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Father Alessandro Maria Minutella

PALERMO, Italy, July 5, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A Catholic priest in Sicily was removed from his parish and had his faculties suspended because he defended the sanctity of marriage, his parishioners say.

Palermo Archbishop Corrado Lorefice has forbidden Don Alessandro Maria Minutella of St. John Bosco Parish to celebrate Mass, administer the sacraments, or preach, Italian journalist Marco Tosatti reported.

According to some parishioners, one of the official reasons for the measures was Don Minutella’s “not knuckling down to the teaching of this current pontificate.” The problem, they believe, is dueling interpretations of Amoris Laetitia. The priest does not believe the Post-synodal Exhortation allows the distribution of Holy Communion “to divorced people who live in an objective condition of sin.” Instead, he reaffirmed the teachings of John Paul II, saying ‘there being a lack of clarity on the part of Francis to the questions asked by the four cardinals,’ and has stuck to the age-old denial of communion to those in adulterous relationships.

Parishioners told Tosatti that there are other controversial priests in Palermo — “only these in the sense of being hyper-progressive and gay friendly” — and the rest of Italy, but they are “spared thanks to the compliance” of Church hierarchy. But for the pastor of St. John Bosco, “suspensions and anathemas struck like lightning.”

The parishioners are sad that Don Minutella is not even allowed to celebrate a last Mass with his “beloved faithful.” Meanwhile, Archbishop Lorefice has forbidden another priest of the parish, Father Leonardo Ricotta, to continue his Saturday night catechism class on “Radio Domina Nostra” to lecture or to make statements of any kind. Tosatti said this was “not easily understood” because Don Ricotta — unlike the outspoken Don Minutella — has always been very prudent.

In defense of the pastor, the Parish Council wrote to Archbishop Lorefice a passionate letter, pointing out that suspending a priest for upholding Church doctrine has international ramifications. “The whole of Italy is now closely following the issue,” they wrote. “In fact, it is not simply the future of Don Alessandro or of the parish that is at stake, but that of the entire Catholic Church.”

The diocese did not respond to a LifeSiteNews request for comment.

The letter, translated into English by LifeSiteNews, is as follows:

To His Excellency Corrado Lorefice, Metropolitan Archbishop of Palermo:

In the name of all the parishioners we express our closeness to, our affection for, and our solidarity with, the parish priest who for many years has loved us intensely, educating us in the faith, guiding us spiritually and spending his whole life, minute by minute, for the good of the souls of this parish.

The decree of dismissal from the post of parish priest made known to us today has left us more than ever lost, shocked and downright confused. To see our beloved pastor and father Don Alessandro Minutella forcefully removed is a moment of great suffering for us as parishioners. Without this priest as the guide for our souls, we feel truly lost and abandoned by our bishop. We are like sheep without a shepherd!

You, Excellency, did not deign to accept our invitation to come to our parish. We ask, therefore, if you have problems with us, the parishioners, who are seeking to live our faith, hope and charity in Christ under the guidance of this humble, zealous and tireless pastor of souls, Father Alessandro.

This decree of dismissal from the parish appears to be groundless, since we haven’t found anything mistaken or erroneous in the teachings or priestly ministry of Don Alessandro. Therefore, this decree pushes us, correctly, to believe that there are other reasons, and we demand that you, Your Excellency, should come to explain to us in person.

In a spirit of respect and obedience to your person, as Bishop of Palermo, we feel an urgent need to speak to you directly, inviting you once again to come in person to speak to us as parishioners and explain the reason why you are removing our parish priest. Otherwise, we will consider this removal as stemming from a personal problem with Don Minutella, motivated even by a personal dislike or calumnies circulated by some brother priests who are envious and made uncomfortable by the fruitful, solid and faithful ministry of our most beloved parish priest Don Alessandro.

We find this priest of ours to be a treasure, courageous and willing to fight for, defend, promote and propagate the true doctrine of the Catholic Church in this time of rampant confusion and bewilderment among the faithful.

Excellency, we give you notice, in an unmistakeable fashion, that we will not willingly accept any other pastor unless you come to explain. This request, the invitation to come to our parish, flows from the unanimous desire of the parishioners who feel totally bewildered and abandoned by the pastor of the diocese.

Regarding your visit, Excellency, you will give us the name of the potential other priest to guide our souls. Otherwise, as said above, we will not willingly allow another priest to come to take possession of the parish. We, as a Christian community, fully take responsibility for our decision, disobeying Don Alessandro Minutella, who has asked us to stay calm. What’s at stake is the good of our souls! It’s not respectful to our poor souls to see our priest, who gave all of himself to serve our community, humiliated, maltreated and inflicted with a harsh punishment. We ask you, Excellency, to show us an ounce of respect and affection by accepting our invitation and deigning to visit our parish.

Without knowing and receiving the possible reasons [for the dismissal], we parishioners will continue to consider Don Alessandro our pastor. This priest, our priest, is a man of God and has always given everything for us when everyone has abandoned us, even the bishop. We will not permit the establishment of a new pastor because ours is legitimate and faithful to the 2,000-year-old Magisterium of the Apostolic Roman Catholic Church. Only by accepting what we ask will you prove your respect for and attention to our parish.

At the same time we address you, Don Alessandro, unless you want to abandon us like the bishop. We ask you not to leave us lost as long as the bishop hasn’t justified his actions against your priestly person. We parishioners can testify that we have never seen him treat you “as a son.” In these past years, we have seen in you, Don Alessandro, a pastor, a father, who loves us and has led us with all his heart.  If you leave us now, we will be abandoned and completely lost. Don’t leave us! Stay here until the bishop explains to us his reasons.

And we remind you, Your Excellency, of your assurances to a member of the Parish Council when he asked you if Don Alessandro was either a heretic or disobedient. Well, you told him “No.” Given the obedience of our parish priest, will you punish him again and tear him from his parishioners?

We remain dumbfounded by your decision. We asked ourselves immediately what serious error our pastor had made to be removed from the parish.  We were told that the bishop wrote in the decree that Father Alessandro made serious accusations against the Roman Pontiff with a substantial refusal of the teaching and magisterium proposed by him.

We ask you, Monsignor Corrado, what magisterium? Because if this refers — as we think — to Communion for the divorced-remarried, having seen that Bishop Corrado Lorefice, together with others of Sicily, will be the first in Italy to give Communion to the divorced-remarried, we know not only that Pope Francis has not yet spoken completely openly but that there are eminent cardinals throughout the world, as well as entire Bishops Conferences — like the Polish, who have said one may never give communion to the divorced-remarried. We mention also the statement of Cardinal Mueller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who has reaffirmed the teaching in Familiaris Consortio. It is your grave duty to come and explain to us if the pre-Francis magisterium should be denied.

Also, if the problem concerns the interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, before the problem is Don Alessandro’s,  it is ours as the faithful, more than ever confused and lost because of this new magisterium of the universal church. And even the great part of the Church that has been labeled hard-hearted Pharisees and fundamentalist Catholic hypocrites has the right to answers, not condemnation.

The confusion caused by the Post-synodal Exhortation Amoris Laetitia has been mentioned by different ecclesiastical authorities throughout the world, including illustrious cardinals of the Catholic Church, and can be seen by everyone. Perhaps the mistake of our beloved parish priest is to be a poor Christ who tells the truth without the shameful compromises of much of the hierarchy.

Why, then, take aim at this simple and humble priest who simply tries to guide his sheep on the path of truth and the sound doctrine of the perennial Magisterium of the Church? His decree of dismissal, in addition to increasing our pain, really leaves us completely lost and humiliated. And this is not a matter of personal concern regarding morality or doctrine or even the faithful pastoral management of the parish by Fr. Alessandro. This is demonstrated by the immediate media impact of the matter. The whole of Italy is now closely following the issue. In fact, it is not simply the future of Don Alessandro or of the parish at stake, but of the entire Catholic Church.

If you really have at heart the good of our souls, you will deign to accept our invitation. For now we will keep here our parish priest, Don Alessandro Minutella, who continues to guide us, teach us, and sanctify us as always. He has clearly become a prophetic symbol in that he defends today the Gospel’s teaching on the family.

We go forward with Mary and Jesus.

The Parish Council, in the name of the parishioners

Palermo, 26 June 2017

(Translation by Dorothy Cummings McLean; emphasis added by translator)