Pas­tor re­signs af­ter writ­ing let­ter threat­en­ing to re­port af­fair

The Dallas Morning News - - State - By MARC RAMIREZ Staff Writer mramirez@dal­las­ Twit­ter: @type­writern­inja

A pas­tor has re­signed from the Catholic Dio­cese of Fort Worth af­ter send­ing a hos­tile and graph­i­cally de­tailed let­ter to a Dal­las-area priest threat­en­ing to dis­close an al­leged af­fair the priest was hav­ing with a woman in his par­ish.

The Rev. Richard Kirkham sub­mit­ted his res­ig­na­tion to Bishop Michael Ol­son on June 4, say­ing he was step­ping down as pas­tor of St. Martin de Por­res Catholic Church in Pros­per, the Fort Wort Star-tele­gram re­ported.

Kirkham later at­tempted to take back his res­ig­na­tion but was re­buffed by the bishop. Ol­son told the news­pa­per he asked Kirkham to re­sign to demon­strate his com­mit­ment to en­forc­ing a safe en­vi­ron­ment for clergy mem­bers, church em­ploy­ees, mi­nors and oth­ers who might be vul­ner­a­ble.

The sit­u­a­tion started last fall when Kirkham met the uniden­ti­fied Dal­las Dio­cese priest for drinks at a Frisco restau­rant. Dur­ing that meet­ing, the priest al­legedly told Kirkham about a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship he was hav­ing with a woman he’d met through church events.

Some­time be­tween Oc­to­ber and June, the Dal­las priest grew un­com­fort­able with the in­ten­sity of his friend­ship with Kirkham. Ac­cord­ing to Ol­son, Kirkham had em­braced the priest and planted a kiss on his cheek.

Kirkham then ig­nored the priest’s re­quests to stop con­tact­ing him and wrote the let­ter, Ol­son told the Star-tele­gram, “as an at­tempt to ma­nip­u­late” the priest.

“Let me re­count to you our con­ver­sa­tion at Rock Fish in Oc­to­ber,” Kirkham states in the let­ter, which was ob­tained by KXAS-TV (NBC5). “We were sit­ting at the bar you had been drink­ing and you told me you had a girl­friend and were get­ting laid.”

He says he ad­vised the priest to cut off the re­la­tion­ship but said the priest told him he wasn’t wor­ried about the af­fair be­cause the woman had “more to lose” than he did.

Kirkham also ac­cused the priest of reck­less and risky be­hav­iors, in­clud­ing al­co­hol and sex ad­dic­tion. He said he would re­port the priest to the dio­cese for sex­ual mis­con­duct and ad­vised him to re­tain le­gal coun­sel.

“You need to seek help,” he wrote. “You will soon be im­me­di­ately re­moved from min­istry and your fac­ul­ties sus­pended for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It will be an­nounced at all masses at every par­ish you ever served.” He ends the let­ter by say­ing, “Good luck and God Bless.”

Ol­son said that Kirkham never filed any re­ports, in vi­o­la­tion of Fort Worth Dio­cese pol­icy re­quir­ing of­fi­cials to re­port al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual abuse or mis­con­duct.

Ol­son told the Star-tele­gram he learned of the let­ter only af­ter the Dal­las priest shared it with Dal­las Bishop Ed­ward J. Burns, who con­tacted Ol­son with a copy of the cor­re­spon­dence. Iden­ti­fy­ing de­tails about the priest, the woman and par­ish were redacted.

“The let­ter, as I read it, is hos­tile, ag­gres­sive and is threat­en­ing,” said Ol­son, who vis­ited St. Martin de Por­res on June 30 and July 1 to an­nounce Kirkham’s res­ig­na­tion to parish­ioners.

A state­ment is­sued by the Dal­las Dio­cese notes that the dio­cese did not di­rectly re­ceive Kirkham’s let­ter but says of­fi­cials im­me­di­ately con­ducted an in­quiry upon learn­ing of its con­tents. The priest has not been sus­pended, it said.

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