Dear Rev. John Hardin,
It is with both sadness and resolve that I write to you today.
Acting in your capacity as provincial minister, I ask that you immediately remove from all administrative positions at Mission Santa Barbara the following friars for reasons of abuse of authority, dereliction of duty, violation of public trust, and deceptive practice: Guardian Richard McManus, OFM, Vicar Angelo Cardinale, OFM, and Administrator Brian Trawick, OFM. These friars pose a serious threat to the integrity of the Franciscan Province of St. Barbara and should not be transferred to positions of authority in other friaries.
In addition, I ask that you initiate an independent review and inquiry regarding all decisions made during their tenure at Mission Santa Barbara, and take the appropriate steps necessary to restore public confidence in the Mission as a welcoming place that values people in the community for who they are and not for what they can give to, or do for, the Franciscans.
I also request that you authorize the direct termination of the following laypersons presently employed by the Franciscans at Mission Santa Barbara for their agreement with and participation in questionable Mission management dealings: David Wilk, administrative accountant, and Robert Koehler, head of maintenance.
Over the course of the last six years, the behavior, actions and unwritten policies of the aforementioned friars have greatly contributed to the needless suffering and emotional trauma in the Santa Barbara area and beyond, including, but not limited to, clergy abuse survivors, family members, supporters, former seminarians, parishioners, other friars, and those who work and volunteer at the Mission. If the Province is interested in learning the truth about Mission Santa Barbara it would be wise to begin by offering written guarantees to all concerned individuals and allow them to air grievances without fear of reprisal.
The existence of an unhealthy and unwelcome environment at the Missionwas first brought to the attention of the Province by SafeNet three years ago. That warning was ignored and no action was taken. Another attempt was made in 2011. The response at that time was to sever all relations with SafeNet, a survivor organization that helped and advised the Province on clergy abuse issues since 2003. Meaningful outreach by the Franciscans inSanta Barbara has been neglected for so long that a deep cynicism has taken root. Friars who are currently seeking to be part of the healing process, likeMission pastor Charles Talley and associate pastor Larry Gosselin, are now confronted with even tougher challenges.
On April 16th of this year our board of directors (Instruments of Peace) wrote a letter to the Mission leadership and copied every friar in the Province. In our letter we posed four questions regarding the deliberate vandalism of a sacred memorial for survivors of clergy abuse on Mission grounds by Missionemployee and head of maintenance, Robert Koelher. The leadership responded not by answering our questions but by intimidating Sr. Susan Blomstad, OSF (one of our board members) and forcing her out as director of the Mission Renewal Center after six-years of residency, employment and dedicated service to the friars at Mission Santa Barbara. Her story will no doubt be spun differently by those in charge, but the truth is evident: Sr. Susan’s departure was a retaliatory act. She was discharged by the current Mission authorities because of her friendship with me, a clergy abuse survivor whose work she supported and whom she treated as a welcome guest with a safe room in her building on the Mission grounds.
There is now word that a vocation director has been assigned to Mission Santa Barbara to help recruit young men for the order. Accordingly, young candidates (postulants) will spend a year at the Mission discerning whether or not to join the Franciscan Province of St. Barbara as novices. These postulants will reside, not coincidentally, in rooms formerly occupied by Sr. Susan and myself. Considering the Mission leaders’ aversion for St. Anthony’s Seminary (next door) where decades of abuse occurred, the decision to establish another “seminary” at theMission is not only puzzling and foolish, but also insensitive and reckless. I, for one, will do all I can to discourage anyone from joining the Province of St. Barbara as long as the current leadership is in charge at the Mission.
Abuse of power by the clergy is a serious threat with equally harsh consequences. Its gravity cannot be overstated. When religious leaders misuse their authority to purposely rebuke, punish and silence those they have hurt, a cruel cycle of wrongs is set into motion that perpetuates years of emotional pain. The Mission friars in question have taken it upon themselves to hijack and distort Franciscan principles and twist them into personal agendas. What are we to make, for instance, of an announcement at a recentMission staff meeting, in which the leadership praised and upheld McDonalds as an exemplary model for how the Mission should be run?
SafeNet’s record is clear. Over the years we’ve helped and worked with individuals on all sides of the clergy abuse crisis--including our own Franciscan offenders. We are committed to the necessary and vital work of healing. As director, I’m obligated to remind the Province of its unfortunate history of not believing those who initially came forward to report severe harms. Various accounts involving other friars in the order, who shall remain nameless in this letter, bear this out all too painfully.
In the weeks and months ahead it is my intention to publicly call for the removal of Richard McManus, OFM, Angelo Cardinale, OFM, and Brian Trawick, OFM, from positions of authority at Mission Santa Barbara. I urge the Province to do the right thing and act swiftly and decisively on this matter.
Among the writings of St. Francis of Assisi we find this: “Those who are put in charge of others should be no prouder of their office than if they had been appointed to wash the feet of their confreres.”
Paul Fericano, Director
Cc: Franciscan Friars, Province of St. Barbara
Offices of Franciscan Provincial Ministers, USA
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Minister General, Curia Generalis dei Frati Minori, Rome
Office of the Archbishop of Los Angeles