RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Richmond Diocese priest who defied the bishop’s order and started blogging again to help parishioners through the coronavirus pandemic was told to pack his bags.
Richmond Diocese Bishop Barry Knestout removed Father Mark White from serving as pastor at two churches, effective immediately. However, Father White says he’s not going anywhere.
“It is confusing and difficult for me,” he said talking over Zoom with 8News.
White, who is currently taking time some himself, said he’s secured a canon law lawyer.
“I have a church lawyer who is guiding me through the process,” White told 8News.
Father White, the Pastor at St. Joseph’s in Martinsville and St. Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount, said he learned of his removal in an email from Bishop Knestout. Parishioners got a letter saying White was out and would be leaving in a week.
Last year, White had been ordered to remove his popular blog last year. The blog was critical of the church’s handling of its sexual abuse scandals and Bishop Knestout threatened White to take down the blog or lose his job.
White removed the blog for a time but as the coronavirus hit, he got back online.
“When the virus was overtaking all of our lives and it became clear we were going to have to stop having masses in church. I knew that the time had come to start to be able to reach people that I wouldn’t be able to see in person,” he said.
The Bishop has said White has “worked against the unity of the church” and “demonstrated a will adverse to obedience to the bishop of his diocese.” White said he had wished the two could have worked out a compromised.
“I believe in open dialogue and communication,” he told 8News.
The pastor said according to the legal norms of the church he has a right to fight this and will remain pastor at the two churches until the legal proceedings play out. He plans to be back at the church Sunday.
“It is confusing for everybody especially the parishioners,” White explained.
8News reached out to the Diocese for further comment but got no response. In a release online, Knestout said White has been reassigned to chaplain of various prisons in the area.
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