A priest in the Fort Worth Catholic Diocese has resigned after a letter he wrote to another priest in Dallas was deemed intimidating, manipulative and inappropriate by Bishop Michael Olson.
The Rev. Richard Kirkham, former pastor of St. Martin de Porres in Prosper, is also accused of failing to report knowledge he had of alleged sexual misconduct and predatory sexual harassment in the workplace regarding the Dallas-area priest.
Kirkham submitted his resignation letter on June 4, but later tried to rescind it. Olson said he declined Kirkham’s request.
The Star-Telegram was unable to reach Kirkham for comment.
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Annette Gonzales Taylor, spokesperson for the Dallas diocese, said the allegations in Kirkham’s letter against the Dallas-area priest and woman were found to be untrue.
Olson said his request for Kirkham to resign shows that he’s committed to maintaining a safe environment for minors, the vulnerable, members of the clergy and employees of the church.
The incident began sometime in the fall, when Kirkham and the Dallas-area priest — whom Olson declined to identify for his privacy — met at Rockfish in Frisco for drinks.
The Dallas priest allegedly confided in Kirkham about an affair he was having with a woman involved in his parish. The priest told Kirkham that the woman had “more to lose” than he did, so he wasn’t worried about the affair, Kirkham wrote in the letter.
At some point between October and June, Olson said, the priest in the Dallas diocese started to “move away from the friendship” with Kirkham because it became too intense. Olson later said that Kirkham embraced the priest and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
The priest asked for Kirkham to stop contacting him, but Kirkham repeatedly continued to contact the man, Olson said.
Then, “a letter was written (by Kirkham) as an attempt to manipulate” the priest, Olson said.
Kirkham threatened to report the Dallas priest to the Dallas diocese for his alleged sexual misconduct and predatory sexual harassment in the workplace.
Olson said no report has ever been made by Kirkham — which violates the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth’s safe environment policy that mandates officials make reports if they hear of allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct.
Furthermore, Olson said the letter that Kirkham wrote and sent to the Dallas priest includes strong language and topics that are unbecoming of a priest.
In the letter, Kirkham rehashed what he said was his October conversation with the Dallas priest. It includes explicit details of the priest’s alleged sexual preferences, the woman he was accused of having an affair with and details of the type of sex they reportedly had. The letter also alludes to the priest masturbating at his work desk, and having problems with alcoholism.
Kirkham called the Dallas priest a predator and said the woman was his vulnerable victim.
Olson said he didn’t know about the letter until the priest in Dallas went to Bishop Edward Burns. Burns then contacted Olson and sent him a copy of the letter, which Olson shared with the Star-Telegram.
Identifying information about the Dallas priest, his parish and the woman was redacted.
“The letter, as I read it, is hostile, aggressive and is threatening,” Olson said.
Olson went to St. Martin de Porres on June 30 and July 1 to make the announcement of Kirkham’s resignation to the parish.
He told them he had a conversation with Kirkham “regarding several serious canonical, spiritual and pastoral matters.”
Olson said he looked at the situation as an issue between an employee and his employer, and therefore he told the parish he was prevented from commenting further.
According to a petition filed in Denton County district court, after Kirkham tried to rescind his resignation, Olson ordered him to take a trip out of state. When Kirkham was away and without notice, the locks were changed on the property where he was living. Notice is required by Texas law, said Kirkham’s attorney Jeff Sprigg.
Sprigg declined to comment on the contents of the letter because it was not part of the civil petition he filed on behalf of Kirkham to regain entry to his residence.
The property is owned by the Fort Worth diocese.
When Kirkham tried to get back into the house, he was threatened with arrest, the petition says.
After a hearing on July 3, a judge allowed Kirkham to get back into the property to collect his belongings.
Kirkham had been a pastor at St. Martin de Porres since 2015. He was ordained on June 4, 2011 — exactly 7 years before he was asked to resign.
Rev. Stephen Hauck has replaced him.