Sunday, November 16, 2008

Priest attacks reporter during interview

Ryan Chalk, a reporter at the Vacaville Reporter, has told police that he was verbally and physically attacked by a Fairfield Roman Catholic priest during an interview about an alleged conflict with a parishioner at Sunday Mass. Chalk said the incident happened at Mount Carmel Church on Wednesday.
    After identifying himself as a reporter, Chalk explained that he was working on a story about a parishioner who claimed the priest expelled her from Mass because her vehicle sported painted signs in support of president-elect Barack Obama.

    "He became very agitated," Chalk said. "He told me, 'No, we're not writing that. I did not touch her. I did not talk to her.'"
    Chalk said Meyer then threatened to file a lawsuit if any story were written and told him it was "illegal because it's none of your business."

    "At that point, I took my notepad out and asked what was illegal," Chalk said.

    Meyer became more agitated and lunged at him, Chalk said, clawing at his arm and reaching for his notepad.

    Stunned, the reporter turned to run out the door as Meyer continued to grab at him.

    "He yelled, 'Where are you going?'" said Chalk, who admitted he cursed and told the priest and another man in the parish office to stay back and threatened to call police on them if they didn't.

    "It was absolutely shocking," Chalk said. "It's the last thing I would expect from a priest. I mean, I'm sure this was not the first time he's dealt with inquiries from the media, especially with his years in that position. He should know ways to step around it or simply say 'I don't wish to comment.' That would have been fine."
The Vacaville newspaper Chalk reported the incident to police and the Sacramento Diocese, which oversees all Catholic churches in the region. A spokesman for the diocese would not comment on the attack but acknowledges the reporter had a right to ask questions.

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