Guest Post: Anthony Patriarco

His Eminence Marc Cardinal Ouellet

Prefect, Congregation of Bishops

st-peters-sunrisePalazzo della Congregazioni

Piazza Pio XII, 10

00193 Roma, Italia


June 27th, 2020


Your Eminence,


Father Mark White, pastor in the diocese of Richmond Virginia in the United States, has been suspended from public ministry. His Excellency, Bishop Barry Knestout, issued the decree with subsequent further instructions to vacate the rectory and prohibitions to interact with his parishioners.

With a regret borne of despair, we continue to be informed that Father Mark’s petition for hierarchical recourse has been refused. His Eminence Beniamino Cardinal Stella, Prefect, Congregation for Clergy, noted in his letter to Father Mark’s canonical lawyer, a Mr. Podhajsky, that they had neglected to use the word “procurator” in Father Mark’s original mandate to his representative, and this was partly the basis for the failure of Father Mark’s petition for hierarchical recourse.

As the Church and Christ’s words have stressed, there is no Justice and no hope of Reconciliation without God’s Grace and Love. Bishop Knestout himself, during Divine Mercy Sunday Mass at our parish, declared that the point of Father Mark’s judicial appeal was so we could be reconciled as brothers and sisters in Christ.

However, within a brief span of time, before this appeal was completed, the Bishop circumvented this process and suspended Father Mark and deprived him of the mutual love and respect of his parishioners. With due respect, it does not seem that a reliance on the technicality of naming a procurator reflects Justice and Reconciliation, since it appears deprived of God’s Grace of His Love.

St. Joseph’s, Martinsville

But instead a further dry discussion over the technicality of an abbreviated judicial appeal, I wanted to speak of Father Mark’s joyful public ministry at our two local parishes that he serves—Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount, Virginia, and St Joseph’s in Martinsville, Virginia. It is rare, truly rare, to find the Joy in ministry that Father Mark brings. As we are all aware, without God’s Love and Grace, there cannot be true Joy. Without the Holy Spirit moving within us, there can be no true Joy in the fulfillment of God’s promise for us.

Father Mark’s ministry is a rare instance of true Joy in one’s calling. It is a Joy that fills our parishes with Love, and with a vibrancy that is not all that common in many of our parishes today.

It is gift to us that Father truly communicates with his parishioners. Father genuinely listens—with his whole heart, with his full attention and with the wisdom of our Christian Faith. It is a true communication, with each seeking to learn and understand each other, and not a lecture. He has helped me, and others, grow in Faith and Love with his patient communication.

It is a gift to us that Father’s Joy in the Word overflows during the celebration of Mass. Personally, I have transferred from another area parish because God’s Word during his sermons resonates so clearly with me. His Joy in the gift of the Mass is an inspiration and not a mechanistic chore, as it seems at times to a few other priests.

It is a gift to us that Father energizes with the Holy Spirit such a vibrant and nurturing Catholic community. It is a living, dynamic, and growing Faith community, not one that is stagnant and fossilized. With Father’s leadership and example, we celebrate together the many joys of God’s Love for us, and we mourn together the burdens that life may bring. It is a multilingual and multicultural community. It is such a young and dynamic Faith community that, for example, has been inspired by Father to produce more than its share of seminarians for such a small parish.

St Francis of Assisi Rocky Mount
St. Francis of Assisi, Rocky Mount

It is a gift to us that Father is kind and caring shepherd to the flock that God has entrusted him with. He is our shepherd who unfailingly guides us in our Catholic Faith and in its teachings. He is our shepherd that unfailingly manifests God’s Love for each and every one of His children. He is our shepherd who is unfailingly there in our time of personal and community need.

Father Mark is a gift to his flock of God’s Love and Grace. Father Mark is an inspirational priest in his ministry for us in how to live God’s purpose for each and every one of us in our lives.  Father Mark’s purpose is in public ministry and his Joy in this ministry is evidence that he has met God’s call for him.

The suspension of Father Mark from the public ministry that God has called him to with such Joy deprives him of the core of his purpose. And Father alone does not suffer in this deprivation. Those of us of his parish who are inspired by God’s Love and Grace though him are also deprived. As a loving and caring Catholic community, we also suffer by his absence and suspension from the public ministry. And, I would humbly suggest, that our Catholic Church as a whole suffers and is deprived when such a gifted minister is shunted aside.

How can Justice and Reconciliation be consistent with God’s Love and Grace without so much as a canon appeal of his situation? Dismissed, based on a technicality?  How is suspending Father Mark from his ministry and from the parishioners who love him consistent with God’s Love? How is suspending Father Mark from the Church, who he is so clearly devoted to, and isolating him from his brethren priests consistent with God’s Loving understanding of us?

With deep humility, please at least hear Father Mark’s canonical appeal according to its merits and find a path forward with God’s Love and Grace to resolve this situation.


Yours in Christ,

Anthony G. Patriarco, MD, PhD

Articles and Flyer


He Died on a Cross, So I Take Up Mine

[If I could preach on Sunday, I would say this…]


Take up your cross, and follow Me, says the Lord Jesus. [Spanish]

We all live according to fundamental facts. Like: Where was I born? Where did I grow up? What’s my native language? Who are my parents?

Fundamental facts like these give meaning to our lives. They shape us. Reflecting on these basic facts helps us know who we are.

What about the fundamental facts that we all have in common? Is there a fundamental fact that gives meaning to the existence of the entire human race, considered as a whole? Yes.

Almighty God became one of us. And He suffered unjust condemnation, and died by unjust execution, during the time of the Roman empire, then rose from the dead.

divine-mercyThe Romans had special contempt for certain criminals. They executed those particular criminals by hanging them on wooden crosses, in full view of everyone. Almighty God died this way. He died a human death, as the most honest, most gentle, most kind human being ever to walk the earth. Jesus of Nazareth died on a Roman cross as the divine sacrificial Lamb.

The eternal Word, through Whom all things were made, submitted to this for His own sublime reason. Namely, mercy. God’s death on the cross unfolds for us the full reality of who we are, we human beings. Sinners, upon whom God has showered His mercy. Divine Mercy. He died, because none of us has any “right” to go to heaven, but He wills to give us heaven anyway, as a gift.

The fundamental fact of the life of the human race: God died on a Roman cross to atone for all the wrong we have done, and to open the door for us to a good, holy life. God loves me this much, just as I am, right here and now. He did this—died on a cross—for love of me, to give me holiness and heaven.

Ancient Roman fountain in Corinth

All I have to do is: believe in Him, hope in Him, and love Him back.

To grasp this fundamental fact of human life = to receive the Christian faith. I behold God crucified for us, and my heart moves with God’s divine love.

All my failures to love—all the ways I have wronged the God of truth and mercy, Who loves me, plus all the ways I have wronged my fellow redeemed sinners—all those sins on my part: they pain me and weigh on me, when I see them from the point-of-view of Christ crucified. I long to kneel at His feet, and confess them all, so I can make a fresh start. Then all I want to do is: imitate this crucified rabbi.

So I “take up my cross.” I embrace life as a pure gift given to me by Jesus. I must use it well—use my life just as Jesus used His—in order to follow Him to heaven. I greet every day as an opportunity to do penance for my sins and to serve.

“Take up your cross” has become a cliché among Christians. A nice, little gold cross can serve as a lovely adornment on a necklace.

But a resident of the Roman empire would see such a necklace and gasp. We have to let the Lord bring our minds back to the hard first-century facts, related by the New Testament. A resident of the Roman empire would gasp at the sight of a gold cross on a necklace because: That’s how the Roman army tortured and killed the criminals they hated the most.

And: It’s also the way to heaven.

On His cross, Jesus desired one thing: To rest His soul on the bosom of the Father. The crucified rabbi reigns as King of the Universe precisely by having only this one desire. Namely that the Father’s eternal plan of love would come to fulfillment.

To follow that path, behind Him… How totally must we abandon ourselves? How much trust must we have?

St. Paul put it like this: “Neither death nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, can separate” us from Him. “Think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.” “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”



Peaceful Demonstration: Plan to Join Me

Justice Demonstration

Every year, the bishop and priests gather to celebrate Mass together. We priests re-affirm our solemn promises. It’s called the Chrism Mass, after the holy oil consecrated during the liturgy.

sacredheartcathedralrichmondThis year, our Chrism Mass will occur in the evening of Friday, July 10, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 823 Cathedral Place, Richmond VA 23220.

On May 5, Bishop Knestout prohibited me from publicly celebrating the sacraments, so I cannot participate. The injustice cries to heaven.

I will stand in silent vigil on the sidewalk immediately outside the Cathedral, beginning at 5:00pm.

Please stand with me. Acompañame, por favor.

Plan to take all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

Justice for Father Mark will offer free transportation by van from both Rocky Mount and Martinsville, departing at 11:45am and returning about 11pm. Join the facebook group page to receive further information.

My Letter to the Vatican

[I wrote Bishop Knestout, asking him to revoke his decisions about my ministry. He answered promptly in the negative. I have taken recourse by writing to the Apostolic See, as follows.]


June 23, 2020

His Eminence Beniamino Cardinal Stella, Prefect, Congregation for Clergy


Dear Cardinal Stella,


Glory to Jesus Christ!

I hope that this letter finds Your Eminence well. My advocate, Mr. Michael Podhajsky, J.C.L. received Your Eminence’s correspondence, which you had written in response to my petition for hierarchical recourse. I appreciate your letter. That said, I write to you for two reasons, pertaining to the principles of truth and justice upon which we base our Gospel mission.

First, I do not think that justice has been served in this case. Your Eminence correctly noted in your letter to Mr. Podhajsky that we had neglected to use the word “procurator” in my original mandate to him. (We have since rectified this.) This was an oversight on our part, for which we apologize.

In that same mandate, however, I did “fully authorize” Mr. Podhajsky to “speak, negotiate, and correspond on my behalf in all canonical and legal matters as permitted under Church Law.” So, while the word “procurator” did not appear in the original mandate, I nonetheless gave Mr. Podhajsky the essential powers of a procurator, in plenty of time to take recourse within the preemptory deadlines.

Therefore, it seems to me that justice has not yet been served in regard to the matter of my hierarchical recourse. The fact is that I confront a manifest denial of justice to my person by my own bishop. I would hope that the salvation of souls, which is the ultimate purpose of the law (c. 1752), would suggest that my petition should be considered according to its merits, rather than left unheard, solely because of a minor technicality. Please remember the insistent widow in Luke 18.

As Mr. Podhajsky explained in his letter to you of April 23, 2020, my bishop decreed my removal as pastor without an appropriate cause, and without having followed the procedures outlined in the canons.

Secondly, I am sorry to have to alert you to this fact:  your letter to Mr. Podhajsky has not resolved the matter. I would kindly draw Your Eminence’s attention to the last sentence of your letter, in which you directed that I report to my new assignment “in obedience to [my] Ordinary.” Unfortunately, I cannot do this, given my present situation and circumstance.

On May 6, shortly after Mr. Podhajsky first wrote to you, my Ordinary suspended my priestly faculties, again without any appropriate or just cause. Therefore, your letter arrived in a situation more complicated than you understood. My Ordinary wrote to me on the same day that Mr. Podhajsky received your letter, and Bishop Knestout indicated that he will not restore my priestly faculties unless and until I remove my weblog from the internet.

Bishop Barry Knestout portraitI had previously written to, and met with, the bishop, to try to foster mutual understanding about the content of my weblog to which he objects. Instead of participating in such a dialogue, Bishop Knestout issued a “vetitum” forbidding me to communicate in any way, using any social media. I received this document in writing on June 17 (enclosed). I have petitioned the bishop to revoke this vetitum, to no avail.

As your Eminence knows, everyone enjoys the natural right to communicate with his or her fellow human beings, to engage in public discourse and debate. Only the cruellest tyrannies try to supress this right by unjust compulsion.

In your letter to Mr. Podhajsky, Your Eminence made no indication regarding this aspect of the situation. I can only assume that is because you had never examined the merits of the case that Mr. Podhajsky laid before you. Had you done so, you would have seen that my assertion of my right to communicate was, in fact, the precipitating factor behind the events that motivated my petition for hierarchical recourse. Also, as you will note from the letter I received from my ordinary on June 19 (enclosed), he appears to prefer that your Congregation settle this matter, rather than he himself.

Please forgive my presumption on your time and attention. But I must insist that your Congregation consider the merits of this case in full. This is a question of a fundamental human right, as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlines it.

My Ordinary’s attempt to unilaterally extinguish my right to communicate now constitutes a serious scandal among the people of this region. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Bishop Knestout himself, and the provincial Archbishop, William Lori, of Baltimore, have received correspondence from many quarters on this matter. This correspondence, from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, will verify the danger of scandal that exists here, should my case not receive a fair hearing on the merits.

I thank Your Eminence for your attention to this letter. I look forward to the favor of a response.


Respectfully yours,

Reverend Mark D. White

Letter to Bishop Knestout

[dear reader, I present to you my appeal to the bishop, as I promised yesterday]


June 22, 2020

Your Excellency,

Thank you for your prompt, same-day response to my letter of Friday, June 19.

I appreciate your fraternal courtesy in asking me to resign as pastor of Rocky Mount-Martinsville. You write that you think my doing so would be for the good of the parishes.

In assessing what is for the good of the parishes, I ask you to consider the proofs that you already possess. The parishes need a bi-lingual pastor who can make a happy and healthy life, living part-time each week in two different towns separated by a 30-mile drive. Not many priests would volunteer for such duty; for me it is a great joy.

The Mass-attendance, religious-education, and financial records of the parishes during my two tenures as pastor attest to their stability and growth under my care, as do the sacramental records. Your office, and the offices of Archbishops Lori and Pierre, have received many testimonies to my fitness as pastor over the course of the past several months.

A large body of evidence, therefore, demonstrates that it would not be for the good of the parishes for me to resign as pastor. I decline to do so. I ask again that you restore my priestly faculties, so that I may continue my work in Rocky Mount and Martinsville.

On the matter of my publishing a weblog, I thank you again for providing me in writing the words of the vetitum that you read aloud to me some months ago. As I noted in my letter on Friday, I first received this admonition in writing just last week, in your letter dated June 17, 2020.

I mean no offense when I point out to you that everyone has the right to communicate with his or her fellow human beings. You have written in the vetitum:

Reverend Mark White is to cease from this moment in disseminating his opinions by means of any social media: in print, by audio, or video, or any digital means.

You do not have the authority to compel my silence in this manner. Your prohibition violates canon 212.3, as well as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I petition you to revoke this vetitum.


Yours in Christ, Mark

Letter to Parishioners

June 21, 2020

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord, [Spanish]

I hope this finds you well, enjoying a happy Fathers’ Day. I have missed seeing you regularly these past months. The virus has separated us, and continues to separate us.

As you know, Bishop Knestout issued a decree removing me as pastor of our parishes and then suspended my priestly ministry completely. With the help of a Church lawyer, I lodged appeals against both of these unjust decisions.

The Vatican has responded to the first appeal. Beniamino Cardinal Stella wrote to my lawyer. [see below] The Cardinal noted that my lawyer’s first submission in the case omitted one word, a word I myself had never heard before: “procurator.” According to the Cardinal, that omission of one word has nullified our entire case. I think it’s safe to say: someone invented the term “technicality” for situations just like this. 

Bishop Knestout wrote to urge me to resign as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Joseph. And the bishop insists that I cannot minister as a priest, in any capacity, if I continue to communicate via social media, or if I criticize the hierarchy in any way.

I respect the bishop. I have offered proposals for ways to resolve our conflict. But I am not ready to give up fighting for a reasonable outcome to this case. I don’t think I should resign as pastor here. I’m far from perfect, of course. But I think we do well together, you and I. And I can hardly submit to the bishop’s silencing order. No society can survive without respect for the fundamental human right to communicate. I have asked the bishop to reconsider his actions. If he chooses not to do so, I will re-submit all of my arguments to the Vatican, insisting that my case be judged on the merits, rather than a technicality.

It pains me to have reached this point. The hierarchy has acted with contempt towards us. This sadly proves true the criticisms I made in my blog. No one laments this sad fact more than I do. I love the Church with all my heart.

Let’s keep in touch, through the “Justice for Father Mark” facebook group, or my blog. We find ourselves in a pitched spiritual battle together. Our faith is being sorely tried. Let’s keep loving and supporting each other, and hoping for better days.

Love, Father Mark

[I append the correspondence involved, except for Bishop Knestout’s letters to me. A couple months ago, he asked that I not publish his letters, and I honor that request.]


[More on my appeals tomorrow.]

The above letter to parishioners, read aloud in Spanish:

In English:

Update: The Heart of the Matter


If you say to me, Socrates, this time you shall be let off, but upon one condition, that you are not to inquire and speculate in this way any more, and that if you are caught doing so again you shall die— If this was the condition on which you let me go, I should reply: Men of Athens, I honor and love you, but I shall obey God rather than you.

Socrates, to the jury, as quoted in Plato’s Apology

I received a letter from my bishop on Wednesday. Bishop Knestout wrote:

Father White:

The restoration of your priestly ministry will be dependent on your taking down your blog, as you were directed by decree, specifically:

Reverend Mark White is to cease from this moment in disseminating his opinions by means of any social media: in print, by audio, or video, or any digital means… Any previous posts are to be removed from all social media and the account is to be closed.

In the exercise of his pastoral office, Father White is to refrain from all assertions against, or judgments about, the hierarchy of the Church.

Every pope for the last sixty years has endorsed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media.

I thank Bishop Knestout for putting the matter so clearly.