DAILY CATHOLIC   TUESDAY   November 17, 1998   vol. 9, no. 225

CATHOLIC PewPOINT

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We know God will not turn away from Father Ken Roberts.

          Saint Luke's Gospel from this past Sunday verifies what is happening today and puts everything in perspective: "But before all these things they will arrest you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synogogues and prisons, dragging you before kings and governors for My name's sake. It shall lead to your bearing witness. Resolve therefore in your hearts not to meditate beforehand how you are to make your defense. For I Myself will give you utterance and wisdom, which all your adversaries will not be able to resist or gainsay. But you will be delivered up by your parents and brothers and relatives and friends; and some of you they will put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake; yet not a hair of your head shall perish. By your patience you will win your souls" (Luke 21: 12-19).

          We bring this up because it seems one who has been so loyal to Jesus and His Blessed Mother over the years is being "delivered up by brothers...and friends." We're speaking of Father Ken Roberts who was suspended this past Friday of his priestly faculties by Bishop Charles V. Grahmann, ordinary of the Diocese of Dallas where Fr. Ken has had his faculties since being ordained on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1966. There have been a plethora of charges levied on this English priest who is one of the foremost believers of Medjugorje; but no one has come forth with any proof, only accusations - and vicious accusations at that. The charges against him reek of the tactics of the anti-Medjugorje leeches who have been waging a slanderous and vicious campaign against the visionaries of Medjugorje and the Franciscan priests of Our Lady's Oasis of Peace - Father Jozo Zovko, OFM and Father Slavko Barbaric, OFM to name the two most popular targets. You would not believe the satanic attacks heaped on these priests and the six visionaries of Medjugorje as well as all promoters of Our Lady's messages from Medjugorje by these barracudas. These disciples of the devil, who have mounted a blackballing of everything involving Medjugorje, twist and turn facts and quotes to make it look like they are being righteous. But, like the master they serve, they are masters of half truths and instigating confusion among the faithful who don't know what is going on. They have believed in the holiness and sincerity of the visionaries, Fr. Jozo, Fr. Slavko, Father Svet, Father Petar, Sister Emmanuel, and the host of other devoted followers including Father Ken Roberts. Few priests have made as many pilgrimages to Medjugorje as he has. But, unlike the saints in Heaven, no one here on earth is perfect and that includes Fr. Ken.

          By his own admission Fr. Ken has had a problem with alchohol, a problem common among millions. In trying to research the charges against him no proof was forthcoming, only accusations by one young man in Forth Worth who supposedly served Fr. Ken as an altar boy. Remember Cardinal Joseph Bernadin was accused of the same thing by a Cincinnati altar boy who, when forced to fess up, admitted it was a lie. Having known Fr. Ken for nearly ten years and knowing those he has associated with, we suspect that God knows if this too is a lie. There have been charges brought by a few in St. Louis and Peoria, Illinois but, again, no proof. And these were from over two decades ago when Fr. Ken, by his own admission, submitted to psychiatric treatment in 1968, two years after becoming a priest. Yet, just because someone accused him, the Archbishop of St. Louis curtailed his ministering in that Archdiocese. They also had no proof. We have found, from our own experiences in this ministry, that slander and libel are the easiest weapons to use against good people by those who may have tried to forge their own agendas over God's Will.

          Fr. Ken can best be described as a charismatic speaker and men, women and children have flocked to this likable, sincere priest over the years. It is very easy these days, possibly out of jealousy, that charges can be levied that can destroy a person's reputation without ever producing proof. That is exactly what has happened here. No proof, only accusations. From all we have read the only charges are the "idea" that Fr. Ken works with young people in his ministry and provides a popular website with an interactive chat page. Stories in secular papers have tried to make more of this than there is, quoting his book "From Playboy to Priest" as if he is still a playboy working as a ship and airline steward as he was before entering the seminary in the late 1950's. Now his site has been pulled and he must not only live with the embarassment of being labeled a "pedophile" without any definitive proof, but even worse for him, he cannot celebrate Holy Mass.

          Having known Fr. Ken for nearly a decade, we know how much this has to hurt. He once told us while visiting our home, "The day I stop saying Mass is the day I stop being a priest." His Masses were always so reverent and enhanced the sacredness of the Sacrifice. His homilies always supported Church teaching, Sacred Scripture and Our Lady's messages. He preached obedience as the greatest virtue. That's another reason we find it so hard to believe that he is being disobedient to Bishop Grahmann. Could the problems also involve the fact that Grahmann's diocese has been under the microscope because of last summer's landmark decision to award plaintiffs millions of dollars in atonement for the accusations against former priest and admitted homosexual Rudy Kos? It could very well be that. After all, the charges against Kos were proven and civil and criminal charges filed. No charges of any kind have been filed against Fr. Ken Roberts. Yet he continues to suffer the indignation of a potential vocation-ending career and the ignominy of a lifestyle that is yet to be proven. He has admitted only to having blackouts and alchohol problems, nothing more. But both the Dallas and St. Louis sees, evidently gun-shy from the stigma of pedophilia, chose to take action and declare the innocent party guilty before being given a fair hearing. It is a known fact that two issues bishops hate most and refuse to tackle head on are the "P" words: Pedophilia and Private Revelation. The official quotes coming out of Dallas in regards Fr. Ken come, not from the Bishop but a woman spokesperson for the Diocese - which we might add is topheavy in female administrators from the Chancellor position on down. We're speaking here of Lisa LeMaster who said that Fr. Ken was warned in July, August and October to cease his internet ministry which included his participation as a group moderator for a Catholic discussion group on AOL. His reason for instituting this site was to recruit young people for vocations, something he has done for years when, after Mass he calls forth those, who think they might have a vocation to the religious life, to come forward in this "Altar Call" while asking the faithful to pray with him for these young seedlings. Who knows how many vocations Fr. Ken has effected? But, according to the Dallas Diocese, this was dangerous? When Fr. Ken was not able to just basically pull the plug on something involving AOL, LeMaster assumed that he was stalling, saying "Basically, he seemed to be buying time." Anyone who has had to deal with the jungle known as AOL knows for a fact that nothing gets done fast with that internet conglomerate! Reports say that Bishop Grahmann based his suspension of Fr. Ken on this internet association and the fact Fr. Roberts had celebrated Mass in public. This is the same diocese that allowed a woman to serve as a Master of Ceremonies at All Saints Parish in North Dallas for a year under the pastor who happened to be the former Vicar General and the man who covered up the Kos scandal! This is the same diocese who paid, under the table, settlements to two complainants who accused Fr. Ken - one in St. Louis and one in Fort Worth - of sexual abuse, yet never provided a stitch of proof; only hearsay with no corroboration. Yet Fr. Ken was considered guilty and restricted in his priestly duties. Now it is even worse as he has been suspended completely from his priestly duties without a fair hearing. He does have recourse to Rome and most probably will advance that prerogative, but there,too, the politics are such that getting a hearing could take years. Fr. Ken is a young 68, but recent illnesses and blood clots leading to phlebitis have taken their toll on his years. This most recent setback will age him immeasurably. In fact, his spokeperson in Florrisaint, Missouri Ann Waters indicated Fr. Ken has taken it hard. "Right now he feels like a monastic life would be the best thing in the whole world" said Waters. If these accusations are false, then the world will be the loser.

          We, like the Dioceses, don't know all the facts. But we have known Fr. Ken from the early nineties and in every Mass, at every conference, his conduct was above reproach in public and in private. He was a leading advocate not only of Medjugorje but also vocations. He was a staunch advocate of the Holy Father and all the Pope teaches. He was tireless in his dedication to hearing confessions wherever he went. He was in our home, our car and we had our young sons there and never, ever was any kind of remark or gesture made toward them that would indicate anything but a caring priest of God. We were at his 25th Anniversary celebration that turned pretty rowdy towards the end with all the liquor flowing and married women fawning all over Fr. Ken; yet, even though he had imbibed also, he was above reproach in his conduct. You have to realize that to many women he was an icon. Like the visionaries and messengers, the people would flock to him and fight over him. Believe us, we saw it first hand: women fighting each other over who met him first, or who has more of his books, tapes, etc. He exuded that rock-star like aura wherever he went. Yet, to his credit, he often spurned these accolades in favor of prayer and emphasizing the "word" for the day in which he would take one word from the readings and expound on it, leaving a lasting impression of the Gospel for that Mass. He has been involved with all that is good with Medjugorje. He has been connected with movements that promote the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in a world that would rather opt for the easy way out. He has been one of the leading proponents of vocations and the Sacraments. He has been a close friend of Wayne Weible, the Lutheran journalist who converted to Catholicism and has been one of the most avid supporters and promoters of the Medjugorje messages. He invited Fr. Ken to preside at his first Mass after his conversion. Fr. Ken administered Holy Communion to Wayne. Fr. Ken has baptized thousands. How many conversions has Fr. Ken wrought? Only God knows for sure. There are many miraculous photos associated with this man; one, taken at Medjugorje, shows a spear of light going right through him as the Holy Spirit would penetrate someone. For those with the graphic edition, you can see it on the front page today. Another close associate of Fr. Ken and his work is Mother Angelica of EWTN where Fr. Ken has been on the air for years. We have to wonder if the accusations against Fr. Ken are in any way an attempt to discredit Mother and her work. Mother has always been totally loyal to the Magisterium of the Church and the Holy See and preached a conservative reverence for the faith and liturgy since instituting the Eternal Word Network. Many bishops are clandestinely trying to undermine her. They even mounted efforts to launch a counter station - a Catholic television network run by the American bishops. The headquarters for this project? The Diocese of Dallas! Not that we're making accusations, especially against a diocese that we worked closely with during our stay there and a diocese which canonically approved the Institute of Divine Mercy, but that diocese has suffered much and been diluted much in the last few years and their strong, loyal Vicar General Monsignor Glenn "Duffy" Gardner has more and more been depleted of any authority, having been given a parish assignment that takes up most of his time and allows the new female chancellor to pretty much "run the show." The Diocese's newspaper Texas Catholic is very liberal and sympathetic to the modernists. In fact, the editor of the paper told this editor in writing (after we had brought the Master of Ceremonies female to their attention) that there was nothing wrong with a female MC and that he, as editor of Texas Catholic, is part of the Magisterium! That should give you an indication of how they think. Bishop Grahmann is basically a lame-duck bishop right now. He has announced his retirement and Dallasites are anxiously awaiting and praying that the Holy Father will appoint a good, conservative prelate to turn that diocese around. Whether the new bishop will be able to help Fr. Ken remains to be seen. We suggest the new bishop weigh all the evidence before destroying a man's reputation and priestly life!

          Fr. Ken wrote special articles for our publication A Call To Peace in 1991 and 1992. However, due to jealousies by other Medjugorje publications - specifically a monthly magazine - Fr. Ken's assistant notified us that he was being forced to disassociate himself from our ministry; one because he was then beginning to write for other publications and, two, because the slick four color magazine in question wanted exclusivity and was threatening a suit against Fr. Ken and us. Whether the latter is true about the court action, we don't know; only that we were told that by more than a few sources. Fr. Ken remained friendly with us through it all, but often his hands were tied. Now, sadly his hands are really tied. But we have never been "fair weather friends." We will not disassociate ourselves from this good tree who produced so many good fruits without any visible evidence of bad fruit. We stand behind Fr. Ken. We know he will be obedient to whatever directives have been passed down, but it will hurt like hell. Fr. Ken often said that he believes fully in Medjugorje, but if the Church told him to disassociate himself with Our Lady's apparitions there, he would do so in a minute because obedience bears the greatest fruits. Now he faces the greatest struggle, forgoing his priestly duties. The esteemed and holy Padre Pio went through the same kind of harassment and persecution, but perservered. And many of God's holy priests and lay leaders are being persecuted today as satan eats away at the conservative fabric of the Church, sewing confusion and doubt in the minds of those who are not strong in their faith. Those who are strong will go to the heart and pray. We pray Fr. Ken will persevere and that, in time, he will be cleared of these accusations. In the event, any of them are true, we ask compassion on this man who has done so much for Holy Mother Church and Our Lady. We ask that all remember he is human and a sinner...a sinner who is trying harder to do better by dedicating his life to God as a consecrated priest. Fr. Ken often preached what truly is a sin: "A sin is saying 'No' to God. When we sin we turn away from God. When we ask forgiveness and return to His good graces through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then the Holy Eucharist, we are saying 'Yes' to Jesus!" While many, who were his friends, have turned away from Fr. Ken because of these unverified accusations. We stand with him and pray for him and, along with him, ask forgiveness for all we have offended and all who have offended us. And we can all take consolation in the knowledge that, with all the trials and tribulations Fr. Ken is experiencing right now during these times Jesus spoke of in Luke 21, we know God will not turn away from Father Ken Roberts!

Michael Cain, editor