On the Diocese of Gaylord Website, an announcement occurred, dated May 26, 2023, listing additional clergy “who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct with minors”. This list includes Franciscans Theophane (William) Goett and Denis (Joseph) Hall. It is not clear from the announcement or the Franciscan website as to whether these individuals were priests or brothers.
The announcement notes that Goett served in the Diocese in 1951, ie, over 70 years ago! Hall served in the Diocese over 30 years ago. Furthermore, both of them are deceased, unable to tell their stories or defend themselves, and unable to be held accountable in any earthly fashion.
This represents just another major disconnect between the Diocese, the Franciscans, and the faithful lay Catholics entrusted to their care and leadership. To list these individuals now, over 30 years later and after they have died, as possibly being guilty of heinous crimes against the faithful is completely inappropriate. Why were these individuals not brought to justice and investigated years ago? Why are they being listed now, after they are dead? It hits both ways – justice is not served when an accusation is done after the the person is dead, and justice is not served if the individual is falsely accused and cannot defend himself after death. Some may state that late is better than never, but late is no substitute for timely. We reviewed this in a previous post with the case of Fr. Wilbert Hegener.
The delay in notification and accusation brings up more questions: Did the Franciscans hold off on publicly listing these individuals until after their deaths so as to deflect negative attention and control the damage to the image of the religious order? Did these individuals have information on other abusers that would have possibly been made public had they been able to answer to the charges of abuse? Are diocesan bureaucracies and religious orders so incompetent that they were unaware of these charges until 70 years later? How about charges of sexual harassment among priests currently serving the Diocese now? Can we trust the Diocese to adequately police their personnel when it takes 70 years to find out what some of them did?
Trust can be looked at as truth over time. It will take a long time to regain the trust of the faithful in the Diocese of Gaylord with actions such as delayed announcements of deceased credibly abusing priests.