By Charlie Johnston
In the last couple of days I have had several phone calls from Catholic broadcasters asking if I knew anything about the situation with Fr. David Nix of Denver. (I continue to have a lot of contacts who chat with me…but I have become something like a mistress: a lot of high-powered folks like to get my take on things but few want to be seen in public with me). Fr. Nix claimed that the Archdiocese was punishing and persecuting him for being an orthodox whistle-blower on sexual allegations.
I do not know Fr. Nix. But I told the broadcasters they ought to closely examine facts before running with this. It did not sound right to me. Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila is not known as a “hail fellow-well met” sort of guy, but he is rigorously and courageously orthodox. On matters of life, marriage and the family he has NEVER held his finger to the wind to find which way it is blowing before speaking. He teaches and preaches authentic Catholic doctrine, handed down from the Apostles, Fathers and Doctors of the Church. He does it unapologetically and full-throatedly, so this just did not sound right to me.
In some of my previous pieces I have worried that some Priests, if disciplined for just cause, might try to claim the mantle of orthodoxy to justify themselves. I do not know Fr. Nix – but I DO know a lot of officials at the Archdiocese and have had direct experience of lawful direction from Archbishop Aquila. It was unimaginable to me that he would ever discipline anyone for the offense of being “orthodox.” And while there are some Priests here I don’t much care for, it has seemed to me that Denver has gone to no little effort to be just to all while caring for the flock. I have previously been in the Dioceses of Chicago and of Belleville. Denver, quite bluntly, is the best, most just Diocese I have ever lived in.
I see that Michael Voris of Church Militant has jumped right in on this one. Sorry, though I have affection for him, I think he jumped the gun on this one.
While disciplinary measures are usually handled privately and with discretion, since Fr. Nix has made a public spectacle here, Archbishop Aquila issued a candid statement on the controversy. This statement, re-printed in its entirety below, sounds like the processes of the Archdiocese of Denver that I know very well. We must all take care to judge righteous judgment.
(Update: Okay, I have spent the better part of the evening talking to friends in Denver who know Fr. Nix. The best I have been able to get anyone to say about him is that he can be kind to people who are hurting. The unanimous consensus from my very orthodox friends who know him is that he is a combative, arrogant man who can’t get along with much of anyone. I stand completely with my Archbishop on this one – and I have fully vetted it.-CJ)
28 September 2018
To the priests of the Archdiocese of Denver,
I am writing you today because many of you have asked about the situation with Fr. David Nix. Unfortunately, Fr. Nix has made public statements and accusations that are false. In priest personnel matters, it is the Archdiocese’s and my practice to honor confidentiality. In this situation, because Fr. Nix is attacking the Church, my staff, and me, and is speaking about these things in a very public way, it is necessary to be clear with you about this matter.
Fr. Nix has been in an ongoing dialogue with the Archdiocese for years about his difficulties holding a parish assignment. This started before I was installed as the Archbishop and has continued during my tenure. Placing Fr. Nix in a parish has been challenging because the faithful, parish staff, and the priests who have worked with Fr. Nix believe he causes trouble. Putting the very best light on this, one can see Fr. Nix as over-zealous in his belief that many people are too casual in matters of liturgy and doctrine. He has been very judgmental and vocal about these issues. I am not intending to evaluate his beliefs, just recognize that this is the status of the matter. It reached a point where, after four failed parish assignments, it became very difficult to find a pastor who would receive Fr. Nix as a parochial vicar. In the face of this difficulty, my staff and I have continued to work hard to find an assignment for him, including with various groups outside of the Archdiocese. All of these efforts have failed, and each time Fr. Nix has been sent back to the Archdiocese. Since Fr. Nix was asked to leave his most recent assignment at the end of March, we have not given up, but his behavior has made it difficult to even establish a dialogue with him.
A much more serious issue and charge is the notion that we have not addressed a matter about sexual abuse reported to us by Fr. Nix. The truth is that in an email he wrote on May 24, Fr. Nix made threats that if he couldn’t dictate his own assignment, he would pursue civil litigation, embarrass me personally, or make known to the media supposed harmful information about two historical situations. This approach of using a threat to obtain his desired outcome raises serious civil and canonical implications, which is exactly what he was told, and frankly it is offensive to any right-thinking person. Of course, I would never participate in such a scheme.
To be clear, the two allegations Fr. Nix was using to try to control his assignment are not dark secrets that somehow make Fr. Nix a “whistle blower.” One involved a seminarian and the matter was fully reported to law enforcement in 2012 and the seminarian involved was dismissed from the seminary. Fr. Nix has admitted his concern about this situation is that the family did not receive a proper apology, which is not correct. The second allegation involves a third-hand report from the 1980s, and Fr. Nix confirmed in writing, and then in person to both an official of the curia and a member of the Conduct Response Team, that there was absolutely no allegation of any sexual contact or abuse.
In all of our dealings with Fr. Nix, we have been clear that if there is information about a crime, it must be reported to law enforcement. If there are issues about violations of the ministerial standards, those must be fully addressed, including being brought to the Conduct Response Team. We have said he is free to hire a lawyer, and if that is his course of action, our civil lawyer would be ready to meet with him. Most importantly, I have always been direct that in no event would I allow any wrongdoing to be “covered up,” for his benefit or for any other reason.
Fr. Nix’s statement that he has been forced to be homeless and has been ignored by the Archdiocese is just another sad chapter in this long saga. Rest assured that contrary to Fr. Nix’s claims, he has been paid the full salary due to him, which of course is a documented fact. We have tried to speak with Fr. Nix, but he fails to show up for scheduled meetings, is hard to get ahold of, and even just yesterday he rebuked Bishop Rodriguez. We will continue to try to help Fr. Nix, if he will let us. I ask each of you not to be mad or upset with Fr. Nix, but instead we must always act with compassion and caring. This has been a challenging situation for the priest personnel board, Bishop Rodriguez, and for me. Our focus is always on doing what we can for all priests, in charity and with continuing humility.
Please pray for all those involved in this matter.