Wanted priest still in Philippines - Archbishop 'exasperated'
8/21/2015 1:13:00 PM
Fr. Ysrael Bien blesses a student during a 2013 school Mass at St. Francis Parish in Sherwood.
The Archbishop's letter
August 20, 2015 Dear Friends in Christ,
was as shocked and stunned, as I’m sure many of you were, when I found
out Tuesday (August 18) that Sherwood Police had issued an arrest
warrant for Fr. Ysrael Bien. Until the news of the arrest warrant, the
Archdiocese’s only information from the Sherwood Police was that there
was an ongoing investigation. We only learned about the specific charges
when the arrest warrant was issued. Subsequent news reports have added
It is gravely troubling to find out that one
of our priests has been charged with criminal misconduct. To our
knowledge, the police have not identified anyone who may have been
recorded on the hidden camera. Certainly anyone in the parish or school
community who has any information to help investigators should contact
Sherwood Police Detective Debbie Smith at 503-925-7117. The
Archdiocese and the parish owe a debt of gratitude to the young man and
his family who discovered the hidden camera and were persistent in
ensuring it was investigated by police. We are also grateful for the
diligence of the Sherwood Police department. When I placed Fr. Bien
on administrative leave, he told me that he would be living with a
priest friend in Portland. It was not until July 29 that officials at
the Archdiocese first became aware that Fr. Bien was in the Philippines.
August 6, I wrote to Fr. Bien and asked him to return to Portland as
soon as possible to be present in Portland pending the resolution of the
investigation in which he was involved. Fr. Bien declined my request,
citing reasons of his own health and well-being should he return. In an
August 13 follow-up letter, I urged Fr. Bien to reconsider his decision,
directed him to return, and assured him that whatever would be helpful
to his health and well-being would be made available to him here. To
date Fr. Bien has not responded. Fr. Bien’s lengthy absence from the
Archdiocese without my permission is violation of canon (church) law.
investigators placed no restrictions on Fr. Bien’s activities, nor did
they ask for his passport so far as we know. In fact, the police made
public statements that Fr. Bien was not a suspect.
exasperated as you are that Fr. Bien is not here to answer the very
serious allegations he faces. I share your frustration that the nature
of the investigation meant that the parish community and the Archdiocese
had precious little information about its progress.
Some have asked whether Father Bien remains an active priest. The
simple answer is no. When Fr. Bien was placed on administrative leave it
meant he may not function in a ministerial role. Whether Fr. Bien
returns to Oregon or not, a canonical proceeding will take place, the
results of which will determine what his ultimate status will be with
the Archdiocese and the Holy See.
We will continue to provide updates to the parish and school
community when new information is available to us. In the meantime, I
hold you in my prayers at this difficult time. The strength of the
parish and its school is evident in the community’s willingness to
address these unsettling circumstances openly. I appreciate your support
of Fr. James Herrera, Principal Kim Fadden and the rest of the school
and parish staff. Sincerely yours in Christ, Most Rev. Alexander K. Sample Archbishop of Portland in Oregon
Ed Langlois Of the Catholic Sentinel
Alexander Sample on Thursday sent a two-page letter updating members of
St. Francis Parish on the case of a priest being sought by Sherwood
In the letter, the archbishop said the Archdiocese of Portland and
the parish in Sherwood owe “a debt of gratitude” to a teen boy who
discovered a spy camera in a bathroom used by altar servers, and to the
boy’s family, who diligently made sure police knew about the incident.
Records uncovered by the Oregonian showed that Father Ysrael Bien
purchased the $295 camera, which was disguised as an electrical outlet.
Archbishop Sample says he was “shocked and stunned” when he heard the
warrant had been issued. Until that time, police had told the
archdiocese only that there was “an ongoing investigation.”
Father Bien, 34, has been charged with invasion of privacy, tampering
with evidence and initiating a false report — all misdemeanors.
Without telling anyone, Father Bien returned to his native
Philippines in June and has stayed, despite repeated requests by
Archbishop Sample that he return to Oregon.
When the archbishop placed the priest on administrative leave in June
for failing to report the camera discovery promptly, Father Bien said
he would be living with a priest friend at Holy Family Parish in
Southeast Portland. The archdiocese did not become aware that Father
Bien had left for the Philippines until July 29.
Legal authorities had put no restrictions on Father Bien’s movement
and had made public statements that the priest was not a suspect, the
On Aug. 6, the archbishop wrote to Father Bien, asking him to return
to be part of the pending investigation. The priest declined, saying for
his health and well-being he would stay with family. In an Aug. 13
follow-up letter, Archbishop Sample said whatever the priest needed for
health and well-being would be offered to him in Portland. So far,
Father Bien has not responded.
The archbishop noted that the priest’s long absence without permission is a violation of church law.
“I’m as exasperated as you that Father Bien is not here to answer the
very serious allegations he faces,” Archbishop Sample wrote. “I share
your frustration that the nature of the investigation meant that the
parish community and the Archdiocese had precious little information
about its progress.”
While he is on administrative leave, Father Bien cannot function in a
ministerial role, the archbishop wrote. Whether the priest returns to
Oregon or not, a canonical proceeding will determine his status.
The archbishop said he will continue to provide updates to the parish and school community.