Suspended priest who spoke on clergy abuse backed by supporters outside Richmond mass

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Dozens showed up outside mass in Richmond Friday to show their support for a priest suspended after blogging about sexual abuse committed by the clergy.

Nearly 50 parishioners silently protested and prayed outside the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond on Friday. Many drove over three hours to show their support for Father Mark White and stand in opposition to Bishop Barry Knestout and his decisions to suspend him.

“You know, there’s a lot of talk these days about social justice. If you want to see what social injustice looks like, just look at this case that’s going on between the bishop and Father Mark,” Joseph Karen told 8News.

Back in April, Catholic Diocese of Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout ordered Father Mark White to leave Saint Joseph’s parish in Martinsville and Saint Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount following their criticisms about the church’s handling of clergy sexual abuse.

“I think Father Mark did what he felt God was calling him to do,” said Judy Rogers.

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Supporters and parishioners protested outside mass where diocesan priests gathered to renew their commitment to the priesthood. It was a celebration that Father White couldn’t be a part of during his suspension.

“It’s very painful not to be able to participate inside in that,” Father White told 8News.

Father White’s blog was also ordered down but resurfaced as the coronavirus pandemic began to cause alarm in Virginia.

Still, Ana Del Toro and Paula Ortiz say they want justice for their priest.

“He was not accusing anyone. He was, he was just to support, to help any of the victims,” Del Toro told 8News.

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“When you have a real, real person, a real priest that is trying to bring justice, this is what happens to him. It’s just not fair,” Ortiz added.

In a statement, Bishop Knestout said, in part, “I ask those who have joined Father White to pray for him and for all priests and bishops that they recommit themselves to be a genuine sign of Christ’s loving presence.”

Father White appealed his suspension to the Vatican, which rejected it, saying that it was filed improperly. He said he and the bishop are on the same team on Friday, adding they just have a disagreement about addressing pains of the past.

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