May 9, 2020
The relationships within the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church are strict and complicated. They are founded in a structure and formality that eludes those who didn’t grow up under the church and its papal sovereignty, and their complexities can be daunting in trying to understand decisions, practices and reactions.
But the one simple aspect of that structure that is without question is the church’s foundation in the principles of Jesus Christ, its purchase in the deep meaning and subtexts of Scripture.
If is for the latter and not the former that the dispute between Father Mark White and his boss the Rev. Barry Knestout, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, appears not only perplexing but just so ridiculously unnecessary.
You likely have read the many words published about the conflict that has led Bishop Knestout to remove Father White in all facets except title as the pastor of St. Joseph’s in Martinsville and St. Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount.
This began because Father White, disturbed by the way the church handled the sexual abuse charges against Cardinal McCarrick, the priest who ordained him, deigned to write in his blog about those feelings. Father White didn’t measure the tone in his comments, frankly and reasonably questioning the transparency and appropriateness of decision-making of the church all the way to the Vatican in Rome. He is not alone among Catholics in questioning this festering blemish on the church’s image.
Bishop Knestout told Father White to discontinue his blog or else. Father White did. Then the pandemic hit, and Mass was canceled, and Father White resumed the blog as a means to communicate with his flock. He asked for permission to do so and said he received silence. But this dispute has not been carried out in silence.
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