Parker leaves Batavia church, but support for him continues

Fundraising for priest’s legal fight tops $100K

BATAVIA TOWNSHIP – Rev. James Parker, who first defied an order from the Rockford Diocese to leave Holy Cross Catholic Church in Batavia Township, relented and left the church, according to a letter he sent parishioners.

The Rockford Diocese notified Parker May 24 that his last day was June 15. The diocese announced that Rev. Jared Twenty was appointed as Holy Cross’s new parochial administrator to begin June 16.

Parishioners held prayer vigils both at the church and at the St. Peter Cathedral in Rockford, as well as outside the Diocese offices – both for keeping Parker as their pastor, and if not, then imploring Bishop David Malloy to give him another assignment.

And as the date grew closer, volunteers signed up to guard Parker 24/7 so he would not be forcibly removed.

But after Twenty arrived to celebrate the 6:30 a.m. mass on June 16 while Parker was still at the church, a conflict arose.

“I invited Father Twenty to celebrate Mass with me,” Parker’s letter stated. “Father Twenty refused my offer and voluntarily left the church shortly thereafter. These events were observed by multiple witnesses and documented on video.”

However, the diocese reported – inaccurately – that Parker prevented Twenty from offering the mass that day, Parker wrote.

Still, Malloy sent an email all the priests in the diocese advising them that Parker “kept (Twenty) from … offering the parish Mass at 6:30 a.m.,” Parker wrote.

“As a result of these events, I was compelled to depart the parish campus to protect my flock from the rapidly escalating discord, strive and confusion,” Parker wrote.

That same morning, the diocese emailed parish employees to remind them they work for the diocese, not Holy Cross, Parker wrote.

“Additionally, it directed them to recognize Father Twenty as their supervisor and the Parochial Administrator of Holy Cross and to no longer acknowledge me as pastor,” Parker wrote. “Later that morning, I received a letter from Bishop Malloy threatening me with penalties under Church law should I continue to maintain that I am the pastor of Holy Cross and fail to vacate the rectory.”

Parker wrote that he is pursuing his only available recourse with church authorities regarding his position.

“To date, Bishop Malloy has still failed to provide any explanation to me and more importantly, to the faithful, for his abrupt assertion that my term as pastor has expired and his decision to deny me any new assignment within the diocese,” Parker wrote.

Though Parker asserted that as a matter of church law, he still holds the office of pastor for Holy Cross, but “it has become impossible for me to perform my pastoral duties under the present circumstances.”

In a statement on its website, the diocese disputed Parker’s citation of canon law that he retains the position of pastor of Holy Cross.

Instead, the diocese stated that Parker’s appointment was made according to the law of the Rockford Diocese for a six-year term “and his statement to the contrary is without a factual basis.”

Parker and Malloy differ on how things went when the bishop stated he had concerns about Parker’s leadership, but then failed to meet with the priest and his canon attorney.

Instead, Malloy asserted on the diocese website that it was Parker who failed to provide correspondence to resolve the issues, according to the website.

“Father Parker has bee notified in writing by Bishop Malloy of his lack of cooperation and refusal to discuss the concerns, he would not receive a new assignment at this time,” according to the website. “Father Parker was also informed he would be provided a diocesan residence, which he has declined. Contrary to public speculation, Father Parker will also be provide compensation and health insurance.”

Parishioners supporting Parker have raised nearly $103,000 on toward a new goal of $150,000 to pay for legal costs as he challenges being removed from Holy Cross.

The initial goal was $50,00, which was increased to $100,000 after the diocese’s last public statement on Parker.

After the latest posting, however, it was raised again to $150,000.

Supporters are not only upset about Parker not having a new assignment, but also point out several other priests in the diocese are left without assignments, though are still being paid, according to the fundraising site.

“Though the Diocese lacks priests and has assigned some priests to pastor two or more parishes alone, the Bishop spitefully keeps many priests sidelined, just like he is now doing to Father Parker,” according to the fundraising site. “We have raised the goal in order to support Father in his fight against this continued abuse and persecution by his Bishop. Please help Father with prayers and whatever financial help you can provide.”

Via email, the diocese refused to comment about the issue of sidelined priests beyond the statements posted to its website regarding Parker.

Parker’s fund will also benefit from ticket sales for a panel discussion, “Breaking the Silence,” scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at The Carlisle in Lombard.

Coalition for Canceled Priests, which is sponsoring the panel discussion, has sold out for 1,000 seats, according to the website. A spokesman said a link will be provided on Thursday to live stream the discussion.

Tickets were $20 each, with opportunities to donate $20 or $60 more. Net proceeds after expenses will go to Parker, according to the website,