His Eminence Marc Cardinal Ouellet
Prefect, Congregation of Bishops
Palazzo della Congregazioni
Piazza Pio XII, 10
00193 Roma, Italia
June 27th, 2020
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.
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.
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
4 thoughts on “Guest Post: Anthony Patriarco”
Thank you for writing and for sharing your letter.
A wonderful letter, Anthony. I am happy that this is shared on Fr. Mark’s blog so that all of us may read it. I pray that the “powers” in Rome will give heed to what you wrote. I pray for the miracle of their being willing to do what is “right” rather than “protecting” themselves with technicalities. Thank you.
Will the individuals who rule/manipulate the ‘human bureaucracy’ of the Catholic Church at this point in time be moved to a more perfect charity by letters or appeals composed by lay advocates of Fr. White? Pope Francis has lately been saying that “complaints will change nothing.” https://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-francis-on-feast-of-saints-peter-and-paul-only-prayer-unlocks-chains
I notice that no clergy have publicly come forward in support of Fr. White. Why is this? Perhaps the following story illustrates why… Behold the case of Mr. Anthony Gorgia, a recent (former) seminarian who attempted to report to Rome and to the USCCB “inappropriate physical behavior committed by vice-rector Fr. Adam Park, a priest of the archdiocese of Washington who was ordained by ex-cardinal McCarrick.
Here is an excerpt from Mr. Gorgia’s open letter, which is presently being circulating online:
“Amid pleas and messages that have emerged from the NAC stating that ‘the time is now’ for action to be taken regarding Father Park’s reported behaviors — and directed by evidence and testimonies that have come forward from seminarians — I or other concerned individuals have felt morally obligated to report this case for over a year and a half to the following responsible officials:
Vatican Congregation for Clergy
Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga
Cardinal Seán O’Malley (president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors)
Archbishop Christophe Pierre (papal nuncio to the United States)
Archbishop Bernardito Auza (former papal nuncio to the United Nations)
all U.S. ordinaries
Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service
Board of Governors of the North American College
Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Archbishop Wilton Gregory (Father Park’s ordinary)
Bishop Thomas Paprocki (Father Harman’s ordinary)
Father Christopher Argano (vocations director of the New York archdiocese)
Father James Ferreira (former priest-secretary of Cdl. Dolan)
Father Thomas Devery (Pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea, Staten Island, New York)
Despite urgent requests to these clerics for an investigation and Church laws regarding mandated reporting, the matter has been left uninvestigated by Church officials.”
Dr. Patriarco, thank you for such a well written and heartfelt letter. May your words resonate with God’s chosen church leaders that they may be persuaded to lean towards a positive change in Father Mark’s favor.
God Bless you always, Father Mark, and keep you safe. May you continue to touch our hearts and souls through your ministry.
Sincerely in Christ,