The Diocese of Gaylord seems to have a communications problem. From notifications of abusers working in the diocese to silence regarding review board findings, neither the bishop nor the Diocese of Gaylord can seem to find the time or resources to respond to requests by sincere and concerned individuals. Before Gaylord Diocesan Watch was initiated, multiple members of the diocese (including members of our group) sent letters to the diocese with our concerns. The bishop did not answer any of them.
Last week, spokesman Dr. Richard Brenz went to the diocesan bishop’s office to make an appointment with the bishop. He was not allowed to make an appointment. Today, he received notification via telephone from Candace Neff, communications director for the diocese, that Bishop Raica refuses to meet with members of Gaylord Diocesan Watch. She stated that due to an ongoing Michigan attorney general investigation, the bishop did not think an appointment with us would be necessary. But what if we have other concerns (which we do) that go well beyond the Michigan attorney general? Are faithful and active members of the diocese not allowed to meet with their bishop for any reason? Is this representative of what it means to be called a shepherd?
Gaylord Diocesan Watch received information that the Diocesan Review Board met on February 19, 2019, to discuss the ongoing investigation regarding sexual abuse complaints against Father Dennis Stilwell. Our request for information regarding this meeting (ie, did the meeting occur, were any decisions made regarding the investigation, etc) is still awaiting an answer over 2 weeks later. In her discussion with our spokesman Dr. Richard Brenz today, diocesan communications director Neff refused to divulge the identities of the Review Board members because, according to her, the members asked to remain confidential. Of concern for us is that the members of the Review Board could have significant conflicts of interest with regard to the allegations made by Father Cowan. This conflict of interest was on display in the diocese of Lansing, as a priest had allegations found “not credible” by a Review Board that included a fellow priest (and superior) in the same religious order as the priest abuser. This is despite this abuser priest being barred from the University of Michigan campus as a coach due to an abuse allegation (see BISHOP BOYEA FROM LANSING DISCUSSES LACK OF ACTION BY BISHOPS WITH ABUSING PRIESTS in our Document Library page of this website).
Faithful Catholics of the Diocese of Gaylord have the right to communicate with and hear from their bishop regarding important issues in the diocese. As the bishop encouraged us to do, we would like to partner with him to make this diocese better. A lack of transparency and communication speaks of arrogance, incompetence or a gross lack of respect for those who participate in the life of the diocese. This lack of openness sows division, discontent, and distrust among the laity. We will continue to encourage the bishop and his staff to dialogue with us so that we may all improve our Church environment which includes the physical and spiritual needs of both our priests and parishioners.
“In silence we are guilty.” – Blessed Clemens von Galen, renowned bishop of Munster Germany and enemy of the Nazis in World War II