Protect Our Priests announced Wednesday in a press release the set-up of a non-profit corporation to assist Fr. Frank Phillips with the legal costs of a canon lawyer, a civil lawyer and associated costs following his removal as pastor of St. John Cantius Church in Chicago and superior of the Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius.
"There is significance in the fact that we have launched Protect Our Priests during Holy Week," said co-founder Frank Williams. "We intend to walk with Fr. Frank every step of the way. Our faith guides us and our prayers sustain us. We know from everything that Father has taught us that 'Love does not rejoice in evil but rejoices with the Truth.'"
Suzanne Devane, one of the founders of Protect Our Priests, told Church Militant, that the non-profit was an "organic response" following Phillips removal as pastor and the announcement to parishioners on March 17 and 18 during the weekend Masses.
"I received texts from parishioners and phone calls from close friends at St. John Cantius. It was basically a response between a few of us [that] something needs to be done, insisted Devane. "We need to make sure that Father realizes we support him. There are financial needs, so we started Protect Our Priests."
Phillips founded the Canons Regular in 1998 with approval from Chicago's Cdl. Francis George. The parish is known for its reverent and traditional liturgies, treasures of sacred art and rich and solemn devotion to Sacred Music, particularly Gregorian chant and polyphony.
Devane continued, "And so much of the work we've been doing over the last week and a half had to do with founding the organization and the legalities of that, getting the website up and running and then a couple of us have been working, interviewing and finding canon law resources."
On March 16, Chicago's Cdl. Blase Cupich announced in a letter his removal of Fr. Phillips over "credible allegations of improper conduct involving adult men." The letter is clear that the allegations against Phillips do not include minors.
Protect Our Priests will also be reaching out to supporters of Fr. Phillips and coordinating prayer opportunities for the accused priest, the Canons Regular, Cdl. Cupich and others involved.
"We're preparing little cards that can be handed out to people after Mass outside the church. And it's very much a word of mouth thing," explained Devane. "There's a closed Facebook page that has already existed for parishioners, and then we are just calling people who we know are supporters and asking for their assistance financially if they have the means."
She continued, "[Otherwise, we are asking] everyone [to] pray for wisdom [and] strength for Father [and] for all members of the Canons Regular because if there's anything Father has taught us over the years, it's the power of prayer [and] the power of the sacraments."