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

11 thoughts on “Letter to Bishop Knestout

  1. So well written Father. I as one of your parishioners am grateful for the diligence in your quest to be outspoken on the sexual matters inhibitting and hurting our Seminarians, our wonderful youth who serve the Lord by being alter servers, and the ‘pew’ Catholics. I so wish the pain you must be suffering could be eased for you and that your priestly duties could and rightfully should be reinstated to you. Know dearest Father Mark their are so many of us steeped in prayer for you. We have the Fauth and courage as you teach and show by example to stand beside you in this quest for our Mother Church to be healed from within. The victims are ever with me in prayer as you are. God Bless you Father Mark for standing for justice and truth and our TRINITY. We are in need of you but are willing to wait for your return to us as Christ’s representative.

  2. Bravo, Father. Prayers going up for you, and for your parishioners.

    I am conflicted internally whether to stay with the Church. I am a lifelong Catholic, but I am not sure the bishop realizes how this is affecting the flock. I am deeply hurt by everything happening in the world today. The division is almost irreparable, and the cover up in the Catholic Church hurts me more than I can put into words. This should be a time for the faithful to go to Mass and hear the Gospel and the soothing words in the Homily. I always feel better after Mass. Isn’t that what most everyone says? Well, it’s true for me as well. But lately, I haven’t wanted to go the Mass. I have stopped watching the livestreams on Sunday, and have stopped my online gifting. I feel let down by my Church leaders. I hope Bishop Knestout does read these comments because I personally do not believe he has the interest of the flock in his heart. Jesus was free from sin, but man is not. The Catholic Church is being run by politicians who are not interested in justice!
    I am fully certain this will cause comments against me, but I don’t care. And I didn’t write them to cause problems for Mark, but I needed to say it.

  3. You, Father, inspire me to be a better Christian and Catholic. It is apparent you speak for many others. I continue to pray for you and the Bishop. His concordance with you can be a major step forward in the healing that is so desperately needed. Gods will is always first. For you to remain as pastor of His flocks in Martinsville and Rocky Mount is surely His Divine will.

  4. Bev – I understand your feelings but I hope and pray you and others will stay and fight. This is Jesus’ church and I believe He calls us to have courage and seek the truth. Remember He did not hesitate to flip tables in the temple when he saw His Father’s house desecrated. How much more must the abuse and cover-up of abuse of children anger the Lord compared with money-changers and merchants? I think good people can arrive at different decisions regarding financing the diocese, staying with a particular parish, etc., but please don’t let our badly behaving bishop drive you away!

  5. Ad nauseam! Your quest for controversy seems more important to you than your
    love of ministry and the promises you made when you were consecrated to the priesthood.

  6. Dear KT: I do not know Fr. White (or the bishop, for that matter), but nothing I have read on this blog leads me to believe Fr. is on a quest for controversy. The letter to the bishop is completely without rancor. I hope the bishop’s reply is, too, but his actions heretofore do not give me much reason to think it will be.

  7. I think that God has given to you, Fr. Mark, a most daunting task…to pursue revealing and laying open the problems within the Catholic church regarding sexual abuse and sinful behavior in its many forms, and the use of power to hide the truth and silence those who speak out. For all of us, it is a time of decision to continue to speak up against what is happening and to support you as you go through this trial. I believe the Bishop has done more to damage the faith of the parishioners and to cause people to turn away from the Catholic faith than anything you have said or written. Why is it that a priest who teaches us about God’s love, about forgiveness, about serving God, about the “mystery of faith,” is now threatened with being silenced. There is a vast difference between “obedience” and “blind obedience.” I pray for those priests who know what is happening and are afraid of the Bishop doing to them what he is doing to you if they speak out. I pray also for myself for my own sins and mistakes, which are many, but I also pray for courage to support and work for what is right, for truth and justice. Although I have lost all respect for, and lack faith in, the Bishop, I will continue to pray for the Bishop that his heart may be opened to reconciliation for the good of all. I pray that your voice will continue to be heard, if it is God’s will, and that God will protect you, give you strength and grant you peace, and bless us by returning you to us as our priest.

  8. As a survivor of childhood rape and sexual abuse over fifty years ago at the hands of my parish priest, I have shared with Fr. Mark that Bishop Knestout is one off the spiritual fathers that helped me move from victim to survivor after I returned to the Catholic Church following a forty year absence. Fr. Mark’s response to me was extremely patronizing. He told me, “I think you may be idealizing him (Bishop Knestout). Fr. Mark, if I as a survivor take solace in the shepherding of Bishop Knestout and Pope Francis, who are you to suggest that I might be idealizing anyone? These two men have brought me comfort and helped me, once again, to find a home in the Catholic Church.

    If anyone is being idealized, it is you. As the widow of a Black man and the mother of two Black daughters, I was appalled that on the Facebook page, Justice For Fr. Mark, someone compared your situation with Bishop Knestout to the murder of George Floyd. That post was beyond hurtful and insensitive.

    When this all started, the Bishop asked you to do two things, take down this blog and publically apologize to Pope Francis for your disgraceful open letter to him. If you would have complied, you would still have access to the churches, the rectories, and most importantly your congregations. We all have first amendment rights but in my 50 years of working, in roles as significant as the CFO, my first amendment rights did not apply to the workplace. When I did not want to be silenced, I handed in my resignation and walked away.

    I will end with a quote from your blog. “Please don’t ask me what I did to piss-off the bishop so much that he has moved me, with no evident rationale, away from my aged mother in a nursing home, so that I won’t be able to visit her daily anymore.
    Please don’t ask. If there is an answer, I’m pretty sure that it’s not available in English.” May 2017, referring to Bishop DiLorenzo’s decision to transfer you from St. Andrew’s back to St. Francis of Assisi and St. Joseph’s. Sound familiar?

    1. Dear Mary Helen, I am glad to hear back from you. I apologize for asking a patronizing question. I understand your feelings about the comparison with George Floyd. May he rest in peace. I think the person who posted about that in the facebook group might have had a well-meaning intention in mind.

      I don’t think the comparison with the corporate workplace really works here. The Church has rules aimed at preserving the stability of parishes. Those rules call for a process of information-gathering and consultation when a bishop intends to remove a pastor against his will. My appeal to the Vatican only asked that we follow those rules.

      It seems to me that I would have a cause of action in a secular court, if the institution involved here were not the Church. Our courts in the US stay out of the internal affairs of churches, in deference to the First Amendment. But we, as a Church, have committed ourselves to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Bishop’s Knestout’s order to me appears to violate Article 13.

      The Lord consecrated me His priest forever, albeit through the hands of a criminal fleeing justice, Theodore McCarrick. I can’t just “walk away.”

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