Despite Vatican’s ruling, Virginia priest who blogs about clergy sex abuse remains defiant

Virginia News

"There's nothing I want more than to serve in peace as a parish priest. But I can't give in to something that goes against our own principles."

A Catholic Diocese of Richmond priest who frequently blogs criticism over the church’s handling of clergy sexual abuse had his petition to remain the pastor of two southwest Virginia parishes rejected by the Vatican.

Rev. Mark D. White was suspended from the ministry by Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout last month after being ordered in April to leave two parishes, St. Joseph’s in Martinsville and St. Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount, and relocate to a retreat center in Abingdon, Virginia.

“As your Advocate, Mr. Podhajsky, has told you, the Congregation for Clergy has directed you leave the assignment as pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Martinsville, and St. Francis of Assisi, Rocket Mount, in accord to my original letter of April 13, 2020,” Knestout wrote in a letter dated June 17 to White.

White was directed to stop his blog in order to remain the pastor of both parishes, but defied the order in March amid the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. In his letter, Knestout informs White that he must comply with the directive before relocating.

“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,” Knestout wrote.

Despite the Vatican’s ruling and Knestout’s decree, White told 8News that he will press forward.

“As a Church, we say we believe in human rights, honesty, and openness. There’s nothing I want more than to serve in peace as a parish priest,” White told 8News’ Kerri O’Brien Tuesday. “But I can’t give in to something that goes against our own principles.”

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said in a statement that the decision “makes it plain that, if you are a priest you can’t speak out against the Catholic Church or their policies without being silenced.”

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond did not immediately respond to 8News’ request for comment.

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