- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 13, 2002

The Roman Catholic bishop of Arlington has told a local priest that he will be permanently suspended from the diocese for obeying a subpoena to testify in a civil lawsuit about another priest's adultery with a parishioner's wife.
Bishop Paul S. Loverde informed the Rev. James R. Haley in an Oct. 28 formal notice that he is being removed for violating a gag order a year ago, which barred him from disclosing wrongdoing by priests in order "to avoid scandal, to maintain ecclesiastical discipline and to protect the reputation and privacy of both the faithful and priests of this diocese."
The action prompted a national Catholic watchdog group to call for a local investigation of the bishop for intimidation of a witness in a civil proceeding.
At the opening session Monday of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' meeting in the District, Bishop Loverde voted in favor of a requirement that bishops and priests police each other on issues involving improper sexual activity.
Nonetheless, the bishop said Father Haley must come to the chancery on Dec. 2 "to inspect the acts of the case" against him for providing evidence in the adultery case of the Rev. James A. Verrecchia and Nancy Lambert. Her ex-husband, Jim A. Lambert, sued the diocese for its failure to stop the affair that resulted in the breakup of his marriage. The lawsuit was dismissed as untimely during the summer.
The bishop decreed in an Oct. 28 notice that Father Haley was to be permanently suspended. The notice said that Father Haley's testimony violated a church canon "regarding illegitimate harm to the reputation of another and the right of privacy of all believers, as well as [a canon] regarding the right of defense in an appropriate ecclesiastical forum."
"[The] public availability of extremely scandalous and defamatory material in his deposition warrants immediate action."
The bishop said he had consulted with experts in canon law and "the field of psychology, and have also sought fraternal advice from other diocesan bishops" before taking the step to remove Father Haley permanently without any judicial proceeding within the church.
Bishop Loverde yesterday declined to comment on the matter.
Diocese spokeswoman Linda Shovlain said the bishop "strongly holds the principle that canonical and confidential matters involving him and/or any priest of the Diocese of Arlington are not discussed in the media."
She added: "Bishop Loverde has not and will not punish anyone for bringing him a concern or complaint about a diocesan priest, employee or volunteer. Father Haley's ecclesiastical status will be determined according to canonical processes."
Roman Catholic Faithful (RCF), a national watchdog group, obtained a copy of Father Haley's 225-page July deposition in the Lambert case from the public court record, said President Stephen Brady of Petersburg, Ill. The group had posted the deposition on its Web site.
"We were trying to help Jim Lambert. Father Haley had no part in our posting the deposition on the Internet," Mr. Brady said yesterday in an interview. "RCF was greatly offended by what was going on in Arlington, and we wanted to get the facts out to the Catholic public. I couldn't understand how a bishop could tolerate even the appearance of impropriety in the breakup of [the Lambert] family."
James Bendell, RCF's attorney, who is based in Port Townsend, Wash., said Arlington authorities should investigate the bishop's action against the priest. "Because Father Haley was under subpoena to appear and testify in [the Lambert] case, RCF believes that the relevant prosecuting authorities in Virginia should closely examine Loverde's conduct to see if his actions may constitute intimidation of a witness in a civil proceeding," he said.
Father Haley, former assistant pastor at three churches in the diocese, referred inquiries to his attorney, Gregory L. Murphy of Alexandria.
Mr. Murphy called the bishop's concerns about invaded privacy rights "nothing more than a red herring. Father Verrecchia revealed his love affair with Mrs. Lambert when he inadvertently downloaded his 300 e-mails to her from his laptop into the rectory's computer system."
Father Verrecchia was pastor at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas. Father Haley was assigned to the church in June 1997. In the deposition, Father Haley said that he became aware of the affair in 1998. The deposition states that he provided details of the affair to Bishop Loverde in June 1999. The bishop then transferred Father Haley to St. Lawrence Church in Alexandria a month later.
Bishop Loverde took no action when Father Verrecchia denied the affair, or even after it became known he had impregnated Mrs. Lambert in December 1999, Mr. Murphy said.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide