A Tale of Two Priests

News: InvestigationsCommentary
by Christine Niles  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  December 16, 2015   

A gross disparity exists in the archdiocese of New York

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On a quiet day in July 2014, Fr. Justin Wylie boarded a plane from New York City to South Africa. After four years serving the faithful here, it would be his last time working as a priest in the archdiocese.

His dismissal had nothing to do with personal misdeeds or accusations of fraud; he was sent packing based on a single homily earlier that summer in which he spoke up on behalf of the faithful and their beleaguered parish. Contrasted with the treatment of Fr. Peter Miqueli — the priest at the center of a prolonged gay sex scandal involving accusations of embezzlement of $1 million — Fr. Wylie's fate shows not only a gross double standard but potential corruption in the archdiocese of New York.

Father Wylie had been sent to New York four years earlier from his home diocese of Johannesburg to work as negotiator at the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. During his time in the city he ministered to the faithful, offering Mass regularly at various parishes, including St. Agnes, Church of Our Saviour and Holy Innocents.

In early 2014 Cdl. Dolan announced, as part of the biggest restructuring campaign in the history of the archdiocese, that Holy Innocents would be among the many churches to close. The faithful were stunned. Not only was the parish thriving and debt-free, it offered the only daily Traditional Latin Mass in the entire city. Even worse, Holy Innocents would be merged with a nearby parish notorious for its liberal reputation and promotion of homosexuality.

Fr. Justin Wylie

Concerned for the welfare of his flock, Fr. Wylie spoke on their behalf. In a homily delivered May 25, 2014, he pleaded with the cardinal to ensure a permanent home for the traditional community in New York.

[A]s a priest, I have to say: I worry about the situation of traditional Catholics in the archdiocese. Yes, the archdiocese 'permits' a Traditional Mass here or there — but responsibility for the matter continues to rest upon the initiative and resourcefulness of the laity, who with enormous difficulty have to source priests hither and thither as though we were seemingly still living in Reformation England or Cromwellian Ireland. ...

You have found a home here, largely through your own hard work and perseverence: No good shepherd could dispossess you of your home without providing safety and good pasture elsewhere. ...

Shepherds must needs make difficult decisions, such as the erection or suppression of parishes — that is their onerous duty and in this they must have our obedience, charity and prayer: but never should they throw open the sheep-fold and allow the uncertain dispersion of their sheep into a world full of wolves. Charity, of course, is a two-way street.

After obtaining a copy of the homily, we devoted a radio show on the Forward Boldly network highlighting Fr. Wylie's remarks and the fate of Holy Innocents. Michael Voris spread word of the situation in a "Mic'd Up" episode in June. A copy of Wylie's homily was posted soon afterwards to a website, and news quickly spread throughout the Catholic blog world, soon reaching the archdiocese's ears.

Cardinal Dolan did not take long to respond. Within weeks Fr. Wylie was stripped of his priestly faculties and his permission to serve as visiting priest revoked. He was also dismissed without warning from his position at the Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations.

His Excellency had brought down the hammer, and in swift and punishing fashion — not because Fr. Wylie had been accused of personal misdeeds or crimes, but because he dared speak on behalf of the faithful.

Fr. Peter Miqueli

Contrast this with the years-long indifference Cdl. Dolan displayed towards Fr. Peter Miqueli, accused of embezzling $1 million from the faithful, skimming donations in order to buy drugs and fund his sadomasochistic sex life with a gay prostitute (also implicated in the embezzlement scheme). The faithful had been lodging complaints with the archdiocese for two years, requesting to meet with Cdl. Dolan to discuss the problem — yet each time they were written off, told a meeting would be "premature," and that the archdiocese didn't have sufficient information to act. Their pleas went virtually ignored.

Meanwhile, Fr. Miqueli continued in active ministry, even boasting that he enjoyed "protection" from powerful friends within the chancery. It was only once the scandal reached national proportions, making headlines and becoming an embarrassment to the archdiocese, that the cardinal finally acted, and Fr. Miqueli stepped down as pastor of his parish.

The contrast in the cardinal's treatment of Fr. Miqueli and Fr. Wylie reveals a gross disparity in the archdiocese's response. When an orthodox priest is punished in the swiftest, harshest terms for doing nothing wrong, while an errant priest accused of sexual perversion and serious criminal conduct is left untouched for years, the faithful are left asking: Why the disparity? Why the double standard? Why the hypocrisy?

Father Wylie returned to Johannesburg last year, where he was assigned to a small rural parish without electricity or running water. He has since been re-assigned to a coastal village, where he leads a quiet life serving the faithful. The fate of Fr. Miqueli remains unknown — but the archdiocese's failure to respond with the same swift justice and severity it did with Fr. Wylie leaves the faithful with the impression that perhaps Fr. Miqueli's words are true — that he indeed enjoys the protection of powerful, high-ranking friends in the archdiocese — friends who went to great lengths to shelter and protect a wolf who preyed on his flock for his own perverse ends, while a well-respected and faithful priest was sacrificed by a self-interested archdiocese.

Something is rotten in the state of New York — and it may very well start at the top.


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