FAREWELL BISHOP PEÑA
When he arrived in August of 1995, he asked for the resignation of all lay diocesan employees and told them that they would each know if they still had their position within the diocese by the end of the year, five months in the waiting. This was all based on information that he had received about some of the staff from misinformed laity, not fellow clergy. At a clergy conference, it quickly became apparent that he was going to accept the resignations of these employees without so much as meeting or talking with them.
He kicked the Oblate fathers out of the Shrine. The Oblates are a religious community of men who had decades of presence and leadership in the Valley. He then incorporated and formed a board whose members were all sworn to confidentiality about any and all matters that the board discussed, even when they were not in executive session.
He spent thousands of dollars remodeling the building that housed diocesan offices in Alamo, turning it into a residence for himself. The house plans show that it even has an indoor sauna.
He terminated the pension fund for all diocesan and parish lay employees without consulting the board of the pension fund. The fund was nearly $12 MILLION over-funded. While a very small portion of this over funded money was returned to the parishes, there was little or no accounting for where the rest of this money went and although he terminated the employee pension fund, he DID NOT terminate the same pension fund for the priests.
On August 2nd, 1999, a check from the diocesan insurance carrier, Gallagher Bassett Services, Inc., was paid out in the amount of $350,000 to his mother, Elisa Peña, to settle a claim made against the diocese on her behalf after a December 24th 1996 accident that involved a diocesan vehicle in which she was a passenger.
He employed his own CPA from El Paso for the Brownsville Diocese rather than employing a CPA firm from the Valley. This CPA has had to fly into the Valley every time he is needed. Few in the diocese feel that the Bishop has been transparent in the finances of the diocese and this area was a constant cause for contention at clergy gatherings.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Bishop Peña asked Fr. Onyia, a priest from Nigeria, to leave the country as soon as possible after allegations that Fr. Onyia had sexually molested a mentally disabled minor while at the Shrine. He also accosted two teenage girls in Harlingen, after the Bishop had transferred him there.
The Brownsville diocese has paid out MILLIONS OF DOLLARS in secret settlements of sexual abuse cases involving clergy. Is it possible that this is where the almost $12 MILLION in proceeds from the termination of the employee pension fund went?
While other US Bishops, including some fellow Texas bishops, have released the names of their pedophile priests, Bishop Peña has refused to go public with the names of those priests within the Brownsville diocese who have been asked to leave public ministry because of their KNOWN (not alleged) sexual abuse of minors. This decision on his part has left these guilty priests free to live and work within our community, putting our children at great risk.
He also demoted a pastor to “parish administrator” for participating in a Labor Day press conference and march supporting justice for all workers.
He was also responsible for the destruction of a progressive parish in north McAllen and thereafter awarded some priests the title of “monsignor”, presumably for their assistance in this action.
And perhaps the saddest of all, according to the late Bishop Fitzpatrick, while Bishop Peña called for particular care to the elderly, he never once went to visit Bishop Fitzpatrick during his retirement, let alone, as he was dying of cancer. Bishop Fitzpatrick lived in a parish within close proximity of the Chancery.
This is a short list. Much more could be added. But, suffice it to say, we look forward to the retirement of Bishop Raymundo Peña and hope and pray that it comes quickly.
Concerned Catholics of the Rio Grande Valley