Are Catholic Hierarchs Bullies?

Are Catholic Hierarchs Bullies?   by Diane Dougherty

            Meeting Fr. Roy Bourgeois, MM was an exceptional treat.  I could be open with him about my upcoming ordination as a Women Priest. This was a homecoming of sorts after a long period of being “limbo-ed” at the hands of Catholic hierarchs.  I use the word limbo-ed because it denotes a suspended state. 
            In my case, I have felt I was neither in the Catholic Church where I had spent all of my adult years in service of God and God’s people, nor was I out of it.  I explained the long series of events that led me to spend my last 10 years in a hiatus of sorts, trying to recuperate from the devastating psychological roller coaster experienced when the Legion of Christ entangled itself in every aspect of diocesan ministry. 
            As a well formed educator, I stood in a state of shock when I returned from a summer of study and was told my services were no longer needed. The people of the diocese were paying for my master’s in Religious Education and Pastoral Formation at Boston College and I was one summer away from graduation.  This did not make any sense.   Assured that I was a delightful person, and this was simply a business decision, I was to be given one week’s pay. (I negotiated 14 weeks which was in accord with the personnel manual).
            As I looked around the offices, I intuited others were scheduled to follow this path.  The atmosphere had turned toxic.  That this clean sweep of the most highly qualified ministers  the diocesan religious education department  had ever put together, led me to believe our collective services were considered more of a politic, one that would not be continuing. Time and further events proved this perception was dead on.
            Fr. Roy and I came to understand we shared feelings of grief, dismay and disbelief surrounding our vocational choices. A profound grief overwhelmed us that the gospel we proclaimed could be reduced by a hierarch to a lowest common denominator without consultation or consideration.  For me, that included limiting Catholics access to empowering catechesis, by changing the climate to such a degree, leaders were forced to find other employment and be replaced with those who received minimal training. For Fr. Roy, that meant his community would become silent when he received the Vatican’s excommunication over his involvement in Women’s Ordination Movement.
            Dismay overwhelmed us as we experienced the hierarchs use of power to manipulate and maneuver systems by eliminating people they named as having agendas not suitable for Catholic service, so that they could achieve their self appointed goals without recognition of wrongdoing or thought of future consequences.
            And finally we shared a common disbelief that such actions could leave the polity so poor.  In my case, Catholics saying rosaries and going to novenas or being organized by those with little formative catechetical training are much poorer than those who are given full access through quality catechesis that empowers. And for Fr. Roy, Catholics become impoverished when they are denied the right to discuss and debate issues relating to women’s ordination, most particularly when the only roadblock is the hierarch’s own dictates based in their own immovable stamp dated at the particular time they want to define as the beginning of our Catholic Tradition.         
            As we reflected on the hierarchs use of power, we came to the realization that bullying was used to gain access and influence over Catholic people. When Fr. Roy asked me if anything is being done in the schools about bullying, it was an AH-HA moment.  Yes, I found many interesting parallels in what we are now teaching children to reduce bullying in the schools.  Just as public awareness was raised through the terrible issue of sexual harassment in the workplace and abuse of children by those they trusted, public awareness should now be raised about workplace bullying and for Catholics, bullying within the church.   

What is bullying?
          Bullying is a form of abuse.  It involves repeated acts over time attempting to create or enforce one person's (or group's) power over another person (or group), creating an "imbalance of power".
            The Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute says workplace bullying involves "repeated, health-harming mistreatment, verbal abuse, or conduct which is threatening, humiliating, intimidating, or sabotage that interferes with work or some combination of the three."
            As full time laborers in the field, we can both attest that workplace bullying has taken place.

Characteristics of bullies
            Research indicates that adults who bully have personalities that are authoritarian, combined with a strong need to control or dominate. Prejudice has also been seen as a risk factor in bully identification.     
          These characteristics fall in line with the hierarchs present day teaching that women cannot be priests.  Could this stance be an indication of bullying God by saying God cannot call women into the priesthood? This authoritarianism could also be seen as lay professionals were dismissed without cause or warning, bypassing due process or any formative intervention.  It is a clear indication of the use of domination and control.

Characteristics of bystanders

        A very important piece of research notes that bullying continues when people see themselves as bystanders.  Their belief is that they are not obligated to intervene in certain issues because it is not their problem.  Assuring that laity remains uneducated and ignorant, by denying them access to higher education and formation is one way to keep Catholics, most particularly the next generation in tow. Bullies are then able to say they have the support of the majority instilling fear in anyone tempted to speak out.  The statement by the Vatican that anyone supporting Women’s Ordination commits a crime equal to those who sexually abuse children and will be excommunicated, instills fear in many who attempt to learn more about this subject. Most steer clear.
            Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona recently excommunicated  St. Joseph Hospital, CHW over their choice to save a mother whose pregnancy was killing her.  Could this be an example of a Bishop instilling fear in the polity, expecting the laity to accept the authority of his word? The hospital claims Catholic teaching is about saving life.  They decided to save the mother so she could care for her children, rather than lose both through the pregnancy.  Who is living out Catholic teaching in this instance? 
            Bullies become empowered when people walk away.  In groups where bully mentality is allowed to thrive, injustices and abuses become a regular and predictable group experience. My experience in diocesan work characterizes this injustice short term, while the issue of Women’s Ordination has maintained an unjust presence for centuries. Hopefully in the next few years this will subside because people are speaking out and accepting the consequences.  The broader organization of Catholic Health Care Systems housed in San Francisco stands in solidarity with those operating the hospital in Phoenix.  This verbal affirmation of the decision may be the key that unlocks the door toward stronger and healthier Catholic people.

Strategies to End Bullying 
Understand Bullies will not Mediate
            A key awareness that one is dealing with a bully, lies in the fact that conflict resolution and mediation never work.  As if the issues were set in stone, the bully will never bend.
This comes to light in the three examples given.  Although numerous attempts were made to understand the bishop’s motivation at the Office of Religious Education, the bishop simply went through the process of listening, turning a deaf ear as we all left.  When Fr. Roy requested a meeting to discuss the issue of Women’s Ordination after receiving the letter of excommunication, there has been no response.  That was two years ago. And although mediation was attempted between Bishop Olmsted and the Hospital Board, even allowing an extension for further discussion, nothing changed.

Form talking groups
Discuss events with others who share or do not share your concerns.  Look outside the organization for help.  Read and join others who share your concerns. If you work for the church, explore your concern anonymously with individuals in the groups listed.

Birth it into law
In 2001 Professor of Law David Yamada of Suffolk University began the process of encouraging state-by-state anti-bullying laws.  He drafted the Healthy Workplace Bill. Join this effort.

Although it is most active in New Zealand and England, explore a new union called UNITE, that believes clergy and ministers need protection from Church bullying.  The union has set up a special helpline for priests intimidated by their bishops or congregations, and reviews complaints as part of its campaign for full employment rights for clergy.

Taking Action
            Rather than becoming a silent bystander that participates in the bullying mentality, I would encourage Catholics to make determined efforts to deal with their issues and creatively bring your concerns to light. Develop a shared, loud voice with others who are concerned!

Inform Yourself
Listen to stories-judge for yourself

Read and Study
Complete a search of books and literature on Workplace Bullying.
Inform yourself of all sides of the issue

Study the foundation of the Women’s Ordination Movement.  Read Women Priests; Answering God’s Call by Catherine Cavanagh for a complete digest of issues.

Diane Dougherty 770-683-8101


Katie Elberfeld said...

I am so glad to find you. Even though I am an Episcopal priest, I have experienced much treatment from the church and its people that could well be described as bullying.

I would very much like to talk with you further and am wondering if we might be able to support each other in our struggles -- and to help others who feel this way in both churches.

I haven't been able to find an email address for you, but you're welcome to write me at

Thank you so much -- I am so grateful to find that I am not alone.


The Rev. Katie Elberfeld
President, Founder
Gabriel Center for Servant-Leadership
Marietta, GA

Anonymous said...

I just heard this news today... about women being ordained priests. If you look at history, the great saints went through many trials. Sometimes the trial came when they thought God was calling them to do something, but things prevented them from carrying it out. But one thing ALL the great saints have in common is.... OBEDIENCE. St. Theresa of Avila was told by her spiritual director to make offensive signs at Christ during her mystical visions because he thought her visions were really the devil. She obeyed and made the offensive signs, but Christ was all the more pleased because she was obedient.

I could list thousands of examples of obedience by the saints. Satan can imitate many things... he can pretend and imitate kindness, peace, and even humility, but there is one thing he cannot do, and that is obey. His disobedience is why he was sent to hell.

God's will will happen no matter what. Mother Theresa had to go through many trials before starting the Missionaries of Charity, she even said that she "had to do violence to herself" in order to obey her superiors. But she obeyed, and GREAT graces followed because she was obedient.

If you really think God is calling women to become priests, then why is it that you can't obey Church teaching? The FIRST duty of a priest is to obey. If you cannot obey your superiors, then you cannot obey God. You are a sister. Under vows, you are required to obey your superiors. By obeying the Catholic Church, you are obeying God. Do not be misled into thinking "I don't have to obey the pope, because I obey God first." That is a huge deception and a lie from the devil!

Look at the saints... read their stories... especially the saints whose faith was tested through obedience. One of the signs the Catholic church looks for when someone claims to be a visionary or a mystic is "are they obedient?" If they cannot be obedient, then it's clear that this cannot be from God.

Anonymous said...

People call St. Simon and Jude in Huntington Beach, CA “St. Simon and RUDE” because they say the pastor is a bully (and other names that are even worse). He is Franciscan priest Fr. Daniel Barica.

In the church bulletin, he also wrote about his “sexual energy” and anointing his body parts with holy oil after a shower! It makes people wonder if he is another predator that wants little boys.

Predatory grooming…creepy! There is even more about him on the internet. In the abundance of caution, you would think the bishop should suspend him while doing an investigation.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to say, at St. Simon and Jude, Daniel Barica will not let you have your wedding or funeral there unless you have been a regular, ongoing donor. I think this is an extreme form of bullying called blackmail. Oh yeah, and a father cannot walk his daughter down the aisle. Most people get married elsewhere.

Bullying seems to happen in the Catholic Church far too often, maybe because priests like the power they have over people who confess their sins to them. These are deep secrets that a priest can use against people, even if it is subtle. Maybe it is the power he has to collect money, like telling people they cannot have their funeral there. The more he collects the better he looks to the bishop. I think that is how they get promoted. Shouldn't the church really be about saving souls?

Anonymous said...

It has gotten so bad that now there are 10 St. Simon and Jude seventh graders that are not coming back in the fall to graduate with the rest of their classmates. That is almost 1/3 of the class! SSJ has a bunch more kids from other classes leaving too. If that does not tell you something is wrong I don't know what will. Those families will not be paying over $7,000 each to the school so Daniel Barica is now costing SSJ six figures in lost income.
A long time ago I posted my displeasure on Yelp with a bunch of other people:
At first my post was "recommended", then later got dropped to "non-recommended". I think someone at the church complained. Look at the very bottom and see all the other posts that got removed. People should be able to state their feelings and be included in the church's rating. But then the Catholic Church is used to burying problems. No wonder priests got away with child abuse. I googled the boss of the Franciscans and came up with Father David Gaa (314)353-3421. I read somewhere in this that if you want to complain but are afraid to be identified to ask for the confession privilege.

Anonymous said...

I just saw this link. It talks about Franciscan Pastor Daniel Barica, OFM at Sts. Simon and Jude in Huntington Beach took money from the collection, wrote about his "sexual energy" in the bulletin, had a woman spend the weekend with him, and how a lot of kids have been leaving the school. Those families must be so upset.

This is especially concerning because it shows that the Franciscans have known about him back to when he was first assigned to a parish in Los Angeles:

Mens Club member says:
July 7, 2016 at 9:19 pm
I was afraid to speak up earlier about this. In February a group of us from SSJ went to the annual mens retreat in Malibu. This time the former Provincial Fr. Mel Jurisich was there. During a meeting behind closed doors he said he was the one who decided to send Fr. Daniel to SSJ to “straighten him out”. This shocked me because that means the Franciscans know he has a problem.

There were a lot of complaints when Fr. Daniel was at St. Francis Parish in LA. When too many people stopped donating Mel said he was transferred to Santa Barbara to keep an eye on him. Then after those parishioners got upset Mel decided to transfer him to SSJ. Mel even said Fr. Daniel owes him one. I guess giving him a promotion after he upset all those people would be a very special favor. This makes me think there is something more to their relationship.

It is not surprising to find out lots of students left the school seeing how many don’t come to church anymore. I talked to one of them who said its because of how mad Fr. Daniel and the principle are all the time. Some were getting detentions every week but they did not care. And this student told me most of the ones that are staying say they don’t ever want to come back to SSJ after they graduate. That must be why the average age of this congregation is rising so fast. Cantor Patrick and others quit. Mark and Maurice should tell you the real reason.

Moving Fr. Daniel around is like how they moved problem priests from church to church. Many in our group are not donating now. I don’t know how many more people need to stop donating before they finally do something but I think that day is coming.

Aubry Pabst said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Here is another link about Fr. Daniel Barica, the pastor at Sts. Simon and Jude in Huntington Beach, CA. Looks like more than bullying going on.

Catholic Parent said...

Someone told me things about this church that kind of bothered me. She said one of her girlfriends goes to church at Simon & Jude and has invited her to come over to meet this priest Daniel Barica. Her friend said he goes to her house on Lake Street often for dinner. This person does not go to that church so she wanted to know which one it was. Her girlfriend told her there are 2 priests named Daniel, one with gray hair that is well liked and another that is taller and good looking, but not very well liked. Liked or not, I think telling someone a priest is good looking and inviting him over often does not seem appropriate with all that has been going on with priests.

Anonymous said...

Father Dan Barica is a nightmare , we have been contacting the diocese and sending them letters to remove him but they refuse to do anything, I am not sure what else can be done except that we (long term parishioners) just leave our beloved parish which breaks my heart but we are left with no other choice. This man has major issues

Anonymous said...

What has not been mentioned is Daniel's frequent traveling. For someone who has taken (rather loosely) a vow of poverty he sure lives the good life. He has turned a once open and inviting community into a prison. If you aren't part of his clique and bow to his whims you are given the cold shoulder. Many have left and will not return under his shameful leadership.

Anonymous said...

I notice you didn’t call Daniel “Father”. I think how he treats people is the ultimate hypocrisy so he does not deserve that title. It really does seen like he lives the good life off of us. Losing the greatest Franciscan ever is going to make it even harder on our parish. Daniel’s email announcement about Fr Christian is asking us to donate to SSJ but his death should not be another fundraiser. The more money Daniel raises the more secure his job is no matter how many people he gives the cold shoulder to. The funeral donations should be to a separate fund for seminarians or retired Franciscans and not be part of the general fund which could be used to pay for even more of Daniel’s trips. The biggest symbol of the prison you talk about is the fence around the playground. It keeps families from playing there after church like they used to, but it can also trap our school children in case of emergency. Before the fence was installed, some of the other teachers would tell me how upset they were when Daniel told families to leave, sometimes they heard him yelling at them. I think this church has also become a mental prison because we are afraid to say anything publicly. I am afraid of retaliation which should not come from a church. Someone who will speak for you is Paul Fericano. He wrote about Daniel in his Room with a Pew blog. Leave him an anonymous message about your feelings at (650) 465-2008. Give him your name and number if you want him to help you heal. Paul will protect anyone who calls or emails. God bless you for caring about our parish.

Anonymous said...

Let’s keep sending letters to bishop Vann. He will eventually have to do something about it. We can’t give up on our parish.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Daniel and his crew it is no longer a place of peace. He has turned it into a monument of his ego.
The gestapo like tactics which encourages people to turn on one another, is supported and encouraged by him and his administrator. Anything less the total loyalty to Daniel and his mouth piece will not be tolerated.
He bans the American flag and disrespects those who have served and continue to serve. What's next?

Anonymous said...

As the feast day of Saint Francis approaches one would hope the staff would reflect on the prayer of St Francis.
Make me an instrument of peace.
Where there is hatred sow love
Whete there is injury pardon
Doubt faith
Despair hope
Darkness light
Sadness joy
Under the so called spiritual leadership of Daniel,the administration of Colleen, the blind by choice Mark, SSJ has become a place filled with injury,doubt, despair,darkness and sadness. This is the only time apathy would be preferable.
As the festival approaches missing since after Daniel's first year, is the book sale. Something many looked forward to.
Now except for baked goods all there is to purchase Daniel's (over priced and common). Where does that money go? Who pays for the printing, matting and or framing. At least the book sales benefited the parish. Last year he made sure he disrespected Fr. Christian and his group by placing them in the corner while Daniel took center stage. When will SSJ parishioners stop feeding his over inflated ego?
He and colleen use their positions to in effect hold the Sacraments hostage.
I know how they both can be if you dare to stick up for yourself when they ridicule your faith or your works( all for the benefit of the church).

Mathew 25:13 Keep watch because you do not know the day the hour.