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Fr. John Lovell . . . Talks About The Problem Of “Canceled” Priests

July 17, 2021 Frontpage No Comments

By CHRISTOPHER MANION

In recent years, the American hierarchy has careened through a multitude of changes. The inflection point came when the secular media blew the lid off the hierarchy’s sex-abuse-and-coverup scandals almost twenty years ago.
Bishops quickly responded to that eruption, not with transparency and accountability, but by circling the wagons, lawyering up, and putting then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in charge of their massive coverup operation. McCarrick began that operation by exempting bishops from the onerous “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People [to which we should add, ‘and Bishops’],” the first of an endless stream of policies, programs, protocols, platitudes, and — in a scandal especially offensive to the faithful — payouts by the billions to alleged victims and their lawyers.
In the end, the financial capital donated by the faithful was tapped for over four billion dollars (that we know of). That money was spent to keep over a hundred of bishops from going to jail; few even had to testify in court.
The lawsuits continue to this day, and so do the lawyers. And one consequence of the cover-ups and the mentality that they spawned has produced a quiet but growing segment of today’s rampant “cancel culture”: the sidelining of hundreds of American priests by bishops who often ignore Canon Law and due process to remove “undesirable” priests from their parishes and other assignments, and shove them out to the edge of the curb.
Enter Fr. John Lovell.
After receiving two master’s degrees from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, Fr. Lovell, an Illinois native, was ordained in 2007 by Bishop Thomas Doran in the Diocese of Rockford. In the following years, Fr. Lovell noticed an increasing level of hostility from chancery staff (“they have an animus against you,” Bishop Doran once told him).
Fr. Lovell survived the harassment until Bishop Doran’s retirement. But just six weeks after Bishop David Malloy was consecrated as Doran’s successor in May 2012. Fr. Lovell was shown the door.
Bereft of financial support and out of a job, Fr. Lovell has been living with his father in their family home just south of Chicago for the past nine years.

Canceled? You’re Not Alone

When we asked Fr. Lovell how often this scenario was repeated, his answer was shocking. “There are hundreds, maybe thousands” of American priests who have been sidelined by their ordinary. “Very few of the faithful know that daunting fact, and, of most of those who do know, most are never told why it happened. And that’s true for many of the canceled priests as well.”
That number is shocking enough. What is more troubling is the manner in which their cases are handled.
“A lot of times,” Fr. Lovell tells The Wanderer, “the decrees are issued in non-penal, non-judicial ways. What their bishops are saying is that ‘we want to sidestep canon law, or just ignore it, because canon law is pretty clear.’ I’m not a canonist, but my canon lawyers tell me that a priest’s faculties can be removed only for a grave reason.”
Fr. Lovell mentioned a fellow priest, Fr. James Altman, who has recently suffered the same fate. “When I read the decree against him it looked like a virtual carbon copy of the template used against me. And it made me realize that these bishops are working in unison, to get rid of priests.”
“Now, why are they getting rid of them? There are multiple reasons, sure, but what it comes down to is that the bishops do not care for them.”
“What you are seeing is not just bishops going after traditional-minded priests who love to wear the cassock and celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass but any priest who stands up for the traditional moral teaching of the Church, especially on ‘hot button’ topics like denying Communion to pro-choice politicians, contraception, and abortion. I know several priests who will not preach on certain topics because they are scared of being called in and reprimanded.”
Fr. Lovell notes that “bishops have been canceling priests long before McCarrick scandal finally broke in 2018.” The Wanderer has noted for years that there are still many facts — and enablers in the hierarchy — that have not yet been identified. It is fair to say that our decades of reporting on the abuse scandals upset many bishops; the prospect of more lawsuits — with 24 state attorneys general in possession of the confidential files of every priest serving in their jurisdiction — must be little short of traumatizing.
“Add the confusion after COVID,” Fr. Lovell says, “and bishops want to eliminate problems before they happen. Who are they listening to? They’re listening to sycophants. And let’s face it, bishops across the country are listening to lawyers. They’re trying to avoid being sued.”
“Why should the laity be surprised that the Catholic Church was one of the first organizations in this country to lock their doors, with Masses shut down across the country . . . and it’s sad. It’s really sad, because so many people over this last year have just walked away from the Church because they’re thinking, well, the bishops don’t take the sacrament very seriously. Why should we? And in a sense, they’re right.”

Priests And Laity
Called To Action

Earlier this year, Fr. Lovell joined several fellow priests and many lay supporters to found the Coalition for Canceled Priests. Their website (https://canceledpriests.org/) doesn’t mince any words:
“In recent decades, an aberrant, non-Catholic element has manifested within the priesthood and hierarchy. This element is easy to identify thanks to its most striking characteristic — an unwillingness to resist, and even a desire to celebrate, secular corruptions that have been condemned by the Church since its founding.”
“. . .Amid the darkness and confusion sown by this element, there are faithful priests and bishops who preach and practice the eternal Faith. All too often, they are persecuted or insufficiently defended when such men boldly preach the faith.”
The Coalition is calling on the laity to lead. The crisis in the Church is advancing rapidly and the Coalition is action-oriented.
“Our priests are being canceled and warehoused by bishops who are preaching heresy,” so the Coalition seeks to create “a safe space where priests can be protected from the persecution that is coming for the Church. A platform where they can share their story.”
The Coalition’s “Adopt a Canceled Priest” plan seeks to “replace the mindset of Tithing to a Church that allowed for ‘Catholics for Biden’ to exist.” But the lay leaders of the Coalition are realists. “We can only succeed with this mission if we have funding to financially support those courageous priests God will send us.”
What will those funds pay for?
Food. Housing. Canon Lawyers. Conferences. Sustaining one another. After all, many canceled priests are virtually in hiding. Their persecutors want to isolate them, demoralize them, and make them ineffective.
The Coalition’s lay supporters want to encourage them, join them in prayer, help them get their message to the faithful — it’s a message of truth, of hope, and ultimately of love — love of God, love of the Church, and love of the faithful for whom we gave up everything so that we can serve them.

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