Battered by another scandal involving yet another gay priest in the Bridgeport Diocese, faithful Catholics remain bewildered by the apparent inability of their leaders to protect the Church from such humiliation. While prior cases involved gay priests like Fr. Jude Fay, a pastor in Darien, who had embezzled more than a million dollars from parishioners’ donations to support a lavish lifestyle with his gay partner, this latest case involves something much more sinister.
On Friday, January 18th, Connecticut Catholics awoke to front page above-the-fold headlines in the Connecticut Post claiming: “Meth Priest Case Widens: Clergyman Liked Cross-Dressing, Sex in Rectory.” Reporting that Monsignor Kevin Wallin, a pastor who had been on leave from the Diocese for the past year—but still on the payroll—had been arrested for dealing crystal methamphetamine.
That was just the beginning of the story. Reading further, Connecticut Catholics learned that in the spring of 2011, when Monsignor Wallin served as pastor of St. Augustine’s Cathedral in Bridgeport, rectory personnel became concerned when: “Wallin, sometimes dressed as a woman, would entertain odd-looking men, some who were also dressed in women’s clothing and engaging in sex acts in the rectory.” The Post also reported that “bizarre sex toys” were found in the pastor’s residence within the rectory.
In the spring of 2011, rectory personnel contacted the Diocese. Diocesan spokesman Brian Wallace was quoted in the Post as saying that “diocesan officials consulted lawyers about the situation and were assured that none of Wallin’s behavior appeared illegal.” Still, according to Wallace, “We approached him and he admitted he was struggling a bit and shortly after that he resigned (July, 2011) and the bishop granted him a sabbatical.”
Struggling a bit? Most Catholics find this behavior much more than “struggling a bit.” Most Catholics would find it unbelievable that the Diocese would continue paying a stipend to a pastor who is having cross-dressing sex parities in the rectory. But, they would be even more shocked to learn that during the time Wallin was collecting money from parishioner donations, federal drug enforcement authorities claim that he was allegedly making more than $9,000 a week for selling methamphetamine. In fact, his amphetamine selling business was so lucrative that in order to launder the money, Wallin had purchased an adult sex shop in North Haven named The Land of Oz.
Still, even after his arrest on federal drug charges, Wallin continues to collect his stipend from the Diocese. The front page—again, above-the-fold—of the Saturday, January 19th edition of the Connecticut Post headline warned: “Church May Withhold Meth Priest’s Paycheck.”
Stories like this make it difficult for faithful Catholics to defend the Church against both serious criticisms and biased attacks. This case opens the door again to those who want to make dramatic changes in the authority structure of the Church. Groups like Voice of the Faithful who have lobbied for empowering the laity—at the expense of the authority of the bishops and priests—have been given a gift from the way the Wallin case has been handled. A spokeswoman for SNAP (Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests” has already claimed that this case is just one more example of the “bishops’ long pattern of deception.”
It is not a coincidence that the 2007 attempted takeover of the governance of the Catholic Church in Connecticut by State lawmakers emerged in the Bridgeport Diocese. The proposed bill, which was later withdrawn by the two Democratic lawmakers who had proposed it, would have removed the governing authority from the bishops and priests, and transferred it to lay leaders. It is likely that such proposals will emerge yet again in light of these latest revelations.