Just over a month ago, on June 29, my dear canonist wrote to Bishop Barry Knestout, submitting a petition under Church law.
Michael asked that the bishop revoke his decree suspending me from public ministry. Michael pointed out that no canonical process had determined any reason for the suspension.
Michael also asked Bishop Knestout to revoke his decree removing me as pastor of the parishes of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Joseph. Michael pointed out that no canonical process had ever established that my ministry had become “harmful or ineffective,” as Church law would require.
Thirty days have passed since the bishop’s receipt of Michael’s petition. Bishop Knestout has not answered. According to Church law, that means we must consider the bishop’s response to be: No.
So yesterday Michael sent a seven-page letter to Cardinal Stella of the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome, petitioning that his Congregation intervene.
We made the following arguments to Cardinal Stella:
1. His Eminence had written in June. He identified a technical problem with our original petition. He added that, since the time limits to appeal had elapsed, I must go to my new assignment.
Michael pointed out in his petition yesterday that a subsequent exchange of letters between Bishop Knestout and myself put me in a new and different situation. The bishop stipulated in writing that I could not minister in any capacity while continuing to publish this blog you now read.
Our appeal of this stipulation has come within the required time limits, with a mandate for Michael to serve as my procurator.
2. In yesterday’s petition, Michael cited a number of facts about the state of affairs at St. Francis of Assisi and St. Joseph during my tenure as pastor. Namely, that the financial situation of St. Joseph’s improved significantly during that time, from indebtedness to liquidity. And the number of First Communions and Confirmations in both parishes increased four or five-fold.
The evidence points, therefore, to a fruitful tenure. Not “harmful or ineffective ministry,” as the law requires to justify removing a pastor.
3. We see, therefore, the only reason Bishop Knestout has for removing me as pastor: this weblog.
No evidence indicates that this blog constitutes ‘harmful and ineffective ministry,’ in and of itself. Rather, I have tried to help you, dear reader, by publishing this blog. My efforts have fallen far short of perfection, to be sure. But not without some fruit along the way.
Michael outlined all the ways in which I have sought guidance from the bishop on how to make this blog more amenable to his liking. The bishop has never engaged those efforts. Rather, Bishop Knestout has “chafed against the truths published herein” and has stipulated my total silence.
These arguments lead to the conclusion that the decree removing me as pastor is invalid.
4. Michael then addressed Bishop Knestout’s decree removing my authorization to minister as a priest. Michael explained why the continued publication of this weblog cannot justify the suspension of my faculties.
The solemn magisterium of the Church has urged the Christian faithful to make use of all the means of social communication to spread the Gospel. The magisterium has also declared that, for shepherds of souls, using the means of social communication constitutes a duty, connected with the office of preaching. Pope Benedict XVI explained that this includes “the world of digital communications.”
5. The right to use the means of social communication to spread the Gospel is not absolute. Everyone must exercise this right properly, in accord with sound Christian doctrine. A bishop has the responsibility to correct unsound teaching. I have repeatedly sought guidance from Bishop Knestout on this. But I haven’t received any.
6. Michael concluded our petition by pointing out: the Bishop’s demand that I completely remove this weblog from the internet goes against my basic human freedom, recognized and guaranteed by the teachings and law of the Church. It also goes against the duty I have to use the internet to try to spread the Gospel.
Therefore, I cannot abide by Bishop Knestout’s stipulation that I remove this blog completely. The Congregation in Rome must intervene, because “the injustices in this case cannot be left to stand.”
Also yesterday, Bishop Knestout wrote to us Catholics here in the his diocese. He noted that we “await the report from the Vatican on Theodore McCarrick.”
In fact, not everyone “awaits” the report.
Your humble servant has it on very good information that senior prelates in the U.S. already have the report.
The report confirms what you have read here, over the past two years. A high-level conspiracy in the Church covered-up the truth about McCarrick for at least two decades.
Does something in the report explain the apparently irrational ecclesiastical destruction wrought here in Rocky Mount and Martinsville, Virginia?
Our bishop has wrecked the lives of two parishes and has tried to railroad a serviceable priest out of the ministry. Hundreds of aggrieved people have appealed to higher authorities in the Church to stop this destruction. But no one has intervened.
What can explain this?
Is the answer somewhere in that secret report which now sits on the desks of some senior prelates in the U.S.?
Today we keep the 161st anniversary of the holy death of St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests. St. John Vianney, please pray for us.
I have also started praying to Katharina von Hohenzollern, who sought justice in the Church, in Rome, just as the Curé of Ars lay dying in France.
No pope has canonized Katharina, so we have to pray for her, also.
But please, dear reader, pray to St. John Vianney and to Katharina that a miracle might occur to bring peace back to our lives here.