MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — For months now, Father Mark White has been in a fight with the Diocese of Richmond over the Bishop’s attempts to re-assign him as a prison chaplain, a direct result of Father White continuing to maintain his viral blog.
Father White announced mid-April he had been removed from his posts in Martinsville and Rocky Mount due to concerns about his blog, which is often critical of the Catholic Church’s handling of sexual abuse of minors and calls for more transparency from the Church about who helped cover it up.
In May, Father White says the Bishop changed the locks on both of his churches and the residence in Rocky Mount. However, Father White says he was able to stop the locksmith from changing the lock at the Martinsville residence, so he still has a roof over his head.
The priest decided to submit an appeal to the Vatican regarding the Bishop’s decision to move him.
Father White sent WFXR News a copy of the letter his canonical consultant and advocate, Michael J. Podhajsky, received from the Vatican earlier this month. In that letter, Vatican officials say Father White’s petition against his removal as a pastor for the Diocese of Richmond was filed improperly and thus rejected.
According to the letter from the Vatican, “the petition as presented is unable to be accepted, inasmuch as you have received from this cleric a mandate to act only as an Advocate and canonical consultant. Remonstratio to the author of the decree (cf. can. 1734) and the petition for hierarchical recourse (cf. can. 1737) must be submitted by the cleric himself or one who has been mandated to act as Procurator.”
However, by filing the form attached here, Father White empowered Podhajsky to “speak, negotiate, and correspond” on his behalf for both canonical and legal matters, which Father White says is the very definition of a “Procurator.”
Nevertheless, the letter from the Vatican says the time limit to properly submit a petition have passed as of June 2 and encourages Father White to report to his new assignment.
As for that new assignment, Father White shared a letter with WFXR News from June 17 in which Bishop Barry C. Knestout of the Richmond Diocese directed Father White to follow the instructions from an earlier letter and leave his role as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Martinsville and St. Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount. In addition, Bishop Knestout told Father White he was to vacate his rectory by June 20 and relocate to Jubilee House in Abingdon.
However, the Bishop’s letter — which you can read in full here — included the following conditions for Father White’s return to his priestly duties:
“His Eminence, Cardinal Stella also indicated to your advocate that you should take your new assignment and I hope you will do so; however, the restoration of your priestly faculties, needed to take on this new work, will be dependent on your taking down your blog, as you were directed by decree and which you acknowledged on November 21, 2019. Specifically:
Reverend Mark White is to cease from this moment in disseminating his opinions by means of any social media: in print, by audio, or video, or any digital means. This includes any personal communications to and from his Ordinary. Any previous posts are to be removed from all social media and the account is to be closed. In the exercise of his pastoral office, Father White is to refrain from all assertions against, or judgments about, the hierarchy of the Church; rather, he is to show the respect and obedience he promised at his ordination. Failure to do so in any of these matters will find Father White subject to additional penalties not excluding loss of office.“Most Rev. Barry C. Knestout
Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond
According to Father White’s email to WFXR News, “The pope says we stand for human rights, honesty, and openness. I can’t betray our ideals by giving in to this.”
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