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Ordinariate priest embroiled in spousal kidnapping and marital abuse case

Ordinariate priest embroiled in spousal kidnapping and marital abuse case
Priestly domestic violence black eye for Ordinariate

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
March 2, 2018

Fr. Luke Reese is making headlines in Indiana and Texas.

The headlines read: "Married Catholic priest accused of attacking wife" ... "Indianapolis Catholic priest accused of kidnapping, confinement and domestic battery of wife" ... "Catholic priest in Indianapolis accused of domestic assault on his wife" ... "Married Catholic priest from Houston accused of attacking wife" ... "Houston-ordained priest charged with kidnapping, battery of wife in Indiana" ...

This is not the first time that this particular Catholic priest has made national headlines. He started making headlines in 2012, when as an Anglican Church in America (ACA) priest, he swam the Tiber.

"Former Anglican priest to make history as first married priest in Archdiocese of Indianapolis" ... "Ordinariate priest to be ordained in Houston" ... "Father Reese is ordained priest of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter" ...

Luke Reese's love story and his Catholic priesthood have both turned sour. He is now facing inhibition, serious criminal charges -- perhaps even prison -- and divorce.

The Story Unfolds

"It all started September 24 after he (Fr. Reese) found his wife in another man's car," Indianapolis' WTHR 13 Investigative News reports. "He allegedly hit her repeatedly as they drove to Holy Rosary, where she says he beat her at the altar. As part of an 18-hour ordeal, he drove to northern Indiana to make her confess to her 96-year old grandmother."

Documents show their trek took them to Auburn, Indiana. A smaller community of 13,000 souls 150 miles north near the Michigan border.

Independent investigative reporter, Damien Fisher, reports that the alleged altercation between Fr. Reese and his wife occurred on Sept. 24, 2017 after the priest's discovery of her alleged affair with another man.

"According to the probable cause affidavit filed in the Marion County Court, on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 24, Reese, wearing clerical garb, confronted his wife while she was in the backseat of a car with another man ..." Fisher wrote on his Simchafisher investigative reporting website. "According to court documents, Reese's superiors already knew that he reportedly provided alcohol to minors, got intoxicated with minors, and shared white supremacist material with young people. Those incidents were reported by parents to church officials."

"According to court records, after he learned his wife was having an affair, he kidnapped her, 'driving her all over the city,' ...'hitting her, yelling at her and blaring heavy metal music,'" Houston television station KTRT13 reports. "At one point, records say, he stopped at his church, Holy Rosary Catholic Church on Indianapolis' south side where he made his wife 'kneel at the altar' and threatened 'to choke her.' The abuse lasted more than 18 hours, she told police, and included his taking nude photos of her which he threatened 'to send to everyone at their church.'"

"Reese's wife told police they then went to her grandmother's home, where he told her she would stay away from the 'temptation' of Indianapolis ..." The Indianapolis Star reports.

"The victim's grandmother reportedly asked her, 'What in the world happened to your mouth and eye?'" WTHR's investigative news report fleshes out. "'I hit her that's what's wrong with her," Reese reportedly admitted. 'A priest and you beat her?' the grandmother questioned. 'What you hit a woman?' her uncle also asked. To which Reese reportedly replied: 'I could have killed her.' The grandmother reportedly replied. 'Well, you didn't kill her. So, do you feel like a hero now?'"

"When the couple got home, the woman (Mrs. Reese) claims (Mr.) Reese ripped off her clothes, tore up her outfits 'that he thought were slutty,' and forced her to have sex, according to court documents," Indianapolis' WXIN-FOX 59 added.

The next day Fr. Ryan McCarthy, Holy Rosary's rector, saw his curate's battered wife and suggested they separate.

"This past Monday, Father Reese notified me that he was experiencing some personal and family issues which would require a greater amount of his attention," Fr. McCarthy wrote in the Oct.1 bulletin. "As of the writing of this note, the length of the leave had not been fully determined, but it will be at least a few months. I expect it will extend past Christmas and into the new year."

Felony Charges Filed

Mrs. Reese did not report the abuse to Indianapolis law enforcement officials until two days afterwards, at which point the police, the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis got involved. Criminal charges were filed on Oct. 13, 2017. He was arrested and booked into the Marion County Jail three days before his 49th birthday. His arrest record lists him as standing 6'1" tall and weighing 200 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes. He made bail on Oct. 20, four days after his birthday.

Now Fr. Reese faces charges in Criminal Division 3 of the Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis with three Class 5 Felony counts of Criminal Confinement with bodily injury; Criminal Confinement where a vehicle is used; and Kidnapping where committed by using a vehicle. He is also charged with three Class A Misdemeanors of Domestic Battery; Battery resulting in bodily injury; and Intimidation -- threaten another with intent that they engage in conduct against will.

Each Class 5 felony could mean six years behind bars and each Class A misdemeanor could add another year to the sentence. If the priest is convicted and sentenced to the full amount allowable by law, he could face more than two decades in prison.

The priest has been released from jail under a $25,000 bond and is awaiting a jury trial. Initially the trail was scheduled for Dec. 14, 2017, then it was pushed to March 1, 2018. Now Fr. Reese's day in court has been scheduled for May 3, 2018.

Stemming from the initial police investigation against him, Fr. Reese has been inhibited by the Ordinariate and placed on leave by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. However, the domestic trouble that Fr. Reese found himself in did not come to light until late February, when the media sniffed out the story and started reporting on it.

"The Ordinariate and the Archdiocese immediately placed Rev. Reese on leave. Since Sept. 27, he has not had any priestly duties and has been prohibited from exercising any public ministry," a statement issued the Ordinariate explains. "Bishop Steven J. Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter has pledged the diocese's full cooperation with the civil authorities conducting the investigation."

The Ordinariate also reiterated its position on family abuse. "The Ordinariate is committed to collaborating with authorities to ensure justice is provided for all concerned, and affirms the Catholic Church's clear teaching that domestic violence is never justified."

Fr. Reese is the Anglican Use curate at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Indianapolis. The church is a traditional Catholic church which features the Pre-Vatican II Tridentine Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form). It also celebrates the modern Mass in vernacular English (Ordinary Form).

Holy Rosary Church is also set up to accommodate an Anglican Use liturgy (Ordinariate Form). The Indianapolis church, first founded as an Italian parish, has a high altar against the East wall. The altar has an ornate reredos with a center Tabernacle. There is a matching ornate altar rail. Most women attend the Eucharistic liturgies with their heads covered.

When Fr. Reese was assigned as curate, he brought in the Anglican Use Mass which was celebrated on Sundays and at noon on weekdays. He also closed weekly Adoration with an Anglican Use Evensong and Benediction.

Since Fr. Reese's inhibition and leave of absence from the church, the Anglican Use Mass is being currently being celebrated only on Sundays by the rector Fr. McCarthy who has received the faculties to celebrate the Anglican Use liturgy. The Latin Rite Catholic priest has also been appointed the chaplain of St. Joseph of Arimathea Anglican Use Society in Indianapolis.

Anglican Roots

Fr. Reese is not only a convert to the Catholic Church, he is also apparently a convert to Anglicanism.

In 2012, the Catholic News Service (CNS) reported: "He (Luke Reese) and Gina met when they were music students at Butler University in Indianapolis during the 1980s and 1990s. They learned about the Anglican spiritual tradition when Luke became a paid member of a choir at an Episcopal parish in Indianapolis."

"We fell in love with the liturgical form of worship," Luke Reese told CNS. "It's absolutely stunning. The worship is just so beautiful."

Fr. Reese holds a degree in music from Butler University.

The Catholic News Service went on to explain that Reese was "ordained as an Anglican priest and ministered within the Traditional Anglican Communion ..."

He apparently read for orders as an Anglican priest and served for about five years in the Anglican Church in America which is a part of the wider Traditional Anglican Communion. There is one ACA congregation in Indianapolis -- St. Margaret of Scotland.

Following his conversion to the Catholic Church, Fr. Reese spent four years commuting to Saint Meinrad Seminary in St. Meinrad, Indiana for his Roman Catholic priestly training and formation. He was ordained transitional deacon in May 2016 and then Catholic priest in June of the same year by Bishop Steven Lopes at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston. His first Anglican Use Mass was celebrated at Holy Rosary Church on July 3 in Indianapolis.

Since Fr. Reese's recent brush with the law, his ordination pictures have been scrubbed from the Ordinariate's website. But they still can be found on other websites. His name also been removed from Holy Rosary Church's online staff listings, but his name is still listed in the weekly church bulletin's staff box. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis continues to list him while using Holy Rosary Church's address as his primary contact.

The Archdiocese website notes that Fr. Reese was first ordained as an Anglican priest in 2006; received into the Catholic Church in 2012; ordained as a Catholic priest in 2016 and assigned to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. Then in October 2017, he was "granted a six-month leave of absence."

Luke Reese came into the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, home-based in Houston during the time mitred Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson was the founding ordinary.

In 2015, Msgr. Steenson visited Holy Rosary parish. This was before Luke Reese was ordained. At the time. Reese was the leader of the St. Joseph of Arimathea Anglican Use Society and was shepherding his group of 18 into the Catholic Church.

The Monsignor was impressed with what he saw in Indianapolis.

"I did not realize how well-formed this (Anglican Use) community is. This is a real group of people. It's a tremendous core that can be built upon to grow a parish," he said at the time. "Once Luke is ordained, the community will be further stabilized. I would then think that you'd see more interest."

Poster Boy Priest

When Fr. Reese was ordained, he was touted as the first married priest in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the first Ordinariate priest that Bishop Lopes ordained. Now he may be the first Ordinariate priest to be divorced and face domestic violence criminal charges.

Just days before his alleged altercation with his wife, a video was posted on You Tube where he is seen speaking before a Catholic Cursillo group at Holy Rosary Church.

"I have a wife and seven children," he explains. "They are an integral part of my ministry and provide me with much support and comfort."

The Reese children range in age from teenagers to preschool. The youngest was born after the Reeses became Catholic in 2012, but before Fr. Reese was ordained in 2016.

On Dec.19, Fr. Reese filed for divorce, child custody and child support from his wife of more than 25 years. Mrs. Reese counter filed two days after Christmas. The couple has separated. Fr. Reese is listed by court documents as living in Camby, Indiana and his estranged wife is listed as living in Indianapolis. On Feb. 5, Mrs. Reese filed for a restraining order against her estranged priest-husband.

Mrs. Reese's divorce attorney, Mary Panszi, theorizes that the reason it took five months for the media to uncover the married Catholic priest's domestic abuse event is because of an institutional coverup.

"I think that's because the Catholic Church is extremely powerful," Ms. Panszi told Damian Fisher at the simchafisher.com Internet news site. "I am truly trying to distance myself and my client from the Catholic Church and those who are beholden to their faith, as I believe that they will do anything within their power to silence this matter."

Jealous Lover

Dealing with married priests who are experiencing marital problems is a venture into new territory for the Latin Rite Roman Catholic Church, and, by extension, the Ordinariates.

The Catholic Church is not fully equipped to deal with the home life, financial needs, problems and issues surrounding a married priest with wife, children and even grandchildren. The Latin Rite Church thinks in terms of "Father" it does not necessarily see the extended relationships of "Daddy" and "Grandpa." For the most part, the priest's wife is invisible.

A celibate Catholic priest's time is consumed by the church and his parish. Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends fall by the wayside as the parish and diocese demand his total focus, attention, time and energy. A married Catholic priest must find a way to balance his church responsibilities with his family obligations and the church is a jealous lover who places great pressure upon her priests. As a result, the priest's wife and family can suffer.

More married priests are entering the Catholic Church through the Ordinariates and the Pastoral Provision. There are also divorced men who have been allowed to become priests and widowed men who have found the priesthood as a late vocation. The Ordinariate and Pastoral Provision priests as well as the divorced and widowed priests all bring in extended family dynamics rarely seen in the Latin Rite Catholic Church.

Through the marital problems and eventual breakdown of Fr. Reese's marriage, played out in such a public manner, the Ordinariate -- and the overarching Catholic Church -- is learning firsthand the lessons that Anglican bodies have already learned -- marriage and the priesthood is a delicate balancing act.

VOL reached out to the Ordinariate for comment and was met with silence.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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