Batavia’s Holy Cross priest refuses to leave, cites canon law

Parker: ‘I am juridically and therefore morally obligated to remain as your pastor’

BATAVIA – Holy Cross Catholic Church pastor, Rev. James Parker, issued a new statement Tuesday, stating that he will continue as pastor, despite that the Rockford Diocese has ordered his replacement to begin on Wednesday.

Parishioners have been supporting Parker with vigils and prayers in the hopes that he can stay. But that if he must go, that he be reassigned and not left without a parish.

“When my service as your pastor began on July 1, 2014, almost seven years ago, the Bishop of the Diocese of Rockford, the Most Reverend David J. Malloy, did not stipulate in his letter of appointment that my term would be six years,” according to Parker’s statement to parishioners.

“In fact, there was no stipulation whatsoever of any term of years. This fact has been confirmed to me in writing by Bishop Malloy himself in a letter he sent to me dated June 8, 2021,” Parker wrote.

Parker cited Catholic canon law, which states that a pastor can be taken from office if he had been appointed for a definite period of time.

“The key word here is ‘if’ – ‘if’ he had been appointed for a definite period of time,” Parker wrote. “I, as your Pastor, was not.”

Msgr. Steven Knox, the Vicar for Clergy, told Parker on the phone May 24 that his last day was June 15, on orders from the bishop.

“Now, however, that I have read the provisions of the law itself, consulted with some of the world’s foremost experts in canon law based in Rome, and prayed earnestly for guidance from the Lord above, I have formed a decision in conscience that I am juridically and therefore morally obligated to remain as your pastor if and until the provisions of the law of the Church have been duly observed and determine otherwise,” Parker wrote.

The Rockford Diocese publication, “The Observer,” which listed new priest assignments, has Rev. Jared Twenty as parochial administrator for Holy Cross and Rev. Andrew Deitz as parochial vicar of Holy Cross, starting June 16.

In his letter, Parker asserted that Malloy did not legitimately appoint Twenty as parochial administrator of Holy Cross, “I cannot and do not recognize his appointment as having any canonical effect.”

Parker wrote that Twenty is welcome to pray at Holy Cross, “but not attempt to usurp my ecclesiastical authority as your pastor and govern the parish, its employees or its parishioners, because his decree of appointment, once again, is predicated upon the vacancy of a parish that does not exist.”

Parker urged his supporters to remain respectful toward all ecclesiastical authorities.

“Please pray pray for our Bishop, that he may exercise his episcopal ministry in this matter in conformity with the law of the Church,” Parker wrote.

“Please pray, my dear faithful, for me, your true pastor of this parish of the Holy Cross, so that I may bear a cross that indeed has not been sought, but instead imposed upon me to carry for as long and as far as the Lord and His Church will decide,” according to Parker’s statement.

Groups of volunteers are protecting Parker from being forcibly removed either from the church or the rectory where he lives.

Supporters have also raised $90,549 on toward a $100,000 goal to help Parker with legal fees.

In an online statement, the diocese has said that priests are routinely reassigned, and that the bishop has had unresolved concerns with Parker.