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: