I learned late on the afternoon of September 18th that Bishop Earl Boyea, the ordinary of the diocese of Lansing had removed the priestly faculties of Fr. Pat Egan, a Senior Priest of the Archdiocese of Westminster in London, England who has lived nearby in Ann Arbor, MI for many years.
You have heard me interview Fr. Pat over the years. And you heard him on his daily radio feature Fully Alive. Until his recent retirement, Fr. Pat also served as our chaplain at Ave Maria Radio for many years. Shocked as I am, I continue to count him a friend. A person is not fully defined by his basest acts. As a priest, he has served my family in times of tragedy and joy and we owe him gratitude for his godly service.
Nevertheless, there stands a credible charge of inappropriate sexual behavior with an adult male and Fr. Egan’s priestly faculties have been revoked. A “credible” charge does not open an investigation. “Credible” represents the settled determination of the Bishop that the evidence presented makes it more likely than not that the accusation is true. The evidence demonstrates the “semblance of truth.” For that reason, it is actionable. It is less than saying that the allegation is “substantiated.”
As a layman, I summarize the relevant portions of Canons 1717 and 1341 in this way: Whenever the diocesan bishop (the ordinary) has knowledge of a violation which is not obviously false and might be true he must carefully inquire – personally or through another suitable person – about the facts, circumstances and moral culpability of the alleged offender. Care must be taken so that the good name of anyone is not endangered by this investigation. Those who conduct the investigation are not to act as the judge. When sufficient evidence is collected, the ordinary must decide whether to inflict a penalty or to institute a further judicial process if it seems that fraternal correction is not enough to correct the situation. If new evidence becomes available the process may be initiated again.
“Credible” is not as strict a standard as either “liable by the preponderance of the evidence” or “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
I’m not sure further details satisfy any legitimate public interest at the moment but you deserve to know that I learned of this allegation, for the first time, earlier this month. With a small group of laity, I immediately encouraged full reporting to Bishop Boyea and urged complete transparency of all involved. The lay faithful must take co-responsibility for the Church. This is one small instance of what Teresa Tomeo and I have been talking about over the last few years and, with much greater intensity, over the last few months.
I would urge you to pray for Fr. Egan and for those most deeply hurt by this incident. What makes the Church different from other communities and institutions is that we were formed because our Founder knew His world was marked by sin and brokenness. He calls us to share the good news, however, that Christ offers healing for those damaged by the sins of others and He offers forgiveness and reconciliation to those who will face their sin and seek His face.
Click Here for the statement from the Diocese of Lansing.