Virginia priest who criticized Catholic Church’s handling of sex abuse scandal removed from post

Local News

A priest at two Catholic parishes in Martinsville and Rocky Mount has been removed from his post after maintaining a blog critical of the Catholic Church’s handling of the sexual abuse scandal. View updates below.

UPDATE 5:23 P.M.: A priest with two local churches has been removed from his post in Rocky Mount and Martinsville. The Catholic Diocese of Richmond announced that on Monday, citing concerns over a blog Father Mark White has maintained for about 12 years.

White says his blog was, at times, critical of how the Catholic Church was handling the sex abuse scandal.

He says this is a confusing and difficult time for him. He says he shut down his blog a few months ago in order to keep his job, but restarted it in the midst of the pandemic.

“When the virus was overtaking all of our lives,” said White, “it became clear that we were going to have to stop having masses in church. I knew that the time had come to start using it again to try and reach people I wouldn’t be able to see in person.”

The notice came on Monday that we was reassigned as a prison chaplain, effective immediately, to the shock of both him and members of his church who reached out.

“A lot of love and support,” he said, “which I very much appreciate, support and prayers and encouragement.”

Roger Lee Travis has been a member of St Joseph Catholic Church in Martinsville since 1991.

“I was upset last night and I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “It’s sad, and I think mark is trying to do god’s work here in Southside, but I don’t think the bishop sees that.”

Member Gerry Lawicki says he’s “disgruntled” by the bishop’s decision to reassign Father White.

“[Father White is] an outstanding man who spoke the truth, he’s a man of faith, and he’s just saying what he feels needs to be said.”

White says he expects to be back in church on Sunday.

“While we contest this decision and try to get it changed, I just remain where I am, is the provision of law.”

The Diocese did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

UPDATE 1:24 P.M.: Father Mark White has released the following blog post about his removal from his positions at Catholic churches in Martinsville and Rocky Mount.

“Dear Reader, many of the parishioners of my two beloved parishes received another surprising e-mail from our bishop earlier today. It announced that I was removed as pastor, effective immediately.

A parishioner phoned me about this, which led me to check my own e-mail inbox. I had a letter from the bishop’s office, too. Pack your bags.

I have no intention of packing my bags.

The Church must operate according to the rule of law. I have a knowledgeable canon lawyer guiding me. I will take recourse against the bishop’s decision. And while that process unfolds, I remain in place as pastor of St. Joseph and St. Francis.”

Father Mark White

ORIGINAL STORY:
RICHMOND, Va. (Martinsville Bulletin via AP) — A priest in Virginia has been removed from his post after maintaining a blog critical of the Catholic Church’s handling of the sexual abuse scandal.

News outlets report Rev. Mark White, whose blog reaches more than 1 million readers, was removed on Monday.

He served as the priest of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Martinsville and St. Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount.

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond says White has since been reassigned as chaplain to different state and federal prisons within the dioceses.

His removal follows a months-long dispute with the head of the Diocese of Richmond and other church officials over the blog.

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