June 1, 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Since Father Metzger’s leave of absence in December, I have received many letters and emails from the faithful who have communicated their support for Father Metzger and their concern for the complaints lodged against him. I have read your letters and emails delivered to my office.
Before responding any further, let me say that I am deeply saddened when having to announce any allegation or complaint of potential violations involving a member of the clergy within our diocese. I am profoundly aware of the hurt, pain and disruption this causes to the life of the parish.
However, my duty as a bishop requires me to investigate such matters responsibly with the help of the Diocesan Review Board and the Priest Personnel Board, so that a careful internal assessment and review of the matter can be made. As bishop I must also carefully safeguard Father Metzger’s rights to due process and confidentiality in these matters. Details regarding these internal issues may not be publicly disclosed. Yet I can assure you that my intention is to always guarantee that priests are living up to their priestly promises and code of conduct, and that diocesan guidelines are being followed.
Also, in January 2018 when I became Bishop of the Diocese, I indicated to all the priests my wish to continue the diocesan practice of two (2) six-year terms for pastors, with exceptions only being made for those over the age of 65. This standard practice is also the norm approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Father Metzger was appointed pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in June 2005.
Therefore, after a five-month review, and in consultation with my advisory Boards, I have determined that Father Metzger will be reassigned to serve in the Diocesan Tribunal and provide sacramental ministry to monastic religious communities, and a diocesan assisted living facility beginning July 1, 2019. I am appointing Father Eric Ayers as Pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish, effective July 1st. I anticipate your warm welcome of Father Ayers, and I am confident the transition will be a smooth one.
Remembering you always in my prayers, I commend you to the loving care of Our Lord and his Blessed Mother. May you be filled with every grace and blessing.
Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout
Bishop of Richmond