Catholic leaders complain about Diocese of Venice Bishop

Venice, FL - Ten priests and pastors go on the record calling the Diocese of Venice Bishop a bully who relies on intimidation and fear.

That’s just beginning of a list of complaints now on the way to Washington, D.C.

A group of priests wrote a letter to the Pope’s liaison with major concerns over Bishop Frank Dewane.

I can only hope this issue will be addressed by the Holy Father. If there is wrong doing “afoot” then it needs stopped. Though unrelated, I have had my share of issues with the Church that leave me fairly fed up. I fear there is more wrong doing going on than not sometimes.

We are probably all too familiar with the sex scandal, then of course there has been some financial fiascoes as well. Now all we need are bullies and those who violate the trust of the people by using their authority to do so. Maybe it is time for a good purge.

Hmmmm…An article from NBC2 with no named sources and no documentation supporting the allegations of its unnamed sources. It does contain a link to a letter to the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington D.C… The link does not show who authored the letter.

And how does the letter begin?
“”"…we are pastors and priests and earnestly request that this letter remain confidential…"

How odd that is was leaked to NBC2, given such an earnest request…

The chief complaint in the letter seems to be that the bishop is making decisions in his diocese.
Isn’t that part of his job description?

Without actual cases of abuse and without the names of complainants, the article doesn’t seem to offer much substance to the reader.

May Our Dear Lord bless all of our bishops.

My first thought was…shouldn’t this be “Patriarch of Venice”? Then I realized this is a Diocese in the US with its see in the US city of Venice… it gets confusing!

Heh, I was wondering if the headline referred to Venice, Italy or Venice, California. I was thinking… the California town was too small! :blush:

Yes, anonymous allegations made against a public figure and publicized in the local press (while maintaining the secrecy of the accusers) smacks of injustice. It amounts to a smear campaign, to which the victim is unable to defend himself.

In the video, it mentions that the names have been removed from the report to protect the identities of the priests. If you look closely at the letter, the signatures of the priests and pastors would be at the end, which should be assumed is the missing page of enclosed signatures. I would also assume the “factual data” mentioned in the letter is in the attachment to the Nuncio.

Canonically, priests have a right to be consulted, and if the allegations are true, then the bishop is guilty of some serious violations of Canon Law.

I’d say the “leak” was intentional. If the “leak” gives rise to the laity also joining in their outrage against the alleged actions of their bishop, then what happened to the “Bishop of Bling” may happen against Bishop Dewane.

Not to mention that the letter throws a lot of hits but the hits may be weak, imo, because there are no lists of recorded incidents. Well, at least that we see.

If you want to have recourse for wrongs, especially if the person about whom you are complaining is a superior, then it’s a good idea to write down in the finest and most scrupulous detail exactly what happens or what is said. If it is recorded, like in a letter or email, then enclose a facsimile copy (letter: photocopy, email: screenshot and possibly forward it electronically). If you have an audio recording, forward a copy. If it’s an incident, again, be scrupulous about recording every possible detail: time, date, what happened with as little editorializing as possible, location, who was present, maybe who wasn’t present, etc.

If you just say, “I feel bad 'cause X is a meanie,” well, it’s very easy to blow that off with, “Be a man.” But if you document a continuous series, a pattern, of behavior, then I think your case is much stronger because it can show a defect of character.

While I say there should be little editorializing, you can still write about negative impacts on you and others. Just don’t exaggerate.

Sometimes there are emergency situations like sexual abuse and other serious acts that should be talked about right away, who cares about recording it, because the police will do that. However, crimes are a minority situation.

Disclaimer: I don’t have any personal interest in this and I have no idea whether the allegations against the Bishop are true; my statements above are just general common-sense guidelines imho.

What I really don’t want to see develop is an environment in which bishops have to tread very lightly for fear of being bashed and thrown out of their dioceses for increasingly pettier and pettier things. Bishops are fathers, not store managers.

There is only one attachment listed: signature pages. Without factual data, the letter seems to rely upon unsupported allegations.

May God bless you and all who visit CAF.

If it’s true it’s bad. If it’s false it’s bad. Either way it tarnishes the church…the DEVIL must be in on it somewhere. He’s my Bishop and all I can do is pray for him.

This bishop was appointed by Pope Benedict. Perhaps he is too Catholic for the priests worried about their “jobs”

It is not our place to comment or judge unsubstantiated gossip about a leader of the Church.

What is sad about some of the comments here is that so many of the responses fail to recognize that the Church – even as expressed in Canon Law – is an institution in which ALL members have certain rights and responsibilities. A bishop is a not a medieval lord who can do as he wishes; and priests, religious and laity are not the bishop’s serfs whose only purpose is to do the bishop’s bidding (or, as the old cynical saying goes, “pray, pay, and obey”).

No, ALL the People of God – including priests and pastors – have certain canonical rights and responsibilities and the local bishop is supposed to exercise his authority as a servant, in charity. If you want an example of how this bishop is abusing his authority here’s one that I know of personally: By canon law, parishes are supposed to be assigned Pastors – a priest who has certain pastoral, legal, and financial rights/responsibilities for that particular parish. This local bishop, however, has a tendency to leave parishes headed not by a Pastor (which is a canonical office), but by “Pastoral Administrators.” Where I live in Bonita Springs, FL, the local parish (St. Leo the Great) has not had a Pastor for at least three years, having an “Administrator” instead. What this means is that the Bishop and not a canonical Pastor is making normal decisions (including financial ones) about how the parish is administered. This bishop has, on multiple occasions, instructed pastors to fire staff, to stop approved and funded building projects, and essentially has taken all authority to himself. I’m sure that the signers of this letter have many, many more examples.

Hopefully, Archbishop Viganò has responded privately to the priests involved and is working to ensure that this bishop stops his egregious practices and helps restore the demoralized clergy of this diocese.

I have certainly seen that some Bishops are better than others.

We can only conjecture and speculate, but with an anonymously signed letter of vague complaints, what else is there to do?

It smells to me as if +Dewane may be faced with cleanup of a difficult diocese with endemic problems. The cries of “bullying!” don’t lend much credence to the position of the people who have allegedly been wronged. Perhaps the fact that he is bypassing parish councils and other structures suggests that they cannot be trusted in their present state and he needs to bring some parishes into compliance with the law, and the Faith, without interference from them.

It is a common cry of liberal dissenters to say that “the people” need a say in their governance. Just look at Call to Action and Voice of the Faithful. Many dissenters have attempted to interpose themselves in canonical processes such as the election of bishops, saying that a “grassroots effort” is necessary to “reform the Church” and put forth their preferred heterodox choices for leaders.

+Dewane seems to have a solidly built career in his past. I’m not sure he could go this far off the rails already. I can only hope that he is financially sound and unassailable, because if there is one thing that will get the attention of the Holy Father and merit intervention from above, it is fiscal waste. Just look at the “bling bishops” who have been brought to heel so far.

Either more will come out about the accusations and the people attached to them, or this will die on the vine without any real action. I am interested to hear updates.

Sometimes a period of administratorship may prove helpful in acquiring skills or demonstrating the ability to pastor a parish.

Can. 521 §1. To become a pastor validly, one must be in the sacred order of the presbyterate.

§2. Moreover, he is to be outstanding in sound doctrine and integrity of morals and endowed with zeal for souls and other virtues; he is also to possess those qualities which are required by universal or particular law to care for the parish in question.

§3. For the office of pastor to be conferred on someone, his suitability must be clearly evident by some means determined by the diocesan bishop, even by means of an examination.

There are many reasons for appointing a priest administrator. May your parish grow in faith and love and charity through this experience and may your priest administrator grow ever closer to Our Lord as he ministers to His flock.
May God bless your bishop abundantly as he prayerfully discerns the best ways to nurture the souls in his care.

Yyou are on the ground there, you have a far better perspective on the situation than do I. However, the example you cite is not, in itself, convincing of abuse.

Yes, canon law requires that a parish be under the care of a pastor. However, canon law also recognizes the priest shortage may require other arrangements:

Can 517 §2 If, because of a shortage of priests, the diocesan Bishop has judged that a deacon, or some other person who is not a priest, or a community of persons, should be entrusted with a share in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish, he is to appoint some priest who, with the powers and faculties of a parish priest, will direct the pastoral care.

Simply because a pastoral administrator is running day to day affairs does not mean that there is no priestly oversight of the parish. To convince us that abuse is occurring, I think you need to show that the oversight of the parish has been lacking.

I know this is an old thread, but I don’t live in the diocese in question, and only just learned of the brouhaha through Voice of the Faithful.

It strikes me as at least odd, and perhaps hypocritical that priests complaining about “shaming” and “intimidation” on the part of their bishop leaked what is for all intents and purposes an anonymous complaint to a secular media outlet.
So apparently under some circumstances the writers of the letter DO believe in shaming…


I hope you don’t rely on VOTF for the truth in your news, because they are a radical dissident organization that in no way portrays the teachings of the Church.

Catholic Culture review

The VOTF website deceives faithful Catholics into believing it is a legitimate Catholic organization with slogans such as “support those who have been abused” and “support priests of integrity”. However, the group is tied to dissident, radical, anti-Vatican groups, such as Call to Action and We Are Church, which strongly reject Catholic moral principles.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit