The announcement of Bishop Raica’s reassignment to the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama (in June) has raised questions regarding the continued suspension of Father Matthew Cowan. In the fall of 2018, Father Cowan accused the Diocesan Vicar, disgraced Father Dennis Stilwell, of sexual abuse. Further revelations included a pattern of sexual misconduct by Father Stilwell, notably, the hiring (for years) of former priest and sexual abuser James Holtz by Fr. Stilwell. Although Bishop Raica was aware of these activities, nothing was done until these allegations went public. Father Cowan was suspended for bringing his sexual abuse allegations (corroborated by a parishioner) public after the Diocese had stalled its investigation for months. These allegations were later found to be “not credible” by a secret Diocesan Sexual Misconduct Review Board which included multiple individuals that work for the Diocese and/or whose boss is the Vicar General. Conflicts of interest are abundant in this Board.
Although in seemingly excellent spirits, Fr. Cowan remains suspended and is in virtual house arrest in his own diocese. As Bishop Raica leaves the Gaylord Diocese, many are asking the following questions regarding the status of Fr. Cowan?
- Has Bishop Raica talked to Fr. Cowan in the past 12 months?
- Has Bishop Raica made any gestures to the Vatican regarding the case of Father Cowan who has appealed his suspension?
- Is Bishop Raica working to resolve this suspension prior to his leaving the Diocese?
- Why is the Diocese not updating us on the status of Fr. Cowan? Bishop Raica has repeatedly refused to meet with any members of Gaylord Diocesan Watch. Why would any non-profit act in this way and yet request money from individuals when the officers of the non-profit refuse to exhibit any transparency or accountability? Why would anybody be expected to donate to such an organization?
Transitions in any organization are often a time of upheaval and discord; bad things can happen when the leadership spot is vacant. We urge our readers to be extra vigilant during this time. Please pray for a holy and strong bishop for the Gaylord Diocese. During this time of Coronavirus, many Catholic Churches are still open for prayer, confession and adoration. We encourage prayer and more prayer.