In Act IV of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio insists that his new wife Katherina submit her mind to his.
In mid-afternoon, Petruchio proclaims that it’s actually 7:00am. He demands that Katherina concede this. “It shall be what o’clock I say it is!”
Petruchio’s friend Hortensio comments: “Why, so this gallant will command the sun.”
Let’s imagine a courtroom scene. The members of the jury file into the box, having completed their deliberations.
The judge asks the foreman, “Have you reached a verdict?”
“Yes, Your Honor. We find the defendant not guilty!”
So the judge says to the accused: “Very well. You will retain the title of ‘free man.’ Your prison uniform will read ‘free man’ across the back of the shirt. Now, bailiff, cuff him, and take him to San Quentin.”
Yesterday, locksmiths under the direction of the pastor of a neighboring parish came to Rocky Mount and Martinsville. They locked me out of both churches, and one of the two residences, in our parish cluster.
This past Wednesday I spoke with Father Kevin. I told him that I would concede to him the duties of my office. (Since I cannot perform them, having been suspended from ministry by Bishop Knestout.)
I also told Father Kevin that I intended to continue my normal routine of residing in both parishes for part of each week. If nothing else, I could at least make sure than any maintenance problems at the houses get solved, while I work on my Shakespeare book and wait for this nightmare to end.
(For instance, the basement of the house in Rocky Mount can flood very easily. The storm drain outside the basement door tends to get clogged with fallen leaves. I sweep the area out every couple weeks.)
As it happened yesterday, only good fortune kept me from getting locked out completely. I stood in the doorway when the locksmith came to the little house in Martinsville. He did not proceed with the “re-keying” for one reason. I happened to be there.
I asked if he would return today or tomorrow. He said he didn’t know. He was in the employ of the facilities manager of St. Andrew’s. He would follow Wayne’s orders.
So I live now with the daily fear that I will leave the premises to take care of something–like do some exercise, for example–and return to find that my key doesn’t work anymore. (Don’t fret, however, dear reader. I have a plan for that possible calamity. I’m not going to wander homeless in the streets.)
The lock changing yesterday is a crime that cries to heaven for vengeance.
As I said, if I had been in one place instead of another early yesterday afternoon, I would now be completely dependent on the kindness of individuals for the thing that Holy Mother Church owes me by Her solemn commitment: a roof over my head in the parishes where I am the lawful pastor.
May God have mercy on everyone involved in changing the locks. As we read in Scripture: The Lord’s justice will not be mocked.
Like most parish priests who have labored for years to till the soil, so to speak, I think of these parishes here as rose gardens. Yesterday the diocese showed up to turn the soil for springtime. With a bulldozer.
It does not have to be this way.
On November 21, 2019, I asked Bishop Knestout to go over with me the blog posts I had written which he did not like. So that I could understand his objections and make corrections. I made the same request at a second meeting on February 5, 2020. On neither occasion did he consent to do so.
On December 14, 2019, I wrote to His Excellency, proposing the names of five brother priests of the diocese, to whom I would submit as censors for my weblog. I never got a response to this proposal.
In February of this year, an experienced industrial mediator in one of the parishes proposed to both myself and the bishop that he serve as a local censor for my blog, reviewing all posts prior to publication. I agreed to submit to this. The bishop declined.
The gentleman made the same offer again in March. I agreed again. The bishop declined again.
As far as I am concerned, all of these offers remain on the table. I want only good communication, compromise, peace, and a return to some semblance of our normal parish life here. This is what I hope and pray for.
The bishop made this controversy a matter of public debate by writing to the parishioners on March 19. My dear canon lawyer and I only appealed to the Vatican after all our attempts at compromise got nowhere. We had written to the bishop in late March, asking for a clarification of the record. We got no response.
For my part, I am ready and willing to go back to the state of affairs as they stood on November 21 of last year. Then try to work constructively from there. I said this to the bishop in person on February 5.
I say it again now. We can start over. It doesn’t have to be this way. With heaven looking down in sorrow and disgust.