Bishop Knestout Affair

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The Heart of the Matter (June 20, 2020)

On March 20, 2020, the Bishop of Richmond sent an e-mail to our two parish offices. He instructed us to disseminate a letter he had written to the parishioners of St. Joseph in Martinsville and St. Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount.

Bishop Barry Knestout portraitClick HERE to read Bishop Knestout’s letter.

I wrote a letter, attached to the bishop’s letter to the parishioners. Click HERE to read my letter.

In my letter, I refer to a number of documents:

  1. Click HERE to read the dialogue between Bishop Knestout and myself in September 2018.
  2. My notes, taken immediately after my meeting with Bishop Knestout, on November 21, 2019.
  3. My letter to the bishop of December 14, 2019.
  4. My letter of January 11, 2020.
  5. Full transcript of the meetings that occurred on February 5th and 6th
  6. My March 13, 2020, letter to Bishop Knestout, with canon-law arguments.

In his letter, the bishop cites some blog-post headlines. Here are links to those posts:

  1. Pope Francis a Heretic?
  2. The Opaque “Transparency” of the Richmond Diocese
  3. The College of Lying Cowards

And he quotes from two posts, namely:

  1. Count the Holy See Among the Abusers
  2. McCarrick Verdict

I gave a homily about the situation on Jan. 12, 2020: Pleasing God and Free Speech

On March 27, my canon lawyer wrote to Bishop Knestout, asking the bishop to correct the record. No response.

On Easter Monday, April 13, Bishop Knestout wrote once again to the parishioners. Click HERE for information about that.

On the following day, the bishop began his extra-legal campaign to break my resolve, and my lawyer fought back, all fully documented HERE.

On June 17, 2020, my canon lawyer received a letter from the Vatican, dismissing the case on a questionable technicality. The same day, I received a letter from Bishop Knestout ordering my silence as a condition for my return to priestly ministry.

I wrote back to the bishop, pointing out the injustice of the Vatican’s decision, asking that he consider the merits of the case, and offering means of compromise about this blog (for the fifth time). I also wrote to my parishioners, to keep everyone informed.

The bishop summarily rejected my petitions, so I formally appealed the bishop’s silencing order (summarily rejected) and then wrote to the Vatican myself.

We planned a prayerful vigil at the cathedral, on the occasion of the bishop’s annual Mass with the priests, which I could not concelebrate, since he suspended my mininstry. Mr. Ben Dennis of WRIC Richmond, and Bill Wyatt of Martinsville Bulletin, reported on the vigil.

Then we planned a trip to visit the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. Mr. Bruce Leshan of WUSA9 in Washington reported on it, in advance. Bill Wyatt of the Martinsville Bulletin, Santiago Melli-Huber of WFXR, and Paul Murano and David Nussman of Church Militant, also reported on it, in print and video.

On August 3, my canon lawyer wrote again to the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome, arguing that my suspension should be lifted, and I should be restored to the office of pastor.

We held another prayerful demonstration in front of our cathedral, on Sunday, August 16, to greet students returning to the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University (which surrounds the cathedral in Richmond). Bill Wyatt reported on it in the Martinsville Bulletin.

In mid-September, the Vatican replied again: We will not hear your case.

On May 6, 2021, Bishop Knestout notified me that he had petitioned the pope to “remove me from the clerical state.”

Church Militant reported on this, then Michael Voris interviewed me:

Then Voris commented on the situation. Bill Wyatt of the Martinsville Bulletin reported on it. Chris O’Leary interviewed me. And Kerri O’Brien reported on it:

In September 2021, Bishop Knestout initiated an “extrajudicial penal process” to consider charges against me of disobedience and incitement.

In November 2021, I published a reflection on my 2018-2019 scandal posts and withdrew them from circulation for the time being, in order to study them privately in an effort to improve my self-knowledge.

My “Dispatches from the Ecclesiastical Gulag”

#1 attempts to make sense of my “offenses” under Church law (May 15, 2020)

#2 considers the Roman tribunal that will consider the case and asks for a recusal (May 17)

#3 laments that I cannot welcome my parishioners back to Mass, after the ten-week coronavirus suppression of public Masses (May 19)

#4 updates the reader about my residence and how we can see each other (May 23)

#5 considers freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and evangelization (June 4)

#6 asks, What does “Justice for Father Mark” Mean? (July 4)

#7 outlines The Discussion We Want to Have (July 16)

#8 Canonical Arguments and the Secret McCarrick Report (August 4)

#9 Walter Winchell + the Gas-lit Gulag (August 25)

#10 Interview from the Ecclesiastical Gulag (May 16, 2021)

Testimony Letters

Joseph Saunders in Legal Examiner (April 23, 2020)

Kaitlyn Long on Criticism and Love (May 11)

Elizabeth Ashbrook to the Martinsville Bulletin: Bishop, Leave Fr. Mark Alone (May 17)

EmilyMarie Anderson on the Goofy Father (May 18)

Dottie Klammer of SNAP to Richmond Times Dispatch: Silence Won’t End Abuse (May 19)

Christ Episcopal Church Martinsville, Clergy and Vestry (May 21)

Mrs. Donna McGarry on the Richmond Diocese Causing Problems (June 2)

Statement of Support from Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (June 23)

Bernadette Harmon to the Congregation for Bishops (June 24)

Anthony Patriarco (June 30)

Patricia Gurley (July 1)

Alex McMurtrie III (July 3)

Judy Rogers (July 8)

Tom Cook (May 7, 2021)

Catholic Whistleblowers (May 15)

Justice for Father Mark on-line petition (2020)

Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse “Help Father White!” petition (2021)

Media coverage, in addition to the links provided above:

Mr. Tom Lee wrote a letter to the editor.

Mr. Bill Wyatt of the Martinsville Bulletin told the story. As did Kerri O’Brien, Caroline Eaker, Kristine Christlieb, and Doug Mainwaring.

Also: Santiago Melli-Huber, Kendall Davis, Ines San Martin, Kaicey Baylor, Bradley Eli, Claire Giangrave, Doug Mainwaring again, Mike Hoffman, Bradley Eli again, Santiago Melli-Huber again, and Bill Wyatt again.

Also: Santiago Melli-Huber once again.

Also: Steven Doyle, Michelle Boorstein and Gene Gomulka.

Dottie Klammer of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests wrote a letter to the editor. And Ben Williams wrote a column.

After the June Vatican decision, Santiago Melli-Huber visited again. Bill Wyatt and Brad Eli both wrote again.

Anglican Watch interview, January 2021

William Mahoney of Church Militant, May 13, 2021

LifeSiteNews interview, published September 16, 2021:

[click HERE for the accompanying article]