After WUSA aired the story, the Diocese of Richmond made a comment. Mr. Leshan dutifully included the diocese’s statement in the on-line, written version of the report:
“As of this writing, this is not just about Fr. Mark’s blog,” Deborah Cox, a spokeswoman for the Richmond Diocese, said. “Fr. Mark continues to refuse to accept the assignment and the new job he has been given.”
I asked Ms. Cox to correct this statement, because it mis-characterizes the situation. As of this writing, to the best of my knowledge, she has not done so.
I very much want to work as a priest. I appealed my removal as pastor in Rocky Mount-Martinsville to the Holy See. Last month, the Congregation for the Clergy dismissed my appeal on a questionable technicality.
In the meantime, Bishop Knestout suspended my priestly faculties–that is, my authorization to minister as one of his priests. I cannot minister in any assignment without that authorization.
Bishop Knestout wrote to me last month to inform me that I cannot have my priestly faculties back while I still have a blog. Bishop Knestout himself made it all about this blog.
I pointed out to him then that his stipulation violates both canon law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to no avail.
If the bishop had not imposed his stipulation, I would have proceeded to my new assignment last month, as instructed by the Congregation for the Clergy. I would continue to fight to return to Rocky Mount-Martinsville, to be sure. But I would do so while working as diocesan prison chaplain, as assigned.
I cannot do this, however, because Bishop Knestout has not lifted my suspension.
I just want to be clear about this, because, at least to me, it’s the difference between being an obedient priest and a disobedient one. Refusing to submit to silencing does not violate priestly obedience. But refusing a legitimate assignment does.
Ms. Cox did me wrong in the way she characterized the situation. She owes me, and the readers of Mr. Leshan’s story, a correction.