it serves. The surest way to get the church’s attention is to poke a big hole in their collection basket and stop showing them the money. Daniel Barica doesn’t deserve anyone's continued financial support. As the guardian of a cow he’s been milking for years, it’s time for him to get a chicken.
This is not to suggest that the Franciscans, as a whole, are undeserving of our generosity. For those who still wish to support the friars monetarily, I propose donating directly to their Franciscan missions in Mexico and Arizona where your dollars will have the greatest impact and do the most good. Here is where you’ll find friars working side by side with the poor, the disadvantaged, and the undocumented. Here is where some of the best and most honorable Franciscans labor daily under the fundamental belief that they are the servants, not the masters.
When I was a kid, a favorite uncle of mine used to say that a priest only listened to you when you went to confession—and only then if your sins were worth hearing. Though it may seem like small comfort now, the sins of these priests will ultimately be heard by many. Those who failed to hear, those who became muted horns, and those who feigned an indefensible dumbness will all be held accountable. In the end, Barica himself will not escape responsibility. Such is the law of cause and effect; such is the fate of frauds and scoundrels.
Am I still hopeful? Of course. But hope doesn’t cling or babble. It grabs on tight and makes its presence known. We are currently living through one of the most preposterous and perilous times in our nation’s history. A moronic, self-centered president stews in his own treachery. A gutless, political party schemes to dismantle democracy. An ignorant base acts hatefully with cruel intentions that invariably cause others to suffer and even die. What is happening at SSJ may seem insignificant in the great scheme of things, but resistance begins with the smackdown of the pettiest tyrant.
A LIST OF CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS WORTHY OF YOUR SUPPORT
The Servants of Mary
For those who feel they cannot support the Franciscans at all, consider donating to Mary Health of the Sick in Southern California where Katie O'Reilly Rogers, diagnosed with a brain tumor, is being cared for. Katie is the brilliant Santa Barbara landscape architect who drew up the plans for SafeNet's "Garden of Forgiveness" project. For two years she advocated for its creation at Mission Santa Barbara until she was dismissed by the friars and the project was rejected. A simple card or letter to Katie will go a long way in making her feel the true spirit of St. Francis.
Katie O’Reilly Rogers
Mary Health of the Sick
2929 Theresa Drive
Newbury Park, CA 91320
NOTE: Mary Health of the Sick is owned and operated by The Servants of Mary, a Catholic congregation of women religious who dedicate their lives to providing loving, compassionate nursing care to people of all faiths.
Franciscan Missions in the Province of St. Barbara
I know the friars associated with these missions. All of them have spent the best part of their lives doing what you’d expect a follower of St. Francis to be doing: living, working and praying with the poor and marginalized of our society. If you want to experience firsthand what it means to serve others and live the Gospel, visit these missions and volunteer your time. If a visit is not possible, consider supporting the efforts of these friars with a donation.
Friar Tommy King, OFM
Casa Franciscana Outreach in Guaymas, Mexico
P.O. Box 15576
Scottsdale, AZ 85267
NOTE: Casa Franciscana Outreach is the nurturing community that friar Marty Gates founded almost fifty years ago, and has remained a jewel in the apostolic church. A beacon of social justice and spiritual enrichment for hundreds of indigent families, Marty’s dream lives on.
Friar Ignatius DeGroot, OFM
San Carlos Apache Catholic Mission
460 San Carlos Avenue
P.O. Box 28
San Carlos AZ 8550-0069
Phone: (928) 475-2210
Friar Ponchie Vasquez, OFM
San Solano Missions
Route 19 and Topawa Road
P.O. Box 210
Topawa AZ 85639-0210
Phone: (520) 383-2350
NOTE: Friars Ponchie Vasquez, David Paz and Peter Boegel are three of the most self-less and devoted Franciscans in the province. Ponchie was one of the last graduates of Santa Barbara’s St. Anthony’s Seminary to continue on and take final vows.
Friar Eddie Fronske, OFM
St. Francis Mission
9 W Elm Street
P.O. Box 679
Whiteriver AZ 85941-0679
Phone: (928) 338-4432
Friar Stephen Barnufsky, OFM
San Xavier del Bac Mission
1950 W San Xavier Road
Tucson AZ 85746-7409
Phone: (520) 294-2624