The Scandals at St. Gertrude the Great

West Chester, Ohio

The Full Documented Story

 

November 15, 2009

Regarding the "Perpetual Agreement" between Bishop Dolan and Father Ramolla

The Editors

Since Bishop Dolan initiated this terrible crisis, there has been much ado about the “perpetual agreement” Father signed and his pledge of obedience. The Editors of this site think it is time to take a plain man’s look at this agreement to let everyone know what it actually says or implies. We may have to make mention of canon law, but let’s admit that in this decades-long Sedevacante, there are no real canon lawyers anymore. Of the few traditionalists who dabble in it, the one closest to this near catastrophe cannot be trusted, intellectually or ethically. Anyway, we don’t need a canon lawyer: we have the documents themselves, a few materials from pre-Vatican II writers, and our own common sense to guide us.

Since Bishop Dolan initiated this terrible crisis, there has been much ado about the “perpetual agreement” Father signed and his pledge of obedience. The Editors of this site think it is time to take a plain man’s look at this agreement to let everyone know what it actually says or implies. We may have to make mention of canon law, but let’s admit that in this decades-long Sedevacante, there are no real canon lawyers anymore. Of the few traditionalists who dabble in it, the one closest to this near catastrophe cannot be trusted, intellectually or ethically. Anyway, we don’t need a canon lawyer: we have the documents themselves, a few materials from pre-Vatican II writers, and our own common sense to guide us.

To begin at the beginning, below is the verbatim text of the STATUS AGREEMENT signed by Markus Ramolla and the Most Rev. Daniel Dolan, dated “3.8.07”

The undersigned, pursuant to the Rule of Most Holy Trinity Seminary, ¶21.1-4, regarding Status prior to ordination to subdiaconate, agree as follows:

1.   Markus Ramolla agrees that, upon his ordination to the priesthood, he shall assist and obey the Most Rev. Daniel L. Dolan (or his duly-designated successor) in a manner similar to the way an Assistant Pastor assisted and obeyed his Pastor according to the norms of the 1917 Code of Canon Law and the 1954 Cincinnati Archdiocesan Statues. [sic]

2.  The Most Rev. Daniel L. Dolan (or his duly-designated successor) agrees in return to provide decent sustenance to Markus Ramolla as such sustenance was understood by the common law of Church before Vatican II

3.  The term of this agreement shall be perpetual, unless dissolved according to the manner set forth in the Rule of Most Holy Trinity Seminary, ¶21.3.

Next, we cite the text of Rule of Most Holy Trinity Seminary, ¶21.3, which is contained in a document not attached to the STATUS AGREEMENT:

A perpetual agreement of the type described herein is a necessary requirement for the reception of the Subdiaconate. The perpetual agreement may be dissolved in only and any of the following cases: (1) if both parties of the agreement consent to a termination of the status, and if the new status (e.g., association with another bishop, priest or organization, or independent status) is approved by the Rector of Most Holy Trinity Seminary; (2) if one of the agreeing parties desires to terminate because of breach of agreement, provided the Rector of Most Holy Trinity Seminary agree to the termination of the agreement and to the new status (e.g., association with another bishop, priest or organization, or independent status).

Now we’ll leave it to real lawyers—and to His Excellency’s conscience—to determine whether Bishop Dolan lived up to his end of the agreement in accordance with the conditions described therein. What we will say is that the word “perpetual” just looks like a scary word for “continuing.” " In this context, “perpetual” means that the agreement has no stated definite ending date. The ending date will occur when both parties mutually agree to sever the relationship according to seminary rule ¶21.3.

Unfortunately, at this writing, we cannot yet provide the text of the referenced 1954 Cincinnati Archdiocesan Statues [sic!] because Bishop Dolan failed to provide Father Ramolla with a copy of those statutes. Apparently only Bishop Dolan and the Most Reverend Rector Sanborn knew what they say and what they oblige the signatories to do. [Editors’ Note: After this was written, Father did manage to obtain a copy. We are now in the process of analyzing the statutes, and we will report on them later should they prove relevant.) However, the norms of the 1917 Code of Canon Law are available (Father has his own copy), and they are easy to understand. Can. 476.6 says that the assistant is subject to the pastor (subest parocho), and commentators have noted that the assistant’s subjection involves a certain duty of obedience and docility with respect to parochial work. The bottom line is that an assistant’s obligation was to help the pastor in the general ministry of the parish, unless there was an explicitly stated exception. (For greater specification of an assistant’s rights and obligations, Can. 476.7 refers us to diocesan statutes, but, as we just reported, Bishop Dolan withheld them from Father.)

Let us note for the record that Bishop Dolan has never cited one explicit example of Father’s refusing to obey a command directly related to his duties to assist in the general ministry of the parish.  We have seen from Father’s candid and moving testimony that his obedience was so formally perfect that he was willing to comply with Bishop Dolan’s wish [Fr. Ramolla's letter to Parishioners, Nov. 9, 2009] that Father invite Mr. Lotarski to dinner in order to “admit” the layman to Father’s family. Father did so, and it was Mr. Lotarski who canceled the engagement just before Bishop Dolan fired him. (We wonder whether the cancellation occurred at the same time that Bishop Dolan and Bishop Sanborn “anticipated” the firing by notifying immigration of Father’s soon-to-be altered status.) Readers should here note that we are prepared to suffer Bishop Dolan a moral “Mulligan” when, stung by our observation here, he invents an episode of “disobedience” that is sure to appear in a subsequent sermon.

Whine though Bishop Dolan will against imagined slights and breaches, there is no doubt that he and his associate know the truth about Father’s scrupulous adherence to the conditions of the STATUS AGREEMENT. In fact, in a very telling Freudian slip, Father Anthony Cekada wrote the following in an e-mail message to the parishioners of St. Clare’s Church in Columbus:

"…prior to his ordination to the subdiaconate, Father Ramolla signed a perpetual agreement with Bishop Dolan to be subject to him as an Assistant Pastor would be to a Pastor in the conduct of his priestly ministry. Needless to say, we are very disappointed that Father did keep his word."

Of course we know that Father Cekada did not mean to tell the truth, but the truth he did tell. If the devil didn’t make him do it, then we can guess Who did.

With everything said and done, however, this agreement itself seems to constitute a type of clerical blackmail, with its demand for "perpetual obedience". To demand a perpetual "obedience" from a candidate for the subdiaconate is Draconian to say the least.  It is also unreasonable and implies an authority that the clerics themselves have repeatedly denied they possess and have condemned in other organizations such as the SSPX.  Rather than extracting this "pound of flesh" in advance from the seminarians, would it not make more sense to provide an atmosphere and a culture that is so animated by the Spirit of Catholic truth and charity, that the seminarians would be eager to remain in the family and would have no reason to leave?  What is it about the MHT Seminary and its affiliated clergy that might induce a future ordinand to leave and seek "employment" elsewhere?  What kind of seminary has to blackmail its seminarians to remain in the employ of elder clerics who are providing them succor and stability?  To make reference to canons that pre-date the current absence of authority in the Church and enforce obedience while decrying others who demand such obedience in their particular cult is hypocritical, disingenuous and uncharitable.  Imagine a seminary where the love of God and the love of souls was so clearly the motive for its existence that no seminarian or priest worth ordaining would ever want to leave the group, but if he did he would be morally supported and amicably dealt with.  Could there be other motives for such a seminary and such an agreement?  Could it be financially motivated owing to a lack of humble surrender to Divine Providence and a fear of losing material comforts?  Could the motive be the narcissistic and egomaniacal belief that "I and I alone" can save God's Church and I must impose my will with an iron fist?  Many motives spring to mind, but none of them would appear justifiable.

Like all the faithful, we are weary of the blame shifting and false charges coming from the pastor of St. Gertrude’s. We are sickened by the holier-than-thou citation of arcane texts and hard-to-find documents in a vain effort to demean Father in the eyes of the people who saw him as St. Gertrude’s last hope in the waning years of a discredited pastorate. We could easily hurl any number of canonical norms to prove Bishop Dolan an unworthy pastor. Let us, however, cite one and be done with the dueling quotations: according to a well known, pre-Vatican II commentator[*] on the 1917 Code of Canon Law, assistants should live in the same house with the pastor as the norms of canon law (viz. Can. 134) desire a community life of the clergy. How could this ever be fulfilled when the junior clergy were housed in the "Convento San Marco" while Bishop Dolan and his associate themselves remained aloof and isolated in their spacious “rectory” suite?

[*] S. Woywod, O.F.M., A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, New York, 1932, I:§354,