Update on Principal’s-Office Drama

It must not be imagined that authority knows no bounds. Since its starting point is the permission to govern in accordance with right reason…a regime which governs solely or mainly by means of threats and intimidation, or promises of reward, provides men with no effective incentive to work for the common good. –Pope St. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris


Me, on Tuesday, after I received bishop’s phone call, then letter (sent to me via e-mail from his secretary):

Dear Anne, Thank you for your kind regards.

I would be happy to discuss blog posts with His Excellency, provided that he or you let me know ahead of time which particular posts he has in mind to discuss, and why he wants to discuss them.

Also, considering that driving to the Pastoral Center would entail a six-hour round-trip for me, and would require me to cancel parish Masses, I would prefer to have the discussion by phone.

Yours, Father Mark

Her, Wednesday morning:

Good morning Father White.  Hope you are feeling much better.  I shared your message with Bishop Knestout who is away, as you know.

The Bishop asks to meet with you here at the Pastoral Center on Wednesday, November 20th.  He has availability between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m.  Please let me know what time you wish to confirm…

Bishop Knestout asked me to convey his appreciation and he looks forward to seeing you next Wednesday.

All the best, Anne

My answer, also Wednesday morning:

Dear Anne,

I appreciate your good wishes about my health. I feel better, but this business is by no means helping.

I kindly asked for an explanation of what exactly bishop wants to discuss with me, and why.

The more I consider this proposed dialogue, the more I think that we would make the most headway by a written exchange. The written medium would eliminate the pressure of time and travel. I do not want to drive to Richmond for a meeting without understanding the reason for it.

If His Excellency intends to threaten me with any adverse consequences regarding my ministry here, I wish he would just go ahead and make his threats. The passive-aggressive tone of these communiques–all courtesy, but with implied coercion–is driving me crazy.

Love, Father Mark


…Haven’t heard anything since, dear reader. As you remember, last year I promised His Excellency that I would increase his fame by publishing all our correspondence. (After he tried to manipulate me into feeling guilty for collecting facts and speaking my mind, moderately.)

Thank you for praying, my beloved.

…Let me just anticipate a question, and answer it. Namely: Father, shouldn’t you drive to Richmond when the bishop asks you to?

Answer: In speeches to us priests, all bishops emphasize their brotherhood with us. Bishops style themselves as “servants of the servants.” That’s the rhetoric, anyway.

So let’s turn the scenario around. A hypothetical:

Me: Bishop, I need you to visit me next Wednesday at 2:00pm. Or 3:00pm.

Him: Bless you, Mark. I’m here for you. What’s going on?

Me: I need you here next Wednesday.

Him: Ok, like I said. I’m here for you. What’s up? Is it something we can talk about now, or by exchange of e-mails?


After such a conversation: Does he, the servant of the servants of the servants of God, get in the car and drive 3 1/2 hours to Martinsville on Wednesday? Don’t think so. I certainly wouldn’t expect him to. He’s not some lackey who has nothing better to do, after all.

17 thoughts on “Update on Principal’s-Office Drama

  1. Governing “in accordance with right reason;” acting as “servants of the servants of God” for their priest brothers.
    Such magnificent goals for Roman Catholic bishops. I’m praying that Bishop Knestout can manage to put these goals into practice with respect to Mark.

  2. I can’t help but chuckle…. please know it is not because im laughing at you… i just see this as going no where. I dont understand his excellency at times….sadly he seems very stubborn and with all the respect that is due his office…. he seems to want to make the transparency clear as mud…. what a shame… i hope that he will agree to just written dialogue… thats pretty late in the day to have to drive to richmond……your title of the two blogs on this seem very accurate it is just like the olden days of the principles office…. god bless you..

  3. Stand your ground it is unprofessional for the bishop to leave this to his office to contact you and not say what post he wants to discuss. and what a trip to Richmond does to your time away from two parishes. since it can be handled on the phone or in writing which I am sure he will not do. I would record any comunique from his excellency by any means. It will be harder for him to deny anything he says.
    when truth has been used all that remains are threats. As you know I am here for you always and in all things!
    God bless you always and may our Lady wrap you in her Mantel of love.
    Fr William Seuffert,

  4. I can’t even pretend to laugh – I can’t even believe all this – We have a Priest – our Pastor – caring for us in so many ways – I respect the office and the magnitude and significance of Bishop – BUT – Our Masses – Our Confessions – Our need for Private consultations with Father Mark White are critical to our growth toward the Lord. I can believe Bishop K. is busy as well but is he running back and forth supporting two parishes both with personal parishioners needs? The education Father Mark White gives us at any time we have the pleasure to be with him is beyond measure. The Love he shows in the Mass for our Lord I have not seen since my youth in Boston on visits to my grandparents. Father White I am with your Brother Father Seuffert – You stand your ground. I pray all the time for you Father and the Bishop and the Pope – The Lord surround you all – God Help Us All.

  5. I agree with the others. I support you 100%, always have and always will–absolutely no reason not to continue to do so. The people of your two parishes are blessed having you as their priest. You are open and honest in your postings. Agree with Fr. Seuffert…let it be in writing.

  6. I will play devil’s advocate. There are considerable benefits to meeting in person and having a discussion, namely to converse with one’s whole body. Seeing the body language is important. I have found in both my professional and personal life that emails tend to be misunderstood no matter how clearly one writes and wondering only leads to misunderstanding. Conversations behind the phone are better but still not optimal. Besides, a long drive is an excellent time to pray and reflect.

    I used to drive from DC to Philly once a week, up and back in the same day, leaving at 6am, returning at 9pm. I had three children at home, the youngest in day care. Somehow I managed and the timeI spent on the road, 6 hours each trip bore an amazing amount of spiritual fruit for myself and my family.

    My blessings and prayers are with you, Fr. Mark

    1. Dear Bernadette with all due respect taking care of three kids with some help at home since you didn’t say you brought them with you, Fr. Mark is responsible for two parishes with over 800 families not to mention anyone who may need a priest before a loved one dies, and there are to few priest around to cover such emergencies and the chances of a loved one dying without the sacraments is very high. When people call the parish office or Fr Mark direct they expect a priest to respond immediately! Now in this instance it is really not necessary for Fr. Mark to go all day to Richmond for a ten minute tongue lashing. Save meeting the bishop in person for really important things not for expressing his voice on what was promised.

  7. You know judy i really think thats the biggest problem from the bishop…. im sorry but i think its father marks honesty and passion….. its a true shame more of the church hierarchy doesnt have the same.

  8. Bernadette,
    The issue isn’t the value of in-person conversations and long drives. The issue is how the bishop treats Mark: like a brother whose person and work he respects — or like a lackey.

  9. I pray that Bishop Knestout sees the irony of reprimanding a holy priest for calling out the criminal cowardice of his ecclesiastical superior.

  10. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, flood your servant, Fr. Mark White with your love and mercy, courage and diligence, wisdom and peace, faith, hope and humility, and keep him in the safest place in the universe… the Immaculate Heart of our Mother. Through the Sacred Heart of our Savior, Amen.

  11. The Bishop obviously does not want any written record of what he says that could be shared online. As for trying to demand you make a trip versus a phone call for the stated purpose of discussing a blog (as opposed to some egregious violation of your duties)….this is nothing more than a pathetic power play and a selfish one at that. A real shepherd would make the trip himself to visit you if for no other reason than consideration of the flock of your parishes.
    Times are changing and Catholics are no longer going to continue to behave subserviently to the hierarchy. The bishops and cardinals need to ditch the medieval mindset once and for all and return to the Church’s real roots.

  12. You’re not a new Francis….you’re St. John the Baptist, making straight the way of the Lord. (Is it easier to draw locusts with honey, or with piss and vinegar?)

  13. Lafblast, thank you for your beautiful prayer for Fr. Mark White. I join you in praying for this special priest, as I am sure many others do also.

  14. frwilliam – So what you are saying is that marriage, raising kids, and working full time is a cake walk compared to being a priest? I beg to differ. And I don’t get to trade families every 6-12 years. And when I come home at night after doing my work job, the family is still there, with unrelenting expectation. In any case, I did not intend to trivialize Fr. Mark’s responsibilities as I am sure you didn’t intend to trivialize my challenges. The two job responsibilities are very different, each with their own challenges.

    Anne – The note about being treated like a lackey and/or any disrespect sent his way by the bishop did not escape me. As I mentioned, I was stating an opposing view.

    1. my dear Bernadette I raised a family before becoming a priest. I know the demands a family takes up of your Joyful life. and it is demanding yes. But imangine that with a family of two or three thousand being a priest is actually more demanding. In my humble Opinon. The point is time is so valuable and this is a power play not treating a faithful priest with respect nor treating his charges with respect. It always seems the priest is needed most when he is away. But God bless you and your family may all your struggles be light and your love be strong.
      Fr. William

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s