The Scandals at St. Gertrude the Great

West Chester, Ohio

The Full Documented Story

 

January 30, 2010

School Dazed Revisited 6

The Editors

We begin our last revisit to Fr. Cekada's School Dazed with another look at the allegations against St. Gertrude the Great School, followed by their woefully inadequate  "reforms".  With regard to the charges of abuse, the mantra of "lies and distortions" is overused abundantly, but no attempt is ever made to dispute any of the specific allegations.  As usual, it's all image and no substance.  As for the reforms, we are asked to believe that a parent spending the day there now and again is enough to prevent the principal from bullying his students with business as usual, or to stop the Lotarski boys polluting the minds of their junior colleagues with their everyday graphic and sexually explicit language.  Remember: there are abuses going on; reforms are needed; nothing of value has been done.

Fr. Cekada goes on to tackle the rumors flying about St. Clare's and the bank accounts.  This was an unfortunate attempt to make light of the immoral seizing of more than a hundred thousand dollars which the good parishioners up in Columbus had scrimped and saved for their Building Fund.  It was also unfortunate for him in that it inspired people at St. Clare's who knew what was really going on to write their own accounts.  The reader can easily judge which of the two versions has the ring of truth.

We recently learned that Fr. Cekada now goes nowhere without his loyal bulldog, Principal Lotarski.  Fr. Cekada has apparently been spreading the rumor that he has been physically threatened and needs a bodyguard.  In fact, we can confirm these threats, and reported them ourselves to Fr. Cekada last year.  We are aware of several witnesses who heard quite specific threats made against Fr. Cekada, namely, that some people were coming to the church to "beat his head in".  We can now reveal that these threats came from several of the older Lotarski boys after Fr. Cekada had temporarily relieved their father from his position as school principal.

So we learn many lessons from having revisited Fr. Cekada's School Dazed.  But one thing we still have not learned is the reason why he chose this family to protect and befriend, in spite of the fact that most of the boys in that family dislike him intensely ("Hate" was the word used by one of them to describe his appreciation of Fr. Cekada).  This is the lingering question that will be on people's lips long after this article gets filed away in our archives.  Why?  What does Mark Lotarski know about Bp. Dolan and Fr. Cekada, that they are prepared to lose their parish over in order to stop the world from finding out?



School Dazed
(Part 6)

-- Rev. Anthony Cekada --

PULIPIT FICTION
School Dazed Revisited
(Part 6)


--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.
What about some of the various stories circulated about your school?
When I asked a worried parishioner about specific charges, he referred me to the November 15 and 8 postings on Dr. Thomas Droleskey’s Christ or Chaos. Here's another fine Catholic gentleman on the list of those who found and then lost favor at St. Gertrude's.  Dr. Thomas Droleskey is an amiable intellectual who has dedicated his life to the service of Christ the King.  His website www.christorchaos.com has become a bulwark of truth in the face of the modern-day chaos we all face.
Here’s what I found: “tragic events,” “scandals,” actions “not tolerated,” “wrongdoing,” "suffering sheep,” “tarnished glories,” “shame,” “minimizing evils,” “mind games,” “problems,” “longstanding patterns of stonewalling,” “abuse of clerical authority,” “misrepresentation of the truth,” “sanctimoniousness,” etc.  No factual allegations, just gas — and I don’t mean the type that powers an RV. Dr. Droleskey quickly grasped the truth of what was going on at SGG, and Fr. Cekada was no doubt dismayed to see all the problems revealed in such an accurate list of misconduct.  Fr. Cekada objects here to the generalized nature of these allegations, but of course they would all be repeated in far greater detail later.  Interestingly enough, no serious attempt has yet been made to deny or refute any of them.  And why?  Because as St. Thomas Aquinas says, "you can't argue against a fact".
The goofiest charge to surface against our school was the catch-all smear of “child abuse.” This can mean anything. We heard this accusation from parents when I was on Long Island in the1980s. If a teacher raised her voice at a misbehaving child and the child complained to mom, “child abuse” could be solemnly intoned. It was generally uttered in close proximity to the phrase “My child never lies.” Unable to deny the charges, Fr. Cekada turns his attention here to deflecting them.  He complains that the allegations of abuse were exaggerated, a theme he would come back to this theme in a later blog where he insists that the rough justice meted out by the strict nuns of the 1950s was far worse than  any of the misconduct alleged against the relatively meek and mild-mannered Mark Lotarski.

In fact, the teacher whom we fired in West Chester earlier this year had worked with me on Long Island in those days. He even wrote a little ditty about the accusation:

 

“Wars and tumults fill the school,

No one there obeys the rule;

Crazy parents on the loose,

Charging us with child abuse.”

 

You can sing it to the tune of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”

As usual, Fr. Cekada has trouble with simple facts.  The truth is that Wars and Tumults was not written by Rev. Mr. Hall, but mainly by another teacher at the school.  Be that as it may, the "logic" of Fr. Cekada's argument may be summarized thus:

 

1. "The accusations of child abuse back in the 1980s were false."

2.  "We are accused today of child abuse."
3.  "Therefore the accusations today must also be false."

Hmm, you can sing that one to the tune of "O Come, All Ye Brainless."
We don’t have corporal punishment in our school. Mostly, misbehavior is punished by writing lines. This is rarely necessary, because in general the children are extraordinarily well behaved, a credit not only to the school but to their parents. Most of the children at SGG School are by and large "extraordinarily well behaved", it is true, and "a credit to their school and parents".  Take the case of one high school girl who willingly volunteered this last summer vacation to give up her Saturday afternoon to help clean the church.  What a credit to her upbringing by parents and teachers!  However, her reward was to be publicly humiliated with a screaming reprimand from Mark Lotarski who thought that wearing earrings during the summer was against the rule.  Of course it wasn't, and the girl and her family are still waiting for an apology.  Or maybe we should take the sons of the school principal as an example of those who are a credit to the school and their parents?  You can decide based on their performance.
In the one case where we administered corporal punishment for a serious offense, this was done in my presence, with parental consent (indeed, encouragement), and with a paddle provided by the parent. My only regret was that the cheap paddle broke on the first whack; I would have recommended one of my father’s favorite weapons, a paint stirrer. It concentrates the mind. What was this serious offense which necessitated breaking a paddle over a child's back?  Was it for publicly threatening a teacher?  Was it for cursing at the teacher with the F curse in front of first graders?  Was it for bragging to a teacher about being high, or about his stash of marijuana in the basement?  Oops, no, pardon us, that was the principal's son.  No, this other young gentleman had simply not completed an assignment.  It happens all the time.  Why was this pretext used as the only known occasion that corporal punishment was to be inflicted in the school?  And what ever happened to that principal's son?  He is now rumored to be a regular at Starbucks where Fr. Cekada apparently takes him during his daily German class.
If any of that shocks you, sorry, but you may have unwittingly bought into some liberal theories on child-raising. Fr. Cekada alleges that if you're shocked by this, you're a liberal, whether you know it or not.  This is in itself a shocking allegation. Surely you don't have to be liberal to be genuinely shocked by your own clergy condoning harsh punishments for minor offences while rewarding truly thuggish misconduct with trips to Starbucks and a gift membership at the local gym?
As for the rest of the horror stories, if you’re a parishioner who has concerns about our school, please make an appointment with me. We hope that our School Dazed Revisited has enlightened you at least to this extent: that if you, like Father Ramolla and others before you, "have concerns" about the school, it is not a good idea to make an appointment with Fr. Cekada!  And if you do, don't expect tea and crumpets.  There's kool-aid in the teapot on Rialto Road, and when a cup of that doesn't work, look over your shoulder.  There may be a paint stirrer heading your way to help concentrate your mind.
But otherwise, I don’t feel any obligation to answer lies and distortions spread by chat forum slackers and then debated by Internet busybodies. Again we challenge Fr. Cekada to point to one such "lie" or "distortion" and deny or disprove it.  He has not so far been able to refute one single claim of abusive behavior or explain Bishop Dolan's abject failure to correct it.
Are you instituting any changes in your school anyway?
We’re inviting parents to spend one whole school day per quarter in the school. We’ll provide the baby sitting, when necessary. Does anyone remember those grim TV pictures when the Vietnamese would invite journalists to their POW camps to witness for themselves what a fine time our captured servicemen were having. "See!  No torture!"
This way, parents will be able to see first-hand the great job our teachers are doing and how the school actually runs. This will give the parents themselves a powerful weapon to debunk many of the lies that have been endlessly recycled. It's hard to imagine how anyone other than Fr. Cekada can be so deluded as to believe that this is a "powerful weapon".  If a parent spends one whole day at SGG this quarter, and doesn't see any abuse, is this really going to prove anything?  Try going disguised as one of the students!
Our faculty consists of one bishop (an overqualified middle grades religion instructor, if there ever was one), two priests, four lay teachers, and two sports instructors (fencing and archery). The kids get daily Mass with a sermon, and there are lots of “extras.” We have a lot to offer. The bishop's first attempt at teaching religion to the grade school ended in chaos, when one of the children caught him in a lie about Father Ramolla.  Among the non-clergy, half the teachers are Lotarskis.  There are only two students left in high school (both Lotarskis).  There are only two children (other than Lotarskis) remaining in the school between Grades 2 and 12.  It continues to be a Lotarski home school provided by the generosity of the parishioners.  And what exactly are those extras Fr. Cekada is talking about?  Free internet porn, courtesy of the Lotarski boys?  Or free dope?  Or how about extra-curricular sex education classes?  Yes, the Lotarskis certainly have a lot to offer.
How about some of the other stories spread since the departure of Father Ramolla? That you’ve seized bank accounts, closed a church, expelled parishioners, refused sacraments, etc.
More lies and distortions. The stories spread like wildfire because they are true, they are verifiable, and they are witnessed by many. This is the sixth time in School Dazed that Fr. Cekada has referred to "lies and distortions" without once even specifying them, let alone attempting to refute any of these charges.
After this problem became public, I phoned the man who handled the money and church maintenance for us at St. Clare’s in Columbus. The man who handled the money at St. Clare's, Bob Bastaja, was aware of the dismissal of their pastor, Father Ramolla, by Bp. Dolan, but had no reason to believe this affected any of St. Clare's financial arrangements, especially as Father Ramolla was not even a signatory on any of the accounts.  Due to space limitation here, we are publishing separately in our archives section, Mr. Bastaja's complete account of how the bank accounts at St. Clare's were frozen and then seized.
He had his child hang up on me, didn’t pick up when I called again and then didn’t return my call. Actually, when Mr. Bastaja's seven-year-old son answered the phone and indicated to him that the caller was Fr. Cekada, he simply did not wish to talk to him. Once again, a priest at St. Clare’s was “leaving” and Mr. Bastaja knew he had been fired and that a lie was waiting for him on the other end of the phone. He told his son to tell Fr. Cekada he was not available. Fr. Cekada persisted in asking for him, refusing to accept what his son was telling him. His son did not hang up the phone, Mr. Bastaja himself did.  Again, he had no reason to think there was a problem with the bank account — the collection had been taken at Mass that day and it was deposited into the bank account as normal on Monday, the same day Fr. Cekada moved to freeze the accounts.
Another man in Columbus tried to walk off with some books that were church property. A full and detailed account of this incident has been provided by the gentleman in question, Mr. Jan R. Satola, and due to space limitations here is available in our archives section.  What is important to know here is that the (distorted) incident in question took place on November 15, 2009.  This was several days after the decision to freeze the bank accounts and change the locks, and so obviously it cannot be used as a reason why those things were done
So, I froze the bank accounts and had the church locks changed. Otherwise, what? Risk someone declaring open season on church assets? The belief that the bank accounts or other assets at St. Clare's were in any kind of jeopardy is pure invention on the part of Fr. Cekada, another example of a boogeyman created so he can pretend to act decisively under the fabricated pressure.  And what has happened to these funds in the meantime?  Have they been restored to the good people of St. Clare's?  Or are they being used as the emergency fund at St. Gertrude's to pay the salary of Mark Lotarski?
Shutting down the Columbus church? Bishop Dolan appointed Father McGuire, a priest-son of the parish, to be acting Pastor. He will be assisted by Father Larrabee. Time will tell if St. Clare's is allowed to remain open.  For now it is a tale of empty pews and no remaining trust in the clergy who ransacked their building fund.
We were accused of “refusing the sacraments” to the teacher we fired. Hogwash. We told him to stay off the property, because we don’t want him proselytizing against our school. unjust As someone recently asked in a letter: "How else is that teacher going to be able to get the sacraments if he was not allowed on the property?  In the middle of the street?"  Fr. Cekada has since taken the additional step of reporting Rev. Mr. Hall to Immigration and Customs Enforcement with a view to deporting him from the United States altogether and making it nigh impossible to find any sacraments anywhere.
We were also accused of expelling parishioners who did not agree with our decision about Father Ramolla. More hogwash, indeed, pure fantasy. Really?  What about the threat made to the remaining teachers that they would be fired if they had any contact with Father Ramolla?  And talking of hogwash, why are parishioners at SGG being told by certain priests that it is a mortal sin to attend Father Ramolla's Mass? As for more recent rumors spread by Fr. Cekada, such as Father Ramolla forcing parents to denounce the SGG sacraments as invalid, or that Father Ramolla is on the verge of being deported, or that Fr. Cekada has been physically threatened — all these certainly do belong to the land of fantasy.
“Excommunicating” the tutor and SGG principal wannabe in early 2009? The man sent out a circular letter suggesting that some students were engaged in “repeated sexual perversion,” a vile and false accusation for which he had no proof whatsoever. Since some of the students had heard of his campaign, I asked him to sign a simple retraction for me to keep on file. He refused. I told him he couldn’t return until he signed.

How false is this accusation of "repeated sexual perversion?"  It sounds graphic to be sure, and is certainly a very serious charge.  We hope it is exaggerated.  However, we do have in our possession the "hard copy" of a link to a pornographic video sent deliberately by the Lotarski boys to Mrs. Janet Gaye.  We cannot make the contents of this public for obvious reasons, but we can certainly categorize it as "sexual perversion". 

 

When these allegations were first brought by Michael DiSalvo, the SGG clergy should have reacted with an investigation into the allegations.  Instead, they attempted to force Michael and his wife to sign papers in order to be able to continue receiving the sacraments.  This is a gross misuse of authority, and especially if the signature represents the denial of a legitimate complaint.  But one has to remember that the main objective was no longer to save souls, but simply to get rid of those people troublesome enough to bring the abuses to light.
“Shooting the messenger”? Never. Liars and calumniators? Lock and load…

Fr. Cekada never shoots the messengers?  So then where are the messengers?  Let's look at the names again in the order they were shot down: Eamon Shea, Michael DiSalvo, Jim Gebel, Bernard Hall, Fr. Markus Ramolla, Stephanie Johns — have you seen any of them at St. Gertrude's lately? 

 

But for Fr. Cekada, you see, there is no difference between the "messenger" and the "liar.  Whenever he receives a message accusing any of the Lotarskis of misconduct, he automatically files this message under "Lies and Calumny".  So if you have a message yourself, get ready to duck — he's locking and loading again.
Any lessons learned? Or any words to parishioners who may have left you over all this?
• Forget and forgive. Don’t hang on to the memory of someone’s past offenses, and then send all the old baggage up the chute whenever you perceive another slight. We have all learned many lessons in this situation.  One important lesson is never to trust Bp. Dolan and his associate again. 
• Internet forums can be sewers of gossip, calumnies, distortions and lies. Mortify your sinful curiosity and refuse to read such garbage. Like Quidlibet for example.
• If you have a problem or a worry about something at church, make an appointment to speak with the Pastor about it. In our own case, Bishop Dolan built St. Gertrude’s up from nothing over thirty years, so he is in the best position to help. It is remarkable what good such face-to-face communication can accomplish. If you fall for this one folks, good luck!  You'll join the long list of dupes whose trust they abused by inviting them to speak about their problems, only to be dismissed from the parish for "lies and calumny".  Bp. Dolan apparently built up SGG from nothing (I'm sure your hard work and financial sacrifice didn't help any!), so he doesn't need you.  You're an expendable commodity for whom a webcast here or a color newsletter there will bring a replacement donation.
• Take your worry or complaint to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, too. Often, it will fade into insignificance before the tabernacle. Go to the Blessed Sacrament by all means.  However, don't think of taking your worries or complaints to Bp. Dolan or Fr. Cekada, as not only will your worries and complaints definitely fade into insignificance, but so, I'm afraid, might you.