Father John and Me

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The Huffington Post  Canada

09 July 2013

I was born, baptised and confirmed a Catholic and attended Roman Catholic schools until I reached college. But I could never relate to the Church. For most of my life I have hopped from church to church looking for a priest that I could connect with. With a fundamentally weak religious “training,” I drifted.

I attended Mass only when I felt I needed or had to, which wasn’t very often at all. Well into adulthood, I felt that the congregations were just going through the motions and priests were stern and as uninterested as I was. As much as I tried, I just couldn’t connect. For that, I felt an immense inner guilt and confusion. Despite that, I never lost my longing to make more tangible the faith I knew I had. That underlying faith always drew me back.

Six months ago, I finally decided that I needed help. I went to see Archbishop Michael Miller, chief shepherd of Vancouver’s 475,000 Catholics. Archbishop Miller holds a Doctorate in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University and was a senior member of the Roman Curia. We talked for a couple of hours and I finally told him my problem. He gave me three names of priests I should “take for a test drive.”

 Archbishop Michael Miller and Daniel Veniez in Vancouver

Father John Horgan was at the very top of his list. He said, “I think he’s your kind of guy.” So for four straight weeks I attended Father John’s 7 a.m. Mass at Saints Peter and Paul in Vancouver in addition to regular Sunday morning Mass.

The truth is I knew after my first Mass that I had found my priest at long last.

Father John is a graduate of Harvard and also holds four degrees from the Angelicum in Rome, including a Licentiate in Moral Theology and was ordained by Pope John Paul II. He is also teaches moral theology for the Archdiocesan Office of Religious Education.

Father Horgan was a seminarian serving Papal Masses. Pope John Paul II consecrated Father John’s ordination chalice himself and celebrated Mass with it in his private chapel on the eve of the ordination. The chalice was presented to Father John as an ordination gift.

When I first had an extensive conversation with him, I asked Father John when he first felt the call to serve. Without any hesitation, he replied: “When I was four years old.” His mother, describing the many religious statues and pictures that filled her son’s room, was known to joke to family and friends that when she went into the room, she didn’t know “whether to dust or genuflect.”

Father John had the misfortune to hear my confession. When I told him that my last confession was when I had my first one over 40 years ago, he paused and said with a chuckle: “I hope you’re sitting down. Make yourself comfortable. We’ll be here a while.”

There have been times when my faith has been severely shaken. This was particularly true against the backdrop of a strong interest in history and philosophy. Father John taught me that there’s nothing irrational about faith. In fact, the life of the Christian is one based on reason, and is enlightened by faith. “We cannot disregard the rational, but faith takes us to places reason alone cannot. Intellect also comes from God.”

Without knowing it, Father John has been one of the greatest teacher’s I have ever had. He opened my eyes to the power of prayer, the Holy Trinity, and the true beauty and meaning of the Eucharist.

I am now embarked on a journey of learning and discovery. It is one that I never anticipated. Father John helped me figure out that while I have always had faith I never truly understood how to practise it.

Several months ago, I told Father John that I had been searching for years for a way to connect with God. He jolted me with his reply: “Has it ever occurred to you that he has been searching for a way to connect with you, Daniel?”

I now am equipped with the essential foundation that I have been missing. My path to learning will be a long one, but I am confidently on it, at last. That’s what great teachers like Father John do.

Sunday was his last Sunday Mass at Saints Peter and Paul. The “Boss,” Archbishop Miller, has assigned him a new parish in North Vancouver. At the very end of the 9 a.m. Mass, the packed church burst into a spontaneous and prolonged round of applause. Many people had tears streaming from their eyes. They feel that they have lost a loved one. Such was the impact of Father John on those he has touched.

Waiting outside the church as he usually does, he greeted me warmly. We shook hands, and I told him that he has had a profound impact on my life. I gave this great bear of a man a bear hug. He then looked at me with those sincere, intelligent, and loving eyes, and said: “You are in my prayers, Daniel.”

“I know I am, Father John, I can feel it. And you will always be in mine.”

19 Responses to Father John and Me

  1. Sylvia says:

    Catch your breath again everyone. I did when I first saw this. I have been planning to get it posted for a few weeks now. Here it is.

    A man struggling with his faith visited the Basilian Archbishop of Vancouver, Michael Miller for help, and the Archbishop put Father John Horgan at the top of the list of priests to see.

    Father John Horgan, some may recall, became the focus of media attention in BC December 2011 after parishioners at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Shaghnessy discovered that he, their parish priest, had brought a priest into the church and on pilgrimage who was under investigation for child sexual abuse, and also that the order for which Father Horgan had been fund-raising in the parish, the Society of St. John, had been suspended in Pennsylvania following allegations of financial impropriety and sexual abuse against both Father Eric Ensey and the founder of the order, Father Carlos Urrutigoity.

    Father Horgan decided he just didn’t believe the allegations against Father Ensey and the Society of St. John, so he fund-raised, and he brought Father Ensey into his parish and on pilgrimage, and never said a word about the sex abuse allegations to his unwitting and trusting parishioenrs. Not a word.

    Because of the statute of limitation in PA Ensey was not charged criminally, but he was successfully sued over the allegations. A Southdown evaluation determined that he had a “repressed sexuality” and that his sexual attraction was toward adolescent boys “a stage he appears locked into.” It was recommended that Ensey “be strictly prohibited from any public ministry of any kind; he should have no contact with any young person.”

    But, Father Horgan presumably decided unilaterally there was nothing to it all. As far as he was concerned, Father Ensey denied everything and therefore he was innocent.

    He squired this molester around his parish, and allowed him to interact freely with parishioners and their young families.

    Bad judgement? What is it? At the very least it’s bad judgment. I don’t know, – even bad judgment doesn’t sum it up. It’s an outrage, and that is putting it mildly. To unilaterally put the children in his parish at risk like that?

    And Archbishop Miller puts Father Horgan at the top of his list!


  2. MS says:

    A bishop with such bad judgement should not remain a bishop.
    This is not only bad judgement – or oversight (another popular excuse today) this is a cover up. Nothing has changed – nothing. A total excuse of criminal behavior.
    In the church leadership, child abuse/molestation is not considered a crime. It is their “right” to “love” young children. Will the Human Rights Commission be forced to to deal with this behavior as a “right” to sexual preference? I’m afraid it might already be in the works. Perversion begets perversion.

  3. JG says:

    My gut…my gut…my gut!!( This is not a typo, I meant “gut” and not “God”!)
    Mr.Veniez sounds like a politician and this sure feels like the “return of the elevator”…
    There is too much cream in this sweet , captivating story! Of course, the bishop’s reference is at least annoying but the ex-liberal, civil servant cheering on a controversy…
    Something is missing…made for Hollywood script! I am embarrassed for him ! “B” movie at best!


  4. Tanya says:

    I have a number of points to make;

    The Huffington Post? A pro business magazine. I strongly supsect that Veniez the entrepreneur and Miller the archiepiscopal leader contrived to have that article placed in such a outlet so as to sustain an image of Roman Catholicism that is now in tatters.

    How many times have I read a Roman clerics bio. without being bombarded as to the “intellectual prowess” of the said cleric – paedophile or enabler? The Gregorian, the Angelicum, the Pontifical Biblical Institute, and our very own St. Paul’s, Ottawa. I wonder what our secular univeristies and institutes of higher learning make of such “qualifications” and their equivalency? The grandiose titles of these centres of “excellence” and the impressive suffixes of qualifications that follow a clerics name in a clergy directory has little import for me. In many ways it seems to point to the arrogance and deviousness of the cleric in his response to the cruelty and misery inflcited upon children. Miller and Horgan two cases in point.

    I believe Ensey’s parents resided and may continue to do so in the Shaghnessy parish. Their relationship to Horgan may be crucial in understanding the nature of his support and his manipulation of the parish into financing and housing a paedophile such as Ensey and the Society of St. John outfit.

    The Society has a curious history. Its clergy were taken from the Roman Traditionalist movement known as the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). I believe the leader of this schism within a schsim, Urrutigoity, may have jumped before he was pushed and led a band of disciples with him out of the SSPX to form this Society of St. John. (this is very frequent occurrence, schisms fragment and the expulsion of the Lefebvre consecrated bishop, Richard Williamson may herald yet another group proclaiming Catholic truth in the face of liberty, equality and fraternity)It was well known that Urrutigoity had been the subject of investigation within the SSPX regarding sexual abuse of minors and homosexual conduct within its own seminary.

    It is always ironic to see how a traditionalist movement harkening back to a halcyon pre concilar era where Roman identity and memory was strong, faith deep and certain and centering around a 1570 ritual that promoted devotion and stillness should operate in such an unscrupulous, fraudulent and sexually abusive manner.

    Urrutigoity, Ensey, Saweh, Fullerton (now attached to the conciliar Ecclesia Dei group The Society of St. Peter) Carey and O’Connor departed the SSPX for happier days within the diocese of Scranton. The rest is history and all too well documented on this site and elsewhere.

    Urrutigoity, unbelievably is now incardinated in a diocese in Paraguay, led by an Opus Dei bishop and is now diocesan director of vocations. I believe he may teach at the diocesan seminary too……

    Can it get any worse?

    • Sylvia says:

      A reminder for us all Tanya that molesters are everywhere. Ditto those who protect and enable them.

      As for the history of the foundation of and subsequent scandal engulfing the Society of St. John and its suppression in PA is well documented. The fact that Opus Dei bishop Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano allowed Urrutigoity and others to reestablish the Society in his diocese is a scandal in and of itself.

    • Leon Berton says:

      Yes, I believe Fullerton actually got incardinated as a Navy chaplain …

  5. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    The most remarkable thing I find in this article is the way this gentleman goes on and on about the academic qualifications of these two “men of the cloth”.
    They may very well be rocket scientists, but obviously have their heads buried in holy sand.
    As more time goes on here, I am finding very often that I don’t really need a middle man for God. I can have him factory-direct if I want.
    I also have a deep resentment toward this priest for his flippant remark “has it ever occurred to you that he has been searching for a way to connect with you, Daniel”?
    I have difficulty with the games being played here! If God wants to contact me, I am quite sure he’ll pick up the phone and call me. He has that ability, as I understand it. If He created the world in 6 days, He really doesn’t need to play games, and “search for a way to connect with me” if He really wants to.
    Just ask St. Paul! Mike.

  6. Sean Na Sagart says:

    If I still belonged to this organization as a priest, I would have to resign!
    Any man still believing that his role as a priest is anything other than as an enabler at this point is either to far gone, or has no self worth left. Over and over we see the sheep used as backdrop to the ego’s of these so-called shepherds. The lifestye of these priests is unhealthy for all involved, and in the real world the lot of them would be charged under
    a Rico like law for participating in a criminal enterprise!
    The only answer I can come up with is to vote with your feet, I don’t see the priests doing the right thing in the near future, their far to dysfuncional and committed to the myth of their specialness!
    If it’s Jesus your after, you don’t need the ‘magic show’ that the priests preform, it’s a means of control and used for their own benefit to retain that specialness they crave.
    Walk away, warn others, and pray for the all the wounded souls.
    Christ have mercy on all of us!

  7. Tanya says:

    I need to edit a statement I made in my previous contribution to this article;

    Upon further reading I believe it was not the parents of Ensey but of another Society of St. John cleric, Dominic Carey who resided in Horgan’s Shaghnessy parish. Given what they would have known of Ensey I wonder why they and Horgan, placed the parish, its institutions and other centres within the local area at serious risk?

    Carey like the other Society of St. John clerics was from the Traditonalist pre concilar movement; the Society of St. Pius X. He like the others trained at their Winona, Minnesota seminary He was eventually ordained to the priesthood by Timlins of the Scranton diocese who had given this outfit canonical status in the diocese.(I suggest that people may want to read Timlins deposition; this was clearly a prelate who had not grasped or understood very much regarding the Society of St. John and its clerical members. Indeed when red flags were waved about the sexual and financial scandals Timlins elected to set them aside)

    Carey, as with the others fled when the scandal imploded, He is now rector of the seminary in the Paraguay diocese led by Opus Dei bishop Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano.

    Sex abusers and their willing cohort of enablers never stop and will not stop. I cannot imagine the numbers of children and young people who have already had the misfortune to fall into the clutches of such people. What can one say of a bishop who willingly supports and enables such individuals?

  8. Tanya says:

    This addendum is with regard to a fomer SSPX and SSJ priest Basel Sarweh;

    From an internet search he now appears to be teaching music and in particular cello at the University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Texas. The University is a private Catholic institution and Sarweh is listed as a part time member of the teaching faculty.

    Whether Sarweh continues to function as a cleric, is laicised or has simply abandoned ministry is not apparent. For example does he go to Paraguay and visit with SSJ clerics functioning there? Is he permitted to practice ministry there?

    What is clear is whether he should be deemed suitable as a faculty member of an institution which has and will give him access to young people. His exact role in the SSJ scandal is not entirely clear. Enabler? Possibly. Putting young people at risk from sexual predators such as Urrutigoity and Ensey is intolerable and his appointment at such a centre of learning may only compromise the safety of students.

    Music teachers are peripatetic; they will have access to children.

    My concern is whether the necessary inquries have ben undertaken by University of Incarnate Word to secure safety.

    • Briana says:

      Your fear does not give you the right to assume. You might be sinning by defaming a man who is in no way affiliated with what you are talking about. I know this man and he is an upstanding resident of Texas. He is not at all involved with any clerical operations and has been relieved of his clerical status by the Pope. He is horrified by the scandals that have occurred and completely divorces himself from any involvement in any immorality that took place. Some men are guilty indeed, but please don’t be on a rampage and risk hurting the innocent.

  9. Tanya says:

    Urrutigoity is now the Vicar General of the Diocese of Ciudad Del Este. He is essentially the bishop’s “point man” and will be first port of call regarding all sex abuse issues in the diocese. This is to say the least a stunning development replete with arrogant cynicism on the part of the Opus Dei Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano.

    The Catholic laity must be truly powerless to accord with such a assignment. I only can wonder at the numbers of young people now being abused by Urrutigoity and permitted to be abused by him in that diocese.

  10. MS says:

    John Na Sagart, I would like to ask: Were you once a priest?

  11. Tanya says:

    Th clerics of the now suppressed Society of St. John (SSJ)have now fled to the four winds, Despite the financial scandal involving millions of dollars and the sexual scandals with children most have found berths within the Roman church as practising clerics.

    It rasies the interesting question of how a cleric, whether a priest or deacon may leave one diocese and enter another? Canon Law and the canons relationg to excardination and incadination cover this issue. The Law is clear about seeing the entire excardination and incardination issue as one act as one process. The diocese of Scranton as to date only sought the laicisation of Ensey (his case is being dealt with by Rome’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and may proceed very slowly if as likely Ensey appeals)

    Meanwhile Urrutigoity and Carey are in the diocese Ciudad Del Este as Vicar General and Rector of the diocesan seminary; Fullerton is now serving as a military chaplian with the Society of St. Peter; it is most ironic it was this group of clerics who were responsible for St. Gregory’s Academy the centre of the the Society of St. John’s paedophile activity, O’Connor is now serving in a parish in the diocese of Nottingham, England while the society of St. John deacon Joseph Levine secured presbyteral ordination in the diocese of Baker, Oregon. Sarweh reinvented himself and serves as a part time faculty member at the University of the Incarnate Word , Texas.

    Given the scandals and the crimes, the enabling and the collusion between these individuals how did it come to pass that these characters secured such posts? Are they still incardinated within the Scranton diocese and are “on loan” to these institutions? Were they formally excardinated so as to be rid of them? The Law is clear that the process is not a ” recycling” matter. They have to be of good standing to be incardinated anywhere. Can one seriously believe that any of the above are of good standing?

    Have the faithful in any of these locales where former SSJ clerics are located been advised of their chequered ecclesial careers? Of the sex abuse crimes against children and the destruction of good people who in their desire to help were wilfully abused financially?

  12. Sylvia says:

    Would you please give links verifying the information you have posted Tanya.

    Re excardination – I have a vague recollection that Father U was incardinated in Paraguay but would have to check. Father Ensey is presumably awaiting news of his fate.

    The others could serve elsewhere with the consent of both bishops while retaining incardination in Scranton. It happens all the time. Whether or not that is the case I have no idea.

    Re “Society of St. Peter.” Do you mean the Fraternity of St. Peter?

    A priest is not excardinated to get rid of him. The priest asks to be excardinated, and does so only when he has a bishop or religious order which is prepared to take him him. A priest must always be incardinated somewhere or belong to an order.

  13. Tanya says:

    Thank you for your reply Syliva;

    I am supplying some links to help the reader navigate;







    Link 1- The diocesan website where Urrutigoity and Carey can be located. Click on Curia and then for Seminary.

    Link 2- The Baker diocesan webiste where Levine can be located.

    Link 3- University of Incarnate Word where Sarweh is to be found. There is no indication as to whether Sarweh has been laicised or retains faculties.

    Link 4- Diocese of Nottingham, England. O’Connor has been assigned to the Brigg parish in that diocese.

    Link 5- Advises of Carey’s appointment as the Seminary Rector in that Paraguay diocese.

    Link 6- Narrates Fullerton’s assigment as a military chaplain and membership of the Fraternity of St. Peter(FSSP).

    I have written to the Scranton diocese requesting clarification. Nothing to date and I am assuming there will be nothing. The diocese is probably still in convulsions regarding the latest cleric from there to be jailed for sex crimes against children.

    All should have been laicised. None should be in such positions of pastoral and material authority. None are listed on the Scranton diocesan website as clerics of the diocese.

  14. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    I have thought a lot about what you have said about ‘connecting with a priest’ over these last two years.
    Way down deep, I sense something unhealthy about your search for a priest you can connect with.
    I am more inclined to believe that perhaps we should seek a more intimate ‘connection’ with God, as opposed to the middleman (priest). Just food for thought……………………………………. Mike.

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