Bishop Prohibits Priest from Broadcasting Opinion after Criticizing Sex Abuse Scandals
By Laura Taylor and Caroline Eaker
February 12, 2020
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WSET) -- A local Catholic priest broke his silence on the way the church handled one of the biggest controversies.
The Catholic Diocese of Richmond has released the names of more than two dozen priests that are facing 'credible and substantiated' allegations of sexual abuse against a minor in February of 2019.
The priest at St. Joseph's Catholic Church is refusing to stay silent despite the threat of losing his priesthood.
Father Mark White's blog lead Bishop Barry Knestout to order White's silence.
"He said that he thought what I had written was disrespectful and not appropriate so he ordered me to remove everything that I had on the internet and to be silent on the internet from now on under pain of being removed as the pastor if I do not obey," said White.
White voiced his frustration and disgust about how the church responded to the many sexual abuse scandals, particularly the cases involving former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick.
“I was hoping that as a church we could live in our truth and believe in our Lord Jesus Christ that he came to allow us to live in our truth and find our way by doing that and of course what we are all about it believing in something and we need to be a church that people can believe in," said White.
Parishioners of St. Joseph's in Martinsville said they stand behind White.
“He was very concerned and he loves the church, concerned that things were not being brought forth," said Erma Harrison.
“It did help a lot of the parishioners understand what was happening," said Pat Pearlman.
White said the bishop will allow him to post his homilies to the parish websites.
He is prohibited from offering personal opinions on social media, by audio, video, or digital means.
White said he has never signed a formal agreement but would comply with the demand.
“It feels a little like a 21st-century book burning," said White. "That information that was for the good of the public is being removed from circulation and I thought that we had learned that doesn't really work when it comes to drawing people to the gospel of Christ," said White.
ABC13 reached out to the diocese of Richmond about the order of silence.
They released a statement that says:
Bishop Barry C. Knestout has supported and continues to support the priests of our diocese in speaking about the impact of the sexual abuse crisis with their parishioners to help heal the Body of Christ. All communications should be expressed with charity, further the Gospel message and respect the dignity of all individuals. Bishop Knestout expects all clergy to express themselves in a manner that is respectful through their preaching, teaching, catechesis, and counseling within their parish communities.
For priests who may be struggling themselves with the deep pain of the crisis or who are still trying to come to terms with it and with the pain it has brought survivors, the faithful and them personally, Bishop Knestout’s door is open to provide assistance to help them and to accompany them along the way.
The Catholic Diocese of Richmond has and continues to address and offer accountability and transparency about the abuse crisis.