During the meeting, multiple staff members described Word on Fire's CEO as “terrifying.”
This article is so beyond false and lying that I am appalled. I work at word on Fire. I was at this meeting.
My words following are absolutely not as a representative of Word on Fire - they are my own, and my own feelings. Let not my poor writing and my anger cast any negative light on the amazing work of the rest of the ministry.
Firstly - I was shocked to find out that the staff member recorded this meeting, because this was an intimate moment with people experiencing emotions - and at no point did this disgruntled staff member reveal they were recording us as we offered our private thoughts that we assumed would stay confidential. Bishop, nor any of us were working to make polished well thought out careful statements. We were speaking off the cuff from the heart of this heavily emotional moment. We had no idea our words would be transcribed and published for the world to see. And to put these words under a microscope and examine their implications and their meanings in the context of the clergy abuse scandal - my gosh - how ridiculously unfair.
Secondly - let not this disgruntled staff member who recorded this unfairly, and framed our whole work in such a negative light speak for the rest of the staff. The people I work with every day are so proud to work here. This is an amazing place full of prayer and joy and love for the people we are reaching. The work being done to subvert this ministry is disgusting to me. It is so clearly spiritual attack in response to the millions of holy moments Word on Fire helps bring people to as they encounter the Gospel.
Thirdly - The way this writer frames all of these things out of context and picking things out and framing the context to fit his narrative is so frustrating and disgusting to me.
Ask absolutely any manager from a secular corporation - “If there is a very sensitive investigation underway, what would you do if a staff member was openly discussing this situation with others not involved?”
I have asked that question to outside executives - the answer is ”They would be suspended at the very least, most likely fired.” This is standard protocol. Yes - I’m sure it was shocking to hear Fr Steve say this, as he is a loving man - a father figure not at all like what Chris Damian and the disgruntled staff member described. But What if Joe was innocent? (The 3rd-party investigators have concluded that they found nothing criminal taking place. But before they concluded that, would it be right to -out of some post-church-abuse-scandal concern- you blast joe’s name out to the public, and start assuming that he is completely guilty, working to make amends with his accusers and leaving Joe to the wolves (such as this gossip journalist who wrote this)?
Where is the love and respect for all? Out of love, you MUST respect the process of investigation. Yeah it would be great to instantly know the truth and react. But reacting before knowing anything, to the detriment of a person, is wrong and sinful.
I am so hesitant to post this public comment, but I think it’s important to tell people that this is NOT AT ALL the general feeling of the staff. Fr Steve was and is a great CEO that loved us and led us spiritually. This terrible situation is made more terrible due to the framing of outsiders and disgruntled staff members that have since quit. Fr Steve is innocent of any wrongdoing - he didn’t have any sexual misconduct yet the article speaks as if this is another clergy sexual abuse scandal, and not a lay persons misconduct which has nothing to do with the ministry of Word on Fire. Bishop Barron is innocent and to make the claim that he cares not about victims is so beyond the truth. I’m disgusted in this writer and the ex-staff member who recorded and worked to subvert this ministry and the amazing work that these beautiful people do everyday to bring people into or back into their Catholic Faith.
Your lies are incredibly frustrating Chris Damian. And they don’t just hurt your soul, but the efforts of many people working to encourage people in their Faith throughout the world - Literally millions. And your harmful words are not helping anything, they are misconstruing a situation you have nothing to do with, and thereby somewing doubt in this ministry to attempt to weaken it’s reach, just as the Devil so desperately desires. But by God let the devil not succeed in this!
Again i say - My words above are absolutely not as a representative of Word on Fire - they are my own, and my own feelings - let not my poor writing and my anger cast any negative light on the amazing work of the rest of the ministry.
Most of this article, as written, is unfairly polemical. You seem to completely side-step several issues (such as the nature of investigations into misconduct requiring some opaqueness to preserve what privacy both accused and accuser have remaining), preferring the implication that *you*, of course, as a morally and ethically elevated person, would have (not imprudently, of course: remember, you are morally and ethically elevated) ignored the advice of legal counsel, perfectly managed all competing aspects of an investigation in which both accuser and accused have certain rights, immediately reached all the appropriate conclusions about all allegations (ostensibly, by immediately believing all accusations)...
I mean, when you write:
"Biblically, the name that Barron gave to the women, “accuser,” is significant, as it identifies them with Satan."
How do you expect to come off to any level-headed reader of this article? Frankly it sounds like you have an axe to grind, and at so many points throughout this article, that axe shines through clearly. You're upset Bp Barron reveals about a person what they voluntarily, themselves, revealed in a public forum, while also upset Bp Barron keeps private what was made private in an internal forum. You're upset Bp Barron heeded the advice of legal counsel and are frustrated he wanted to maintain the integrity of the investigation, which would be necessary to substantiate in any significant way any allegations made. And on and on. You seem upset that stakeholders didn't immediately do the imprudent things someone who has no stake in anything would claim they should have done.
I am confused by this article. It discusses it in the context of clergy sexual abuse, but the perpetrator is a layman. It complains that the victim’s name was shared in a private meeting, when the victim shared her name publicly regarding this on her own social media platform, so it wasn’t anonymous, but intentionally public by her own volition.
Additionally, the organization immediately suspended the accused upon learning of the accusations. They immediately began a third party (unbiased) investigation to determine the facts of the matter. Despite the finding that nothing illegal had taken place, the organization fired the accused anyway, taking seriously the victim’s claim that—despite being a willing sexual partner—she did not like all of the activities engaged in.
Termination of employment is literally the harshest possible penalty the organization could impose, which they did.
What else should they have done exactly? If we attack organizations that take seriously accusations and follow through with real, substantial penalties, aren’t we discouraging other organizations to do the same?
WOF suspended and fired the person despite no finding of illegal activity. And yet they are being portrayed as being complicit in abuse? That doesn’t make any sense! So if an organization will be raked through the coals despite handing out the most severe penalty at their disposal, then what could any organization do to satisfy the bloodthirsty mob?
Wouldn’t the Church be better off if MORE organizations acted the way WOF did rather than fewer?
This is tough…during an active investigation, I do think it is important for an org to stay neutral and quiet. Sexual harassment causes grave damage, but so does being falsely accused of sexual harassment. However, once guilt has been established, preference and deference should always go towards the victim. I think BB and WOF had a naive and rosy view of Gloor because he had this dramatic conversion. Virtue is acquired habits, and the most generous assessment of Gloor is that he was too young and weak in his faith to have properly acquired virtues in the realm of sexuality. I feel like WOF and BB saw his sincerity and mistook it for character. Plus, they probably thought he was a good “get” from an image perspective. I’m troubled by the way BB and Fr. Steve spoke to their employees as well as their lack of transparency once this all came out. It makes me wonder why 3/4 women withdrew their complaint. I wonder if they were told to view Gloor’s actions as a forgivable “sin” rather than a “crime.” Either way, very sad to hear of this. Also Fr. Steve bodybuilding in cringe.
First, let me say that I applaud any journalistic effort that tries to shine a light on the darkest places in the Church so that repentance and redemption can shine forth. But what you've written here is not that…it is rather a poorly-sourced, ethically questionable pile of insinuation and innuendo. You can do better.
Second, I want to emphasize that I do *not* think that Bp. Barron and his crew are above criticism (in fact, clerics should be held to an even higher standard than the rest of us!). I've criticized Bp. Barron for various things over the years and I think--assuming you have reported truthfully here--there are some lessons here for the WoF team on how they can improve their processes and protocols for the future. But what you're suggesting and implying has happened does not appear (from this outsider's perspective) to have much basis in reality.
I have a few questions for you that don't require a response but perhaps will help you improve your craft for next time. (You're probably also aware of what the guys at The Pillar are doing--they would be good mentors for how to better run an investigative process like the one you tried to do here.)
Please take my comments in the charity with which I intend them. I think that we both share a desire for our Church to be good, true, and beautiful–and we agree that sometimes this means bringing to light uncomfortable truths about the Church’s leaders.
1) My central question for you is, "what *exactly* are you alleging Bishop Barron did wrong?" You use the word "seem" or its variants no less than *12* times in your piece, which is a huge clue to the reader that you have a lot more research to do. You’re heavy on speculation and light on fact, which just isn’t super helpful in our Twitterfied age where everyone wants to get retweets. Publishing this is definitely easier than doing more research, but it’s certainly not as constructive.
2) Were the women victims employees at Word on Fire? I don't think they were because you don't say explicitly in the piece, but you also don't *not* say so, so I’ve already seen at least one person on social media misreading (or skimming) your piece and then sharing that Joey Gloor was abusing his position of power over subordinate employees by sexually harassing or assaulting them. This is a huge factual point that you should be clear about in the piece. It obviously matters to this story, and casts the dynamics of the situation at Word on Fire (is it a toxic workplace where employee-victims are outed and harassed? Are testosterone-fueled bodybuilders hitting on all of their colleagues?? Is Bp. Barron siding with the “bros” over the mid- and lower-level employees??? Is Bp. Barron revealing his employees’ identities, or is he telling his employees what was said in a strangers’ public Facebook post???) and Bp. Barron's response in a very different light. For example: you criticize Bp. Barron severely for not being attentive to the victims. If they are his employees, that criticism makes a lot of sense. If they are strangers to him and his legal counsel has strictly counseled him to not make contact, your criticism is less salient. Sure--maybe Word on Fire is too eager to listen to attorneys, but don't you think it would be problematic if Bp. Barron was reaching out directly to the victims during an investigation into one of his senior employees? That seems like it would be incredibly improper--there's a reason why "witness tampering" is a federal crime. At any rate, your story would certainly benefit from a clarification with respect to what relationship these women had/have with Word on Fire.
3) Do you really think that Bp. Barron is creating a linkage between the victims and Satan? Your point about the etymology of *accuser* was just a bit too on-the-nose. It’s comments like these that betray your point of view–to anybody with any knowledge of legal or Biblical terminology, that’s a huge reach. Similar to this was your comment about Dave Ramsey. Just unnecessary and frankly irrelevant.
4) A central problem in what you are describing seems to center on your interpretation of a comment by Fr. Steve Grunow to a staff member (and it appears to be the case from your story that only one person has made that claim, although at least two have described Fr. Grunow as “terrifying”). The way in which Fr. Steve said this does indeed sound like it might be problematic, but do you in general think that a company should allow its employees to go around commenting on ongoing legal investigations?
5) Do you think it is ethical to include cherry-picked, direct quotes from an improperly-made recording in your investigative reporting? Using the information on deep background may be one thing, but including the quotes is another. My understanding is that California is a two-party consent state, meaning that it is a crime to record any conversation without the consent of all parties involved. If this doesn’t have implications for you, it certainly might for your source, so you might want to rethink the approach next time.
This is incredibly disturbing to read. At the same time with the awkward feeling of already have known that something wasn’t “right”
I understand the irony of Bishop Barron having written his Letter to a Suffering church while potentially shielding an abuser within his own org. But, it’s unclear to me if that’s what he actually did. He put Gloor on leave while the investigation was being conducted. Then, he tried to keep quiet until the investigation was complete. However, when an alleged victim went public, WOF had to act swiftly less they have a PR issue (at the very least) on their hands.
What do you suggest Bishop Barron should have done? How is an employer supposed to communicate to his employees that a colleague of theirs is accused of misconduct if the investigation is still pending?
I agree that the Church has a horrible record of silencing victims and sweeping things under the rug.
However, I do think that if you are going to publish an article like this, you need to include pertinent details.
For example, were these women WOF employees? What did the woman’s Facebook post say? What did these police reports say? (Also, what is the difference between “non-consensual” and “unwelcome” sexual activity? I would have assumed they were the same thing, but your article makes that distinction). How did Gloor manipulate women? Finally, what was the outcome of this investigation?
I appreciate the light you are shedding on these problems, and I realize you are not a journalist, but I think the basic facts are crucial to establish before painting a narrative.
I, too, am an employee at Word on Fire, and I completely agree with the previous statement from another colleague. I, too, am mortified by these false allegations of misconduct on the part of our administration, all without ever doing any REAL investigative journalism into the actual story. Whispers of abuse and underhanded accusations, in light of the scandals that have rocked the Church, all of the sudden are championed and encouraged, without the slightest mind paid to the PEOPLE involved or without a real interest in truth. The narrative was set, long before this story was written. People with burner accounts on twitter have laid the groundwork for assumption-driven scandal, all in the name of transparency! TRANSPARENCY FOR ALL! GIVE ME WHAT I AM DUE!
It's a horrible new world we live in, where people can be utterly destroyed with a whisper. People's lives come unraveled because of narratives and agendas and "Oh, I suspected something funny..." -a Catholic world where we abandon charity for the sake of moral rectitude. I remember some biblical stories about that. God be with you all when it happens to you.
Word on Fire is the most family-friendly, employee-friendly organization I have ever worked for. Can a CEO be intimidating at times? Even terrifying? Yes! And for good reason. Anyone who has ever worked in the real world knows that. But to decry him because he "loves us like his children" is ludicrous. To assume or imply that means something spiritually abusive is deranged and sad.
Mr. Damian has an axe to grind, but he never sought the truth. Not once. I don't know of any of my colleagues that got a call.
That's enough. Let's all start living the beatitudes, Christians.
We warned the LA Archdiocese attorney Margaret Graff, via certified mail in February 2020, about his thug (Gloor). Once again, they ignored warnings and covered up for another criminal. It is time for the Archdiocese to fully investigate Barron and defrock him ASAP. His action, his heretical messages, and the people around him (psychologically troubled homosexuals) will further damage the church.
Thank you for sharing Chris. As a woman and future minister, situations like this frankly terrify me and discourage me from wanting to work for Catholic organizations which is so disappointing for me. I understand your article was meant to address only this specific topic and not the WOF ministry as a whole, but I think several of the comments here certainly speak for themselves. The rhetoric I see in Catholic spaces on the internet is usually so pointed and painful, and I deeply appreciate your efforts in presenting topics as sensitive as this in a thorough and thoughtful way. Will be bringing much of this to prayer.
Given how closely connected they are to other big-name ministries such as Ascension and LifeTeen-and how they've all gone in a similar direction especially since January 6th, 2021-I'm waiting for scandals to be unveiled there too.
Another woke leftists lying author, journalistic equivalent of click bait
Sad to see so many “Catholics” defend this power and money hungry Bishop, a true wolf in sheeps clothing who couldn’t even protect the women who came forward about Gloor. It’s why other sects of Christianity mock us because Catholics who excuse this behavior by clergy time and time again allow for it to perpetuate, killing souls in the process of covering up the abuse.
Perhaps Bishop Barron referred to the women as the accusers since that is accurate and non-judgmental. To refer to the women as victims would require him to judge--and he is not judging. Granted, it sounds as though an attorney hired by WOF did investigate and the attorney formed an opinion that the former WOF employee engaged in "unwelcome" sexual activity and that "some of the sexual acts were unwanted." The investigator might call the women victims based on that conclusion after the investigation. If one agrees with the investigator's conclusions, one could concur the women are victims. If one does not know whether the investigation got it right, or, if one believes the investigator likely got it right and yet does not want to appear judgmental, one might accurately and without prejudice appropriately refer to the women as the accusers. Accuser is not a derogatory word. It is possible Bishop Barron did not want to appear to be judging his former employee--even if he was willing to terminate the man's employment. The Bishop may have thought it would resonate positively with his staff to imply he also would not judge them. As a well-known Catholic stated, "Who am I to judge."
It seems to a non-lawyer as though whoever recorded this company call likely violated state privacy laws in addition to the trust of his colleagues. This self-impugned character smells like a disgruntled axe-grinder.
Chris Damian asserts multiple WOF employees were seriously harmed...really?? We likely share different definitions of "seriously harmed." Can Chris explain this mysterious "fact?"
Women are of so little consequence in this church.