January 1, 2010
The Betrayal of
The Reverend Mr. Bernard Hall
by Timothy A. Duff
It was Monday evening, and Christmas Eve was a scant three days off. I had scheduled a choir practice for Midnight Mass and was expecting Bernie Hall, our organist. But 5:00 p.m. came and went, so I called him.
He told me he had forgotten completely about the choir practice. When he gave the reason, I not only understood, but was absolutely shocked. But I could tell that the one most shocked was Bernie himself.
He was facing deportation.
A bit of background
He explained that in 1983, when he left England on a student visa to come to America to join The Nine who had left the Society of St. Pius X, Fr. Cekada helped him take care of his visa status. Most recently, when Bernie came to the Cincinnati area a few years ago, he was earning a living as a travel agent (independent contractor). Fr. Cekada wanted him very badly to teach at St. Gertrude the Great School since he (as the rest of us) recognized his talents. Fr. told him that he would arrange for a work visa (“green card”) if he would agree to teach in the school. Bernie agreed, and the last he knew Fr. Cekada was working with a lawyer to get everything squared away. Whenever Bernie asked Fr. about his visa status, he was told not to worry, that all would be taken care of.
But it never happened. Fr. Cekada had never followed through on his promise to obtain the green card and, to top it all off, he never told Bernie this! Whether this was mere sloth or purposeful neglect so his lapsed visa status could be used as a weapon against him (as has happened) remains to be seen.
However, one thing is absolutely certain: If Rev. Mr. Hall (for he is a subdeacon living a celibate life) would have simply turned the other way (and the other cheek) and kept quiet about what he knew and experienced at St. Gertrude the Great School, no tip would have been given to Homeland Security. Of this there can be no doubt. What brought this personal crisis on for Bernie was his defense of truth, desire for justice, and concern for the safety of those he taught. Therefore he is suffering for justice’ sake.
So here in 2009 everyone, including Bernie, took for granted that he was here permanently. Indeed, he had worked for years at St. Gertrude the Great Church and School for Bp. Dolan and Fr. Cekada as a high school teacher (for a barely subsistent stipend). He worked helping to sell good Catholic books, and had even spent much of his spare time starting the Roman Breviary website, which provides the Church’s Divine Office online in both English and Latin. He had even taken over as parish organist when the need arose.
Nevertheless, on the morning of Monday, December 21, 2009, he was taken completely unaware when officials from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) showed up at his door and stated that they had received an anonymous tip that there was an illegal alien living at this address named Bernard G.J. Hall. They informed him that he was to show up at a deportation hearing the next morning at 9:00 a.m. in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, and that failure to cooperate could mean spending Christmas in jail and probable deportation shortly after the first of the year.
As Bernie told me all of this, the initial shock of his impending deportation wore off, replaced by utter disgust and anger that this had been done to Bernie. But rather than curse this darkness I decided to act. In no way could I just let Bernie, my friend and fellow Catholic, face a deportation hearing alone, let alone the possibility of jail time. I told him that I would make a few phone calls and try to arrange legal counsel for him, and that I would be there the next morning.
The first person I thought of is Jim Urling, an attorney who attends Immaculate Conception parish and whom I taught over 20 years ago at then St. Gertrude Academy (under Fr. Jenkins). Jim, a devout family man, has become a highly respected attorney, and I knew he would help. He told me that, as Providence would have it, he was not busy the next morning and would be there at the meeting. He also promised to get in touch with a friend of his who is an immigration attorney, a tricky area in which Jim (to his credit) humbly stated he has no expertise.
True to his word, Jim showed up and, due to some last minute arrangements obtaining the necessary document to sign, was enabled to sit in on the hearing and give such counsel to Bernie as he prudently could. Fr. Ramolla and Andrew Johns (along with myself) were also there in the waiting room to give support to Bernie.
Bernie later told me how incredibly consoling and helpful it was to have Jim present. But people like Jim just take for granted that this is how people, let alone fellow Catholics, should treat each other. Jim had no problem with Bernie being from that “other parish”, nor did Bernie have any problem with Jim being from IC (Mark Lotarski, are you reading?). We are all Catholic, and Our Lord said “by this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another”. (Jn. 13:35)
Thanks to Bernie’s sincere cooperation and Jim’s timely help, Bernie now has a few months in which to try to stay in the country.
Let me recap this horrid event. Rev. Mr. Bernie Hall, a subdeacon who left England in 1983 to come to America and labor for the remnant Church along with The Nine, trusted Fr. Cekada to take care of his visa status. Most recently he trusted him to follow through on his end of a bargain to obtain a green card for him in exchange for working at the school. Fr. Cekada failed to keep his word, and Bernie is betrayed to Homeland Security and faces deportation.
Bernie has honored his vow of celibacy and has labored tirelessly for what he knows is the most important action on earth – the praise and worship of God by the holy Liturgy of the Catholic Church. He has taught at St. Gertrude the Great School, displaying a particular talent in dealing with junior high and high school students. Having taught this age group for over two decades you can rest assured that not just anyone has this talent (and patience). He has also played the organ for countless Masses, used his excellent voice and Gregorian chant skills in organizing and leading a schola, taught liturgical music to children, worked to sell good Catholic books, and authored a website which enables anyone to pray the daily Divine Office in Latin or English.
Despite all of this, someone (or small group) wants Bernie out of the country. Whoever is responsible shows that he cares not for the good Bernie has done, and would continue to do, for the Church in America in these times in which zealous, talented, and virtuous souls like him are so desperately needed.
Not so anonymous
Even though the tip was made “anonymously”, there can be no doubt as to the prime mover of this pungent act. It was Fr. Cekada alone who promised Bernie that he would make certain his visa status, and who, when asked about it, always replied that it would be taken care of. Therefore, unless he issues a public denial and proves otherwise, it will be assumed that the author of this horrid act is Fr. Cekada.
The obvious question, then, is why. For anyone with eyes to see, it is obvious. Bernie committed the same “crime” as Fr. Ramolla – trying to safeguard public morals and the safety of children (and adults) violated with impunity by Mark Lotarski and at least two of his sons, and knowingly and pertinaciously tolerated by Fr. Cekada and Bp. Dolan.
Same crime, same punishment – banishment! Get out of the country! If you won’t work for us, you won’t work for anyone in America. Follow us or die!
How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways…
The enormous evil of this act is hard to fathom. Nevertheless, I will try to give an abbreviated list of the sins involved.
Ingratitude. Many good works has Bernie shown Bp. Dolan, Fr. Cekada and the parishioners of St. Gertrude the Great Church and School. For which of these is he persecuted?
Vengeance. There can be no doubt of the motive for this act. But have they never read “revenge is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord”? (Rom. 12:19) Our Blessed Mother expressed the extreme gravity of this sin in the Mystical City of God (Transfixion, p. 416): “The sins of hate and vengeance shall be punished with greater severity than other sins on Judgment Day, and in this life these vices will soonest drive away the infinite mercy of God and cause eternal punishment of men, unless they amend in sorrow.”
Treachery. The tip was made anonymously, behind Bernie’s back. He was delivered over to a governmental agency which has perfected the art of selective enforcement of law (excelled in this perhaps only by the IRS). But then again, Fr. Cekada and Bp. Dolan themselves are quite proficient at selective enforcement, as we have seen regarding Mark Lotarski.
Betrayal. Bernie trusted Fr. Cekada to handle his visa status. Fr. not only failed to keep his word, but did not even let Bernie know of his perilous status, but rather reported him to Homeland Security! Who can read this and not be moved to indignation? The author of this horrid act truly deserves the title of traitor.
Hypocrisy. What possible justifiable motive could there be to report Bernie? A desire to protect society from such a criminal as Bernie Hall? This appearance of justice hiding the substance of vengeance just reeks of hypocrisy.
Persecution of the poor. Bernie is poor. He cannot afford a lawyer to defend himself. He works hard to provide for himself. But this gutter callousness toward the working man has been a hallmark of the way St. Gertrude the Great Church has been run from the beginning.
Persecution of the Catholic Church. Yes, you read that right. Bernie Hall left home and country to labor for his beloved Church in America. To seek to send him back to England is not just a crime against him personally but against the Catholic Church in general, for clearly God sent him here and has worked wonderful fruit for souls through him. This act justly merits for its author(s) the frightening title of persecutor of the Catholic Church.
Sacrilege. Again, you read that right. Bernie is a subdeacon, and therefore the crimes against him have, in a certain degree, the added guilt of sacrilege.
Inhuman. It is natural for humans to have compassion for each other. Our Lord commanded us to have basic compassion for even our enemies. Was this not the point of the Good Samaritan? How ironic that the spark which has ignited this entire scandal was the pharisaic scandal generated when Fr. Ramolla, in speaking of the Good Samaritan, compared Fr. Cekada to the priest who inhumanly just passed by his injured neighbor. And now Fr. Cekada proves how right Fr. Ramolla was! This idea of basic human compassion is so crucial that I will soon dedicate an entire article to it.
It is also ironic that this putrid act of betrayal may come back to haunt its author, for if Bernie has been illegal all of these years, and Fr. Cekada has known about it, then he is guilty of harboring an illegal alien, which is itself a federal offense.
I hope that this article helps all to realize the depth of the depravity of the bitter persecution of this just man, how much he is made to suffer innocently, and the great harm done to the Catholic Church in America by this act of betrayal.
Let us all pray for Bernie, that God’s will shall be accomplished regarding him, and for his persecutors, that they repent before their infamous crimes bury them in the depths of hell.
And just one last word for those who might think I myself am endangered by writing such an article as this. I have always said that there are basically two types of people – those who are afraid they might lose the truth, and those who are afraid they might find it.
Which type are you?