Friday, August 21, 2015

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,

I 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 disturbing details.

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.

On 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.

Police 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.

I'm as 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
Archbishop 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 Police. 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 archbishop said.

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Isn't this the second time a priest from the Archdiocese under Archbishop Samples watch fled the country after being questioned by law enforcement.