My Letter to the Vatican

[I wrote Bishop Knestout, asking him to revoke his decisions about my ministry. He answered promptly in the negative. I have taken recourse by writing to the Apostolic See, as follows.]


June 23, 2020

His Eminence Beniamino Cardinal Stella, Prefect, Congregation for Clergy


Dear Cardinal Stella,


Glory to Jesus Christ!

I hope that this letter finds Your Eminence well. My advocate, Mr. Michael Podhajsky, J.C.L. received Your Eminence’s correspondence, which you had written in response to my petition for hierarchical recourse. I appreciate your letter. That said, I write to you for two reasons, pertaining to the principles of truth and justice upon which we base our Gospel mission.

First, I do not think that justice has been served in this case. Your Eminence correctly noted in your letter to Mr. Podhajsky that we had neglected to use the word “procurator” in my original mandate to him. (We have since rectified this.) This was an oversight on our part, for which we apologize.

In that same mandate, however, I did “fully authorize” Mr. Podhajsky to “speak, negotiate, and correspond on my behalf in all canonical and legal matters as permitted under Church Law.” So, while the word “procurator” did not appear in the original mandate, I nonetheless gave Mr. Podhajsky the essential powers of a procurator, in plenty of time to take recourse within the preemptory deadlines.

Therefore, it seems to me that justice has not yet been served in regard to the matter of my hierarchical recourse. The fact is that I confront a manifest denial of justice to my person by my own bishop. I would hope that the salvation of souls, which is the ultimate purpose of the law (c. 1752), would suggest that my petition should be considered according to its merits, rather than left unheard, solely because of a minor technicality. Please remember the insistent widow in Luke 18.

As Mr. Podhajsky explained in his letter to you of April 23, 2020, my bishop decreed my removal as pastor without an appropriate cause, and without having followed the procedures outlined in the canons.

Secondly, I am sorry to have to alert you to this fact:  your letter to Mr. Podhajsky has not resolved the matter. I would kindly draw Your Eminence’s attention to the last sentence of your letter, in which you directed that I report to my new assignment “in obedience to [my] Ordinary.” Unfortunately, I cannot do this, given my present situation and circumstance.

On May 6, shortly after Mr. Podhajsky first wrote to you, my Ordinary suspended my priestly faculties, again without any appropriate or just cause. Therefore, your letter arrived in a situation more complicated than you understood. My Ordinary wrote to me on the same day that Mr. Podhajsky received your letter, and Bishop Knestout indicated that he will not restore my priestly faculties unless and until I remove my weblog from the internet.

Bishop Barry Knestout portraitI had previously written to, and met with, the bishop, to try to foster mutual understanding about the content of my weblog to which he objects. Instead of participating in such a dialogue, Bishop Knestout issued a “vetitum” forbidding me to communicate in any way, using any social media. I received this document in writing on June 17 (enclosed). I have petitioned the bishop to revoke this vetitum, to no avail.

As your Eminence knows, everyone enjoys the natural right to communicate with his or her fellow human beings, to engage in public discourse and debate. Only the cruellest tyrannies try to supress this right by unjust compulsion.

In your letter to Mr. Podhajsky, Your Eminence made no indication regarding this aspect of the situation. I can only assume that is because you had never examined the merits of the case that Mr. Podhajsky laid before you. Had you done so, you would have seen that my assertion of my right to communicate was, in fact, the precipitating factor behind the events that motivated my petition for hierarchical recourse. Also, as you will note from the letter I received from my ordinary on June 19 (enclosed), he appears to prefer that your Congregation settle this matter, rather than he himself.

Please forgive my presumption on your time and attention. But I must insist that your Congregation consider the merits of this case in full. This is a question of a fundamental human right, as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlines it.

My Ordinary’s attempt to unilaterally extinguish my right to communicate now constitutes a serious scandal among the people of this region. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Bishop Knestout himself, and the provincial Archbishop, William Lori, of Baltimore, have received correspondence from many quarters on this matter. This correspondence, from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, will verify the danger of scandal that exists here, should my case not receive a fair hearing on the merits.

I thank Your Eminence for your attention to this letter. I look forward to the favor of a response.


Respectfully yours,

Reverend Mark D. White

Pharisee and Publican

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior… He has looked with favor on His lowly servant… The Almighty has done great things for me; holy is His name. He has mercy on those who fear Him. He has scattered the proud and lifted up the lowly… He has remembered His promise of mercy.

Who said these words? The immaculate Virgin, paragon of all virtues. The Queen of all the saints. Holier than the highest angels. She exalts only God. She recognizes: Goodness, soundness, righteousness–it comes from God. Justice is God’s. [Spanish]

The gospel passage for Sunday Mass cuts very close to home. Two men went up to the Temple. To God’s house, where priests offered sacrifice on the altar. The special building for prayer and communion with the Almighty.

Head of a Pharisee by Leonardo da Vinci
da Vinci “Head of a Pharisee”

Sounds like church. Sounds like us. The passage could just as easily read: “Two people went to Mass to pray.”

We read: One was a Pharisee. The other a tax collector.

The Pharisees. They knew the ancient Scriptures. Honest Pharisees obeyed them—or at least tried to. The good Pharisees lived for the God of Abraham, longing to keep His commandments and please Him in every way.

Even though they couldn’t exactly keep every commandment. Since the practical circumstances had changed significantly since the Law of Moses was originally written down.

Since Moses’ time, the Temple had been built, then destroyed, then re-built, then desecrated, then re-consecrated. The Hebrews had captured Jerusalem, lost it, re-taken it, then lost it again. The nation had united under one king, then divided under two, then gotten exiled, then restored, then conquered, then partially restored—under a half-Jewish monarch. Who then died, and his children divided up the kingdom, as clients of the Roman emperor.

All the Jews didn’t live near Jerusalem anymore, or even in the Holy Land. Moses never wrote anything about synagogues. Or about Pharisees or rabbis, for that matter. The Pharisees were trying to make ancient Judaism coherent in the cosmopolitan Roman empire.

moses_ten_commandmentsTax collectors, on the other hand, lived in a different “psychological space,” so to speak. Pharisees and zealots regarded tax collectors as totally compromised, as traitors.

But the tax collectors probably thought: “Okay, fair enough. Compromised, yes. We have divided loyalties. But don’t we all really? This is the world we live in. The Romans may be foreigners and pagans. But they know how to build aqueducts and keep the peace.”

So maybe we could say: Two people came to Mass to pray. An abstract-minded purist. And a compromised realist. Both came to Mass to commune with the one, true God, Who transcends everything earthly.

One of them prayed honestly; the other did not.

The one saw compromises everywhere, except in himself. “Gosh, all these other people fudge the truth, and long only to fill their bellies, and can’t keep their marital commitments. Thank You, God, that I am not like them! By following some key parts of Your Law, I maintain pure righteousness!”

The Lord might reasonably have asked the Pharisee: “Why did you come up to the Temple in the first place, My child? Did you think I needed you to inform Me, regarding your virtues?

“Do I not see all and know all? Did I not give you clarity and strength of will, in the first place, to enable you to remain faithful in marriage? Have I not given you enough wealth that you can tithe without feeling any pinch? Do you not understand that without My generous blessings, you would be a million times worse than the most-depraved tax-collector? And that, without the economic benefit of the Roman Empire, you would right now be cursing me like Job?”

Meanwhile, the practical realist, compromised as he was, managed an honest prayer.

“O great and mysterious God, behold a compromised man among compromised men. Have mercy on me. Have mercy on us. You are great; we are not. Have mercy. We don’t deserve Your blessings. But keep them coming another day, anyway—if it be Your will.”

Of the two men in the Temple, who prayed more like Abraham? Or more like the holy Virgin? Who saw the world according to the wisdom of the cross?

Grunewald the Small Crucifixion

He loves us this much. We are this bad. This is what we deserve, to die with nothing. He took it upon Himself, for us. We are unworthy sinners, whom God loves out of pure kindness. May He have mercy on us. To Him be all the glory.

Chariot Race to Heaven

Goody's Martinsville NASCAR

Long before NASCAR, they held chariot races. Sometimes a team of two horses pulled the chariot.

Maybe you will rejoice to learn that, according to St. John Chrysostom, the gospel parable this Sunday actually narrates a head-to-head chariot race.

St John Chrysostom in St PatricksThe Pharisee drives one chariot. The first horse on his two-horse team: Righteousness! The Pharisee fasts, and he tithes, and he does them both above and beyond the call of duty. Jews were bound by divine law to fast once a year. He fasts twice a week! Jews were bound to give 10% of their agricultural produce. He gave 10% of his entire income!

No question. He is righteous. And righteousness is a fast horse.

Problem is, the second horse in the Pharisee’s team is…Pride. “Thank you, Lord, for making me better than other men.” And the particular breed of his pride? Contemptuous. “Not only, Lord, did you make me better than other men in general. You made me better than this particular loser standing in the shadows of the colonnade at the back of the temple courtyard.”

Continue reading “Chariot Race to Heaven”