The Scandals at St. Gertrude the Great

West Chester, Ohio

The Full Documented Story

 

January 27, 2010

School Dazed Revisited 5

The Editors

In this fifth installment, Fr. Cekada finally gets round to his main attack.  One should remember that this interview style that Fr. Cekada uses is merely a literary device.  There was no interviewer.  He merely asks himself the right questions in the way most calculated to allow his answers to look good.  For example, the first "question" begins by stating that Father Ramolla "got involved in the controversy".  This of course is intended to make it appear as though Father Ramolla just couldn't help himself from becoming embroiled in parish gossip.

 Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. In his first year of teaching at St. Gertrude's, Father Ramolla observed for himself the abusive behavior of the principal and his wife, not to mention the anti-religious, sex-obsessed, and even criminal behavior of some of his children, and how this was seriously affecting the apostolate of the clergy.  This was a vital question for this young priest as he observed the net results coming out of the school.  How was the clergy supposed to do their main job of saving souls, when the Lotarskis were constantly undermining their efforts, driving souls out of the parish with their anger-driven teaching methods and scandalous misconduct?

Unfortunately for those parishioners who remain at St. Gertrude's, Bp. Dolan and Fr. Cekada were more interested in protecting the interests of these same Lotarskis and turning a blind eye to their failings, than in implementing a just and charitable solution to the problem.  The problem therefore remains to this day, and one by one, the parents and teachers still left in the school will certainly realize that they should have backed Fr. Ramolla and left with him.  Let us pray that their failure in this regard will not result in the usual loss of faith of the children under their care.



School Dazed
(Part 5)

-- Rev. Anthony Cekada --

PULIPIT FICTION
School Dazed Revisited
(Part 5)


--The Editors of SGG Info --

HONEST FACT
How a few complaints about our little parish school suddenly became a world-wide campaign of lies and calumny. How Bishop Dolan's bungling mis-management of his little empire suddenly backfired, exposing a sinister underworld of abusive behavior, misuse of authority and lost souls.
A young priest at St. Gertrude’s who taught in your school, Father Markus Ramolla, got involved in the controversy. What is his background and what were his duties?
Markus Ramolla, a German, was trained at our seminary, Most Holy Trinity, which is now located in Florida. Bishop Sanborn is the Rector, and I am one of the professors. St. Gertrude parishioners provide regular financial support for the seminary, and many have contributed very generously to the seminary building fund. Fr. Cekada wastes no time in reminding his SGG readers how much money they have contributed to the education of Fr. Ramolla.  The underlying implication is of course that this young priest has betrayed their generosity.  In fact the very opposite is true, and Fr. Ramolla has proved himself a worthy alter Christus, willingly sacrificing his own prospects and worldly comforts for the sake of the souls entrusted to his care.
In 2007, during his final year of seminary studies, Father Ramolla was ordained by Bishop Dolan here at St. Gertrude’s. In spite of his later claims of warnings not to ordain Fr. Ramolla, from Belgian housekeepers to former parishioners he otherwise characterizes as "mentally ill", Bp. Dolan was very anxious at the time to move forward with the ordination and secure Father Ramolla as a future assistant Pastor for St Gertrude the Great.
On March 8, 2007, prior to his ordination to the subdiaconate, Fr. Ramolla signed a promise that, upon ordination to the priesthood, he would “assist and obey” Bishop Dolan or his designated successor, according to norms laid down for an Assistant Pastor in the Code of Canon Law and the 1954 Cincinnati Archdiocesan Statutes.

The purpose of including these lengthy references to impressive sounding pre-Vatican II statutes is a characteristic technique of Fr. Cekada, which he has already used in School Dazed and elsewhere. He sets up a boogeyman, an imaginary adversary, which he will then tear down.  The arguments he uses to destroy the monster are sometimes valid, but Fr. Cekada counts on the reader to forget that the monster never really existed in the first place.  The next few paragraphs will set up this boogeyman of betrayal and disobedience.

 

For example, with reference to this promise to assist and obey, Bp. Dolan has never cited a single example of Father Ramolla’s refusal to obey a command relating to his duties to assist in the ministry of the parish, which duties even Fr. Cekada has to admit he performed "zealously and competently".
The latter (§§ 39–40) state that the "assistant is subject to the pastor in all matters of the ministry of the parish,” that he “shall keep the pastor informed of all things in connection with his duties,” and that “he shall not initiate anything new without the consent of the pastor, and shall not interfere in any matter which the pastor has reserved to himself.” Incredibly, these statutes were never provided to Father Ramolla, and only Bp. Dolan, it appears, was aware of what obligations derived from this curious contract.  Despite this, no one can deny that Father Ramolla kept the bishop meticulously informed (at the bishop's own insistence it should be remembered) about every detail of his duties, and in particular, we should note, about his apostolate in the school, and how it was being undermined by the actions of the principal.
The rationale behind such legislation was that a newly-ordained priest should serve a fairly lengthy period of “apprenticeship” during which his pastoral ministry would be supervised by a more experienced priest who was a Pastor. The idea of such an apprenticeship is normally a very good one, as it is based on the premise that the more experienced pastor will help edify and sanctify the younger priest.  In this particular case, sadly, the pastor would actually scandalize his assistant by his willful neglect of the souls under his care.
In September 2008 Father Ramolla began his pastoral ministry as an Assistant. He taught religion and German in the school, supervised sacristy work, and took care of St. Clare’s Church, our mission in Columbus. Father Ramolla wasted no time in devoting himself "zealously and competently" to his new duties at St. Gertrude's and St. Clare's.  Meanwhile Bp. Dolan and Fr. Cekada sadly missed the opportunity to devote their extra free time to apostolic work.  Parishioners began to resent that instead of spending their time on sick calls and parish visits, Bp. Dolan and Fr. Cekada seemed to be more interested in writing blogs on the Internet and lavishing attention and resources on their cats. 
These duties he performed zealously and competently. He was personable, friendly and a good preacher. Bishop Dolan looked upon him as an eventual successor as Pastor here. This statement is in stark contrast to the later claims that Father Ramolla had engaged in a year-long campaign of destruction against SGG.  In fact, these words simply underline the fact that Bp. Dolan was more than happy with Father Ramolla, even to the point where he would one day hand over the parish to his care.
We had enough confidence in Father Ramolla to announce on September 23 that he would become school principal once the Second Quarter began on November 7. Experience shows that having a priest or a sister in that position in a traditional Catholic school often heads off many of the complaints you inevitably get with a lay principal. Bp. Dolan only named Father principal because of the uproar against the current principal, the departure of a few of the faithful, and perhaps most significantly, the consequent drop in weekly contributions.  However, from the time of the announcement, people warned Bp. Dolan that the move was only a half-way measure if Mark Lotarski was to remain in the school as a teacher.
So, Father Ramolla’s appointment seemed like an ideal solution, and it was well received all around. No kidding!  Parents, teachers and parishioners alike were ecstatic that Mark Lotarski had finally been relieved of his duties as principal.
Great. So what was the problem?
The whole thing immediately blew up in my face. Perhaps a carefully controlled explosion... Obviously it was never the intention of Fr. Cekada to remove Mark from his teaching position or to reduce his salary.  And from the time of the announcement, Fr. Cekada began to spend large amounts of time in private conference with Lotarski behind closed doors.  He made no moves to encourage the outgoing principal to remove his effects from the school office, or to provide Father Ramolla with any instructions or help in the transfer of duties.  It was beginning to look to everyone concerned as though the removal of Lotarski as principal was nothing more than a sham, and that he and Fr. Cekada were planning something.  Only time would tell, and everybody waited to see if Father Ramolla would actually take over as principal on November 9th, or if the time bomb would go off first.
In October Bishop Dolan went with Father Ramolla on a pastoral visit to Europe. One of the priests expressed surprise that Father Ramolla would be travelling with Bishop Dolan, because during his July vacation, Father Ramolla had been very vocally criticizing our seminary, our parish, our school, Bishop Sanborn, Bishop Dolan and our clergy. Word of this had spread through Europe. Long before the trip, Father Ramolla had been encouraged by Bp. Dolan to describe all the abuses going on at the school parish, and seminary, and the bishop was certainly aware of them, and indeed seemed to be genuinely interested in taking action. In fact, despite Fr. Cekada's implications, relations between Bp. Dolan and Father Ramolla were almost at an all-time high during this trip.  Meanwhile at SGG, Mark Lotarski seized the opportunity of the bishop's absence to regroup, wielding his brutal authority as never before, preventing children from receiving the Sacrament of Penance, attempting to destroy the seeds of a vocation in one young student, and openly defying the authority of newly ordained Father Larrabee. 
In the meantime, a friend of Father Ramolla informed me of the contact between the soon-to-be-fired teacher and the Prophet of the Last Days.  Father Ramolla surely knew of this. Why didn’t he tell us? And what was going on? The implication here is that this contact between Mr. Hall and Mr. Shea was somehow harmful to SGG.  This was not the case, and so there was nothing to report.
At the same time, I noticed that one of our faithful benefactors had not passed along his generous monthly contribution to our school. This occurred after Father Ramolla had taken the man to dinner, supposedly to “reassure” him about the school. The gentleman had never needed “reassurance” before, and always spoke admiringly of our school, its students, its principal and his family. Again, what was really going on? Sadly, money, and not the care of souls, seems to be the bottom line at SGG.  Just as Mark Lotarski had finally been fired only because the weekly contributions had reached an all-time low, so now Fr. Cekada's interest was piqued by the withdrawal of financial support from a key parishioner (before Father Ramolla took him out to dinner, by the way).  Fr. Cekada was blithely wondering what was going on, while totally oblivious to the scandal already caused by the firing of Rev. Mr. Hall and the public misconduct of the Lotarski boy both in school and on the private property of Mrs. Janet Gaye.  Fr. Cekada's own feelings of self-importance also rendered him oblivious to the hard fact that his appeasement techniques and other machiavellian schemes to cover up the abuses and keep Mark Lotarski in power were simply not working.  There was outrage in the parish, and people were turning to Father Ramolla for the truth.
Other bits of unsettling news about Father Ramolla’s conversations with various laymen started to surface: Complaints about his clerical peers. Statements that he would not recommend our seminary. Encouraging someone to read a web site that calumniated our church and school. This serious unrest in the parish was totally ignored by Bp. Dolan and Fr. Cekada who normally never mention it unless to pin the blame for it on Father Ramolla.  Whatever the cause, they were certainly determined to ignore all appeals for reform, and instead turned their attention to a way of getting rid of their "zealous and competent" assistant.
A picture started to form. Instead of being a priestly peacemaker, Father Ramolla was engaging in a stealth campaign to foment unrest about seminary, school, parish, and fellow clergy. Petty complaints were welcomed and then sympathized with. All this was done behind the back and in secret. And so they start to paint their false picture of Father Ramolla, and the campaign of calumny begins.  The unrest in the parish, which they could hardly deny, would be blamed instead on Father Ramolla, who was to be painted as the "hate whisperer".  In fact, there was nothing stealthy about Father's actions.  He was a priestly truth-teller, and he spoke his conscience clearly and honestly against abuses and injustice in the school and parish, which Bp. Dolan refused to correct.
This was a long way from the duty of a new Assistant to assist a Pastor and to be subject to him in his ministry. In this case, you’re not only biting the hands that feed you, but also the ones that ordained you. And why? Certainly not over any doctrinal issue. Power? Resentment? Who knows? Fr. Cekada has already admitted that Father Ramolla performed his duties "zealously and competently".  Moreover, the defense of the innocent in the face of injustice is never far from the duties of any priest.  It may not be a doctrinal issue (one of faith), but it is certainly one of morals, involving the serious scandal not just of an abusive principal, but far worse, of a complicit clergy.
One year on the job, and you’re already undermining thirty years’ worth of work. And the man who built it all up from nothing suddenly has to watch his back. One is tempted to ask what fruit was there to show for these thirty years of work?  No vocations, no graduations worth speaking about, a steady stream of souls away from the parish, particularly the young, abuses in the school, the principal's own family going around openly boasting about their involvement in drugs and sex, illegitimate children, injustice, poor theology (eg. the Terri Schiavo case), mediocre pastoral care, contempt for the laity, especially women and children, the squandering of resources, the self-pampering of the clergy — the list goes on and on.  And on the "plus" side, we had a Pageant, a liturgical extravaganza worthy of the Ringling Brothers, where all the expensive incense in the world was not enough to mask the stench of the neglect and abuse of souls.  It's high time that Bp. Dolan realizes that an accounting must be made.  Pomp and ritual cannot replace charity, and if our Lord's words to the pharisees don't make him watch his back, then nothing ever will.
How did this all end?
On Tuesday, November 3, Bishop Dolan and I met with Father Ramolla. Bishop Dolan outlined these problems, expressed his reservations, and laid down the conditions Father would have to fulfill in order to serve as school principal. If the conditions were not agreeable, Bishop Dolan would arrange another assignment for him. Father deferred giving an answer at that point. Bp. Dolan gave Father a day to think over his conditions, one of which was to return with tears and beg to be readmitted to Bp. Dolan's trust.  On Thursday, Bp. Dolan fired Father before he had a chance to declare whether or not he accepted Bp. Dolan's demands.
The next day, however, another priest informed us that Father Ramolla was leaving St. Gertrude’s. His chalice, an ordination gift from Bishop Dolan, had already disappeared from the safe, a sure sign that a priest is leaving. In the normal world, both the report and the "sign" of the missing chalice would have been considered hearsay evidence and ignored.  Just men act on fact, not hunches.  What actually happened was that Father Ramolla had placed his chalice in safe-keeping.  Why?  Because the tone of the conversation with Bp. Dolan and Fr. Cekada led him, correctly, to anticipate his impending dismissal.  Knowing that the private belongings of Rev. Mr. Hall, who had been dismissed and banned from the property two weeks earlier, had still not been returned to him, he feared that his chalice would be held hostage, thus preventing him from saying Mass.
On November 5, Bishop Dolan met with Father Ramolla and asked him to leave quietly without doing further harm. He encouraged him to make a retreat in Europe with Father Schoonbroodt, perhaps with a view towards another assignment in Europe. Over the years Bp. Dolan has dismissed other priests in similar underhanded fashion.  As he hissed to Father Ramolla that he wanted him off the property and out of the country, he figured, no doubt, that what had worked in the past would work equally well this time.  What he had failed to grasp, thanks to his total disconnection from the laity, was the extent of the outrage that Father Ramolla's dismissal would cause in the parish.
This advice went unheeded. Father remained somewhere in the area, where he immediately setup a competing chapel, complete with a deceptive web-site with “information about” (= attacks on) St. Gertrude the Great Church. The mask was off. After his dismissal, Father was besieged by well-wishers, all imploring him to remain in the area and say Mass for them.  Fr. Cekada calls this a "competing chapel".  For what are we competing?  The souls of faithful Catholics?  In which case why would they care by which road their parishioners make their way to salvation?  Or are we competing for their weekly collection? Ah, the sin that knows no forgiveness...