Whistleblower priest on
critics say bishop exacting revenge
Bishop Paul S.
Loverde is hot under the collar. This week, the
leader of the Arlington diocese in northern
Virginia is exerting his wrath on a priest he
finds particularly troublesome. Fr. James R.
Haley was summoned before an ecclesiastical
tribunal in Philadelphia on Wednesday to answer
to five charges brought against him by his own
bishop. If found guilty, these charges could lead
to the priests "defrocking," a
penalty that would effectively reduce Fr. Haley
to the lay state.
to Charles M. Wilson, executive director of the in San Antonio, Texas, an
ecclesiastical tribunal is "roughly
equivalent to a criminal trial brought before a
civil court. The offense has to be proven by
moral certainty, which is similar to
beyond a reasonable doubt.'"
the Arlington bishop is retaliating against the
priest for exposing clerical corruption in three
northern Virginia parishes. "Fr. Haley has
been attacked, vilified, and deprived of his
ability to function as a priest," contended
Stephen Brady, president of the Illinois-based Roman Catholic Faithful.
the bishops canonical charges are related
to testimony given by Fr. Haley in a legal
deposition in July of 2002. As a direct
consequence of his testimony, Fr. Haley was
suspended from the Arlington diocese. Despite the
fact that the priest was legally bound to respond
to a subpoena, Bishop Loverde informed Fr. Haley
in a written decree dated October 28, 2002 that
he was guilty of violating an order for him not
to publicize priestly wrongdoing. In other words,
Fr. Haley was disciplined due to his refusal to
participate in an on-going cover-up. He is a
At the St.
Patricks Day trial, Fr. Haley was charged
with "using instruments of social
communication to injure good morals, to express
insults and to excite hatred or contempt against
the Church or Diocese" (canon 1369);
"publicly inciting subjects to animosities
or hatred against
the Ordinary [i.e., the
bishop]" (canon 1373), and "ruining the
good reputation of another." Put in simpler
terms, Fr. Haley is being charged for blowing the
whistle on the bishops administrative
incompetence in dealing with clerical scandal.
the Arlington diocese are reluctant at this point
to comment on Fr. Haleys case. Some have
expressed concerns that any comments they make
will leave them vulnerable to the kind of charges
brought against Fr. Haley. "The Haley issue
is a red flag to the priests of the
diocese," explained one Arlington cleric.
"This means any dissent, discussion, or even
mild criticism of anything the [bishop] does can
be met with a canonical suit."
seem to believe that the primary problem is not
what they might personally think of Fr. Haley,
but how his case has been handled and how the
whistleblower has been treated.
kind of trial is almost unheard of," said
Charles Wilson, "especially concerning
someone who is maintaining that he is innocent of
the charges." Wilson pointed out that the
tribunal was presided over by Bishop Thomas G.
Doran of Rockford, Illinois. "The fact that
Bishop Doran is a member of Romes Supreme
Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura suggests that
this tribunal was convened by the Holy See."
The Signatura is often referred to as the supreme
court of the Catholic Church. "The fact that
the trial took place in Philadelphia instead of
in the Arlington diocese would seem to support
this [assumption]," he added. The status of
the tribunal could not be confirmed at the time
opera series of events
In July 2002, Fr. Haley was subpoenaed to testify
in a lawsuit that was brought against Bishop
Loverde and the Diocese of Arlington by James
Lambert, a Catholic layman whose wife was
impregnated by Fr. James Verrecchia, then pastor
of All Saints Church in Manassas. Mr. Lambert
alleged that the diocese had long known about the
public scandal given by Fr. Verrecchias
illicit relationship with his wife, but failed to
remove the priest from the Lamberts parish.
Although the lawsuit was eventually dropped, Fr.
Haleys testimony corroborated Mr.
Lamberts contention. Nancy Lambert later
divorced her husband in order to marry Fr.
Verrecchia, who is now an Episcopal priest
serving in Atlanta.
worked as an associate at All Saints, where he
discovered that his pastor had stored up
homosexual pornography on the rectory computer.
He also discovered over three hundred email
"love letters" written by Fr.
Verrecchia and sent to Nancy Lambert. The emails
closed with fancies such as "Feel my hug and
know of my kiss."
testified that Fr. Verrecchia had long been
involved in a very public romance with Mrs.
Lambert, saying it was a source of grave scandal
to parishioners at All Saints. Moreover, Fr.
Haley presented Bishop Loverde with
incontrovertible evidence of Fr.
Verrecchias misconduct by downloading all
the homosexual pornography and emails onto a
to the deposition, rather than investigating the
matter, the bishop accused Fr. Haley of
fabricating the emails and transferred him to St.
Lawrence Church in Franconia. No investigation
was ever carried out; Fr. Verrecchia received no
disciplinary notice by Bishop Loverde, and was
allowed to remain pastor of All Saints, where he
continued his sexual romance with Nancy Lambert
until he impregnated her and left the priesthood
to marry her.
Lawrence, Fr. Haley discovered that the pastor,
Fr. William J. Erbacher, had been embezzling
money from the collection baskets on a rather
grand scale. He also discovered that this same
priest possessed an extensive collection of
homosexual pornography, including child
pornography. According to the deposition, Fr.
Haley went "to Bishop Loverde and told him
he had a significant problem at Saint Lawrence.
That there was immoral and criminal activity
occurring, and that it was very obvious, and that
he needed to go see it."
the bishops request, Fr. Haley presented
him with documented evidence of the pornography,
and again no investigation was undertaken at that
time. Instead, Fr. Haley was transferred again.
later, only after Fr. Erbachers activities
were made public in The Washington Post,
did Bishop Loverde take action. He immediately
removed the offending pastor and audited the
parish to discover that Fr. Erbacher had
embezzled $320,000 from Church funds.
Haleys next assignment at St. Marys
Church in Fredericksburg, he discovered that Fr.
Daniel Hamilton was "involved in
extraordinarily graphic and incredibly disturbing
sadomasochistic, sexual torture, cross-dressing,
transgender pornography that involved
she-males." Fr. Haley testified that his
fellow priest was addicted, "daily immersed
in this kind of sexual horror."
went to Bishop Loverde again, this time to tell
him of the disturbing problems at St.
Marys. According to the deposition, the
bishop again asked for "credible
evidence" of the pastors misconduct.
Fr. Haley responded to that request a week later
with evidence of Fr. Hamiltons extreme
perversion. "At the end of that meeting,
which was basically a slide show of the pictures
of [Fr. Hamiltons] incredible
collection," Fr. Haley testified, "the
bishop told me that I had better watch out, that
I did not know what he [Loverde] was capable of
later, Bishop Loverde summoned Fr. Haley to his
office and instructed him to be out of St.
Marys by 7 oclock that evening.
According to the deposition, Bishop Loverde also
presented Fr. Haley with a written decree that
threatened his priesthood in no uncertain terms.
Fr. Haley described the bishops threat
thus: "If you tell anybody by any means what
has happened to Fr. Hamilton or anybody you will
be immediately suspended from the priesthood
without any warning."
to this threat, Bishop Loverde removed Fr.
Haleys priestly faculties and, according to
Fr. Haleys testimony, made it clear to the
whistleblower that he wanted him to enter a
so-called "treatment center" before he
would ever consider lifting Fr. Haleys
suspension. When Fr. Haley requested to transfer
to another diocese, the bishop responded that he
would not grant approval. Bishop Loverde would
settle for nothing less than the priests
laicization. According to his sworn testimony,
Fr. Haley stated that Bishop Loverde "is
trying to strangle me out of the Church."
In addition to the canonical charges relating to
Fr. Haleys whistle-blowing, Bishop Loverde
is also charging Fr. Haley with "sexual
misconduct" and "absolution of an
accomplice in sexual sin," an apparent
reference to a decade-old incident involving a
woman who made sexual advances toward the priest.
Haleys attorney, Gregory Murphy explained
to The Washington Times [article] last week that
"the priest was found not guilty of any
impropriety by the former Arlington bishop, the
Most. Rev. John R. Keating, who died in
Catholic Faithfuls Stephen Brady says
its obvious to him that Bishop Loverde is
trying to retaliate against Fr. Haley.
Bradys lay Catholic group has been lending
moral support to the harassed priest ever since
his deposition transcript was made public.
"These misconduct charges involved a woman
who made sexual advances toward Fr. Haley years
ago," Brady explained, "and he rebuffed
her. Later, when she asked for absolution, he
granted it to her. This issue was dealt with by
seems to concur. "Theyre throwing in
any issue they could find against [Fr.
Haley]," the priests attorney told The
Washington Times [article]. "So
theyve dug up an incident that was, right
from the start, found in Fr. Haleys
seen the vile filth that Fr. Haley documented in
those three rectories," added Brady, who
describes the evidence as hardcore homosexual
pornographyboth magazines and videos.
"Ive got copies of it all," he
added, "and the fact that Bishop Loverde
failed to act on any of this evidence speaks
volumes. Instead, he decides to persecute this
priest while perverts and pedophiles walk
whether he thinks Fr. Haley was innocent of the
sexual misconduct charges, Brady pointed out that
Bishop Keating apparently found the priest
innocent. He added: "Anybody who has
skeletons in his closet doesnt speak out as
loudly as Fr. Haley has. If he were guilty of
those charges, he would have been crazy to go
public with his evidence."
Ever since Fr. Haleys testimony in the
legal deposition was made public and reported in
the Washington-area media, Bishop Loverde seems
to have been on an offensive to demonize the
whistleblower priest. In a December 5, 2002
letter published in the Arlington Catholic
Herald the bishop wrote that "Fr. Haley
has not been made a pastor because of separate
issues concerning his own past conduct,"
apparently referring to the sexual misconduct
charges that Bishop Loverdes predecessor
resolved long ago. At the time the letter was
published, at the height of the priest pederasty
scandal, Bishop Loverdes comment was
commonly misinterpreted to mean that Fr. Haley
was the subject of pedophilia allegations.
same public letter, the bishop falsely accused
Fr. Haley of "going to the media" with
his accusations, when in fact the priest did not
go to the media, but rather gave testimony in a
legal deposition, the transcripts of which the
Diocese of Arlington sought unsuccessfully to
have sealed. Fr. Haleys testimony was made
public only to the extent that the media had
access to those public legal documents. It is
also instructive to note that for several years
Fr. Haley reported his complaints, accompanied by
well-documented evidence, directly to the bishop.
public letter Bishop Loverde also stated that Fr.
Haley had no duty to give a deposition in a civil
proceeding, when in fact Fr. Haley was subpoenaed
for his testimony, meaning that he was legally
required to answer questions under oath. The
testimony was not "voluntary" as Bishop
Loverde falsely claimed.
Even in the
face of gaping evidence to the contrary, Bishop
Loverde asserts in his public letter three times
that he has not ignored priestly misconduct, that
he treats all allegations very seriously, and
that he is committed to doing everything in his
power to see that wrongdoing or criminal behavior
is punished. The fact that the bishop repeatedly
failed to act on the allegations and evidence
presented to him by Fr. Haley about three
separate pastors of the diocese leaves the bishop
open to suspicion that he is primarily interested
in one thing: retribution against a whistleblower
circumstances, it could take between six months
and a year to adjudicate canonical hearings such
as Fr. Haleys St. Patricks Day trial.
In the mean time, the priest will remain in
clerical limbo. Even if the eventual ruling comes
out in favor of Fr. Haley, Bishop Loverde will
still have the canonical right to keep from
accepting the priest back in the Diocese of
Arlington. But it would make it easier for Fr.
Haley to transfer to another diocese, should a
bishop be willing to accept him. "If Haley
wins the case," explained the St. Joseph
Foundations Charles Wilson, "he would
no longer be under suspension. In a way, a
canonical trial for Fr. Haley is good. His rights
will be respected, which does not appear to have
been the case up to this point. The trial gives
Fr. Haley a fighting chance. If he has been
accused of a serious offense he should be offered
a fair trial."
note: The full transcript of Fr. Haleys
deposition is available online at: http://www.rcf.org/pdfs/hdep.pdf)
S. Rose is the author a several books including
the New York Times bestseller Goodbye, Good Men. He is editor of