Pastor resigns after writing letter threatening to report affair
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.