(This story first appeared on BosNewsLife on January 25, 2013. He says he is still struggling to survive. The story has been updated. WARNING: The report contains a short described explicit scene. Reader discretion advised)
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
EDMONTON, CANADA (BosNewsLife)– A prominent Anglican priest says he has lost his home after bishops and other authorities fired him for revealing sexual abuse within Canada’s Anglican Church and the prison system.
Reverend Richard Weber, 64, told BosNewsLife he was told to pay $15,000 Visa credit card debt to the Royal Bank of Canada or his home would be sold.
“This is impossible for me to pay since I don’t have a regular job,” added Weber, who worked as a long-time Anglican chaplain within the prison system of Alberta province and other institutions. He now lives in a different home in Edmonton.
Weber said he was punished by bishops cooperating with the local government and police for uncovering abuse cases in the 1990s and 2000s that included molesting a retarded female inmate by a prison guard and sexual favors in exchange for dropping criminal charges, as well as the sexual abuse of young offenders and children by priests.
Additionally, Weber explained, he suffered unspecified sexual abuse by “a drunk prison guard” during his time as chaplain and saw staff at church-backed institutions molesting the elderly and disabled.
ALBERTA PRIME MINISTER
In a letter to Alberta’s prime minister, he claimed police in the provincial capital Edmonton called him “a liar and looked the other way while one of its own officers was sexually abusing already abused women” in the 1990s.
The correctional officer eventually left the prison to become a city councilor, despite the controversy, he wrote in the letter obtained by BosNewsLife.
Weber claimed he had caught him “with a retarded American Indian native female inmate naked in the control room with her legs spread apart and him looking in.” Additionally, the officer allegedly monitored detained women through camera’s placed near toilets.
“I call on your government to stop covering up sexual and other abuses in the prisons and nursing homes of Alberta, and to bring to justice those who have and continue to commit these hideous crimes against [a] disable[d] woman, female prisoners, abused women, male young offenders and the elderly,” Weber added.
The priest said he was dismissed after reporting the alleged sexual abuse cases to authorities.
Additionally, he appealed to Queen Elizabeth. “She wrote back saying that it was forwarded to the Governor General of Canada…He never replied,” Weber told BosNewsLife.
He said Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews warned him “to forget about working in the Anglican Church again” if he would go to Canada’s Human Rights Commission (CHRC) to protest his “unfair dismissal.”
JEWISH COMMUNITY SURPRISED
His dismissal at the prison surprised Edmonton’s Orthodox Rabbi Ari Drelich. “Chaplain Richard Weber was so very kind towards the Israeli Jewish inmates at Fort Saskatchewan Correctional Center,” he recalled. “He helped arrange Passover and provided oversight so the inmates could observe Passover in prison.”
In exchange for not contacting the CHRC, the Anglican Church leadership promised the priest a five-year contract and moved him over 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) to Charlottetown to work with ex-offenders as a community chaplain, Weber said.
“However when I got there [in Charlottetown] the bishop’s representative told me no one had asked him to assist…They said it had been a handshake agreement over a lunch, nothing more.”
After pleading for work, the devoted Christian eventually managed to get into two long-term care church-backed facilities where he saw “the abuse of the elderly and the disabled”.
Yet, “My bishop told me to keep my mouth shut or I would lose my job again for reporting abuse,” he told BosNewsLife. “But how could I just watch it happen and say nothing? I could not, [so] they fired me.”
“PRINCIPLES TOO HIGH”
Since BosNewsLife reported the story, he was allowed to briefly work again, till more controversies emerged. “In 2016, I reported that the Jewish Prisoners at Canada’s Edmonton Institution were denied the right to celebrate (the Jewish holiday of) Hanukkah. There, the chaplain refused to give me the worship items used for this celebration. I lost my job again.”
In the same institution, a priest was reportedly charged with sexually abusing 33 young offenders. That also”contributed to his current situation, he says. “After I reported him, I lost my job, career, home and everything else I owned.”
The church leadership reportedly acknowledged that “Residents and their families” of the care center found him “a compassionate and kind man” but added, “his principles were just too high.”
Following his 2002-2009 care centers-tenure, he was promised a job at the Killam Alberta hospital, but the offer was allegedly declined after a former boss “spread a bunch of lies.”
Mistreatment was not limited to certain institutions. “God brought to my attention when people were being abused,” in other situations as well, he recalled. “I, for instance, warned the Edmonton Alberta Diocese and the priest at St Stephens Edmonton not to let Christopher Lance Neal work with youth in the poor part of the city, as he had a history of sexually abusing them.”
NO ACTION TAKEN
However, “the priest said I was harsh and unforgiving and lacked compassion for Christopher.” In 2009, Christopher Lance Neal was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment on charges that included sexual offenses involving minors, both boys and girls, BosNewsLife established.
Additionally, Weber said, he learned an Anglican priest and the archdeacon of his own church were molesting young boys. The archdeacon was later allowed to work somewhere else. “I warned the bishop, but nothing was done.”
BosNewsLife, in general, does not mention names of suspects unless they have been publicly identified by separate sources.
Anglican bishops have denied wrongdoing and suggested Weber has psychological difficulties and rich fantasy, according to a document obtained by BosNewsLife. In a letter, received by BosNewsLife, Consulting Psychologist George Pugh wrote to the Diocese Western Canada and Alaska however that in his opinion “Reverend Weber’s contact with reality is sound.”
Dr. Pugh added that, “he is not suffering from delusions or hallucinations,” and that the priest,” has a keen sense of morality and right versus wrong.”
The priest told BosNewsLife that he deeply regrets that the Anglican Church is covering up widespread sexual abuse after the Catholic Church was already under pressure over similar cases.
VICTIM OF ABUSE
He said he understood those who suffered, as he himself was a victim of sexual abuse during his childhood while living in Britain.
His family had moved from Germany to Britain following World War Two, but the scars remained.”My father was a product of the Hitler Youth”, he said, referring to the youth movement established by Nazi-leader Adolf Hitler.
Though he grew up in an evangelical church environment and “committed” his “life to Jesus at a very young age” his home “was not a happy one”, he recalled.
“My mom, a Christian, was caught between my father and her children.” Though he preferred to go to Bible College, his parents wanted him first to trade and “learn a profession”. Weber explained that he became “a Commis Chef”, or trainee cook, at a restaurant where he was “sexually abused” by his boss and an assistant for two years, while still a teenager.
He said men later also misused him at a time when he was searching for his own sexual identity. “I was small, naive, desperate for love and acceptance that I did not find in my home or in the church.”
YOUTH WITH MISSION
Weber started traveling through Europe and ended up as a young man for mission group Youth With A Mission (YWMA).
It became clear he had a calling to help those who suffer abuse and neglect, Christians said about the priest, who claims to have been “in full-time ministry since age 21.”
He helped many people “over the years” and “comforted, encouraged, prayed for [them and] visited when [they were] sick or in prison,” explained former YWMA Director Jeff Fountain.
After several YWMA projects, he joined the ‘Church Army’, the Anglican church’s aid and evangelistic wing founded in 1882 to work among society’s outcasts and criminals in slums, prisons and other institutions.
Famed disabled evangelist Joni Erickson Tada once praised Weber for his involvement in the movement. “Pastor Weber has a real burden for the disabled people and seniors…(he) has been trying for some time to have other believers catch the vision of helping at this center (Bethany Group),” she said in a radio show. “He wheeled 28 people to church on Sunday – it took him more than an hour.”
The priest made headlines in the 1990s when openly admitting on American television that he had “struggled” with, but abandoned, “the gay lifestyle”, something he blamed on his abusive childhood.
Reverend Weber said that admission made him enemies within and outside church circles.
“I was invited to speak on Christian television programs such as “Focus on the Family with James Dobson” and I spoke at the Episcopal Church /Anglican Church General Convention in the United States in 1990. I was spat on by angry gay activists,” he recalled.
Despite his difficulties, that included living in a car while searching for work and shelter and a last-minute canceled marriage, he thanks God for his life.
“God has blessed me over the years as I have worked 20 years in the prisons and 13 [years] in palliative care. [Also I worked] with the homeless and hurting.”
FUTURE REMAINS UNCERTAIN
Yet, the troubles have taken its toll on the single-living priest. “Yes I will lose my home unless the debt is paid, caused by reporting all this,” he said.
“But at least a little four-year-old girl will sleep soundly in her bed now the pastor who was sexually abusing her is charged,” the priest stressed, referring to Christopher Lance Neal and others.
“Why God chose me to blow the whistle I do not know…It cost me my home, my reputation. I can no longer work, with doctors say is due to shouting, threats, bullying and so on from the government, police, and bishops.”
However, “I did the right thing. These were dirty men and dirty people who covered up for them.”
BOSNEWSLIFE’S BEST is a regular look at stories that have impacted the Church and/or compassionate professionals in recent years. Christians who want to help Reverend Weber financially or with prayers were advised to use the online financial service PayPal via firstname.lastname@example.org or to contact him via his my home email address: email@example.com. “It would be encouraging and comforting to hear from anyone,” he says.
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