Popular Illinois priest departs parish after bishop threatens him with ‘penalties under Church law’
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BATAVIA, Illinois, June 28, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A popular priest who said he would stay at his parish after he was unexpectedly told by his bishop that his assignment had ended and was not assigned to a new parish, has now left the parish saying that his bishop has threatened him with “penalties under Church law” should he “fail to vacate the rectory.”
Father James Parker said he was told on May 24 that beginning June 16, he had no reassignment, and could no longer live in a diocese rectory. About three months prior, Bishop David Malloy met with Parker to discuss “concerns” about his priestly ministry, which reportedly included giving faithful Holy Communion on the tongue.
On June 18, Fr. Parker released a statement explaining why he felt it was in the “best interest of the parishioners of Holy Cross Parish and its employees” that he leave the parish, despite previously insisting that remaining at the parish would be in accordance with canon law.
In his letter, Parker said that Bishop Malloy had threatened him with “penalties under Church law” should he continue to maintain that he is the pastor at Holy Cross and “fail to vacate the rectory.”
Fr. Parker explained that he had also recently received an email from Malloy, which Parker says was sent to all priests in the Rockford diocese, claiming that Parker had prevented Father Jared Twenty (the newly assigned pastor of Holy Cross) from offering Mass in the parish. Parker and several eyewitnesses deny this allegation.
According to a parishioner who spoke to LifeSiteNews, the allegation that Fr. Parker prevented Fr. Twenty from celebrating Mass has damaged Fr. Parker’s reputation among fellow priests of the diocese, who reportedly texted Parker, expressing dismay that he would keep Twenty from saying Mass.
Parker concluded his letter saying, “As a result of these events, I was compelled to depart the Parish campus to protect my flock from the rapidly escalating discord, strife and confusion.”
However, Fr. Parker insists that he “gave instructions to ensure that Father Twenty was able to enter the church” and that he invited him to concelebrate Mass but that Father Twenty refused his offer “and voluntarily left the church shortly thereafter.”
Twenty, however, echoed the Diocese of Rockford’s claim, saying in a statement posted on the Holy Cross Facebook page that on June 16, he had been “truly excited to unite around the sacrificial altar in prayer as the celebrant,” but that he was “impeded from doing so by Fr. Parker and a group of people with him who deny my canonical appointment.”
LifeSiteNews reached out to Twenty so that he could explain what he meant by the above statement. He responded, “As stated in my social media post, I was impeded from being the celebrant. To clarify, I did not state that I was impeded from being a concelebrant.”
Leadup to Fr. Parker’s departure
Under Bishop Malloy, the Diocese of Rockford has stated that the decision to remove Parker without reassigning him to another parish came because of the priest's refusal to discuss “concerns that had arisen regarding his service as pastor.”
Parker said he met with Bishop Malloy on February 28 to discuss these very concerns, after Malloy refused to meet with him for a planned February 3 meeting because Parker had his canon lawyer with him at the time.
Fr. Parker says that he left his Feb. 28 meeting with Malloy unable to discern what the bishop’s main concern was, but has said that he had the impression that Malloy was upset by multiple “offenses” over time, including Parker’s invitation of Bishop Athanasius Schneider to speak at his parish, as well as his celebration of ad orientem Masses.
Parker shared that during their meeting, Malloy complained that Parker didn’t “follow all of the COVID regulations,” which the priest believes refers to his allowing people to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, as well as allowing people to gather in the church hall while only ten people were allowed in the church itself. He said Malloy forced him to put an end to that practice at the time, even though it met CDC safety guidelines.
Parker maintained in a June 15 letter to his parishioners that because Malloy “did not stipulate in his letter of appointment” that his “term would be six years,” he was “juridically and therefore morally obligated” to remain the pastor of Holy Cross parish “until the provisions of the law of the Church have been duly observed and determine otherwise.”
He cited Canon 522 of the Code of Canon Law, which states, “A pastor must possess stability and therefore is to be appointed for an indefinite period of time. The diocesan bishop can appoint him only for a specific period if the conference of bishops has permitted this by a decree.”
Canon 538 further states, “A pastor ceases from office [inter alia] by lapse of time if he had been appointed for a definite period according to the prescripts of particular law mentioned in can. 522.”
The Diocese of Rockford has claimed, to the contrary, that “The law of the Diocese of Rockford provides that pastors have a six-year term of office,” that “this was the law in force when Father Parker was appointed pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Batavia and remains in force today.” The diocese further claimed that Parker “received a copy of this law as part of their orientation process upon being ordained to the priesthood.”
Contrary to the claim of the Rockford diocese that Parker denied an offer of residence after hearing his parish assignment was being terminated, Fr. Parker recounted, “Monday, May 24th, Msgr. Steve Knox, the Vicar for Clergy, called and told me I have no new assignment beginning June 16th. I responded, ‘Then you are telling me I need a place to live.’ He responded, ‘Yes, and you cannot live in any rectory of the diocese.’ No alternative housing was offered or mentioned to me.”
[UPDATE, June 30, 2021, 1:42 p.m.: : Fr. Parker explained that following media coverage of his being ousted from the parish, the diocese offered to find him an apartment.]
Lay supporters of Parker have launched a “1,000 Letters to Rome” campaign on behalf of Parker and all of the ousted priests in the Diocese of Rockford.
Their goal is to send 1,000 or more letters to Rome by August 1, “asking for intervention in the problems Bishop Malloy has brought upon the Diocese of Rockford.”
For information on how to write to Rome in support of Fr. Parker, visit this page.
Volunteer “captains” from anywhere in the world can also sign up to help organize the campaign.
Parishioners of the Rockford diocese who would like to donate to Fr. Parker until he is reassigned by Bishop Malloy can visit this page to help support his legal and daily living expenses.
While he is currently living in an undisclosed location, his supporters are also welcome to write to him or send assistance to P.O. Box 757, North Aurora, IL, 60542.
Those who wish to support Fr. Parker can also learn more at the “We Stand with Fr. Parker” webpage, or join the “We Stand with Fr. Parker” Facebook page, which now has more than 2,000 followers. Fr. Parker also livestreams a daily Divine Mercy chaplet and evening holy hour on his YouTube page.
Fr. Parker is asking for prayers at this time.
Contact information for respectful communication:
Most Reverend David J. Malloy
Office of the Bishop of Rockford
PO Box 7044
Rockford, IL 61125
Telephone: (815) 399-4300
Marc Cardinal Ouellet
Congregation of Bishops
Palazzo della Congregazioni 00193
Piazza Pio XII, 10
Archbishop Christophe Pierre
Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S.A.
3339 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008